Colonialism Day


It seems a bit strangely appropriate that, on the weekend when we celebrate a bunch of Europeans getting lost on their way to India and making the most of it by taking custody of the land, I will be grading papers. Thirty-six of them, to be exact.

Here is a poem for today by the Coeur d’Alene poet Sherman Alexie. Refer back to my post about the problem-solution nature of sonnets if you have trouble seeing how it is a sonnet.

Totem Sonnet #3


Crazy Horse

Sitting Bull

Captain Jack

Black Kettle






Anna Mae Aquash

Wilma Mankiller

Tantoo Cardinal

Winona LaDuke

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Maria Tallchief


Alexie, Sherman. The Summer of the Black Widows. New York: Hanging Loose Press, 1996.

The Pearl of English Poetry

Most people know what a sonnet is because in addition to simply hearing about them in English class, they are exposed to lots of examples from Shakespeare and even get to watch Snoopy act out Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous “How Do I Love Thee” on Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown (1975):

There are basically two rules to sonnets, depending on whether you take the English/Shakespearian or the Italian/Petrarchan:

  1. Fourteen lines in iambic pentameter (five feet, with each foot an unstressed and then a stressed syllable)
  2. Rhyme scheme: English ababcdcd efefgg OR Italian abbaabba cdecde

Note that both types have an octet (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines); these are generally used as a sort of problem/solution setup. This how Sherman Alexie can get away with calling this next example a sonnet of sorts. If you know the format, you get the joke.

Steamed Rice

Whole Wheat Bagel

Egg White

Baked Chicken

Tomato Soup


Cheddar Cheese

Garlic Clove

Grape Nuts and Non-Fat Milk



Ice Water



Alexie, Sherman. The Summer of Black Widows. New York: Hanging Loose Press, 1996.