Poetry in motion

This happened in high school.

I was standing in line outside the classroom, waiting for our English teacher and chatting with my best pal, Steve.

Me: How’d you go with the assignment?

Steve: Huh? What assignment?

Me: Er, you know… the assignment? We had to write a sonnet?

Steve: (looking panicked) Shit! Was that for today?!

Yes, it was. And as I looked on, Steve promptly took out his notepad, scribbled down something on a page, and tore it out. The entire process took a couple of minutes at the very most.

On the other hand, I had spent hours working on my sonnet. It was:

  • heartfelt
  • about enduring love
  • super romantic
  • in iambic pentameter.
In short, it had the traditional content in the traditional format and was everything a sonnet is supposed to be. I was very proud of it and confident our teacher would give me a good mark.

I didn’t know what Steve had written about until our work had been graded and returned. And I couldn’t believe it - he’d written a sonnet about a cat. A cat, derping around in the backyard! A cat?! I was appalled. A sonnet about a cat? A sonnet! About a fucking cat!

AND the teacher gave him 9 out of 10 for his cat poem. A thing he’d crapped out in mere moments! A sonnet! About a cat! She didn’t give a reason for it, either. She included no marking rubric or guide, no comments or other feedback. No explanation. Just a grade. Of ninety fucking percent!

And how did I do? Well, I'll tell you. My intensive hours of labour garnered a paltry 7.5 out of 10. I wanted to strangle our teacher. I suspected that either she didn’t know what a sonnet was, or that she (more likely) graded work arbitrarily without actually reading it.

What could I do (except wait a few decades and write a bitter blog entry about it)? I mean, shit happens. So I sucked it up and pretended it was no biggie, even though inwardly I was crushed.

The cherry on top was that Steve owned a dog and didn’t even like cats.

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