When President Trump was inaugurated, reaction across the United States included protests, parties, and political organizing. A group of 12 students and High School humanities teacher Ian Chang have been engaged in a different response, one formed over seven hundred years ago. The group is working together to create sonnets, a fourteen-line verse form, about what is happening in the news.
The name of the project is The Dreadful Sound. The name comes from the sonnet by Sir Walter Raleigh, “On the Cards and Dice,” a poem some students learned in Chang’s class.
In the sonnet, Raleigh compares gambling with the Second Coming of God. The exact line the name was taken from reads, “The dreadful sound of trump when he shall hear.” In class, many students pointed out the connection between the quaking fear Raleigh described, of both a decisive loss and an apocalyptic reckoning, and the political concern some felt as Trump’s campaign accelerated.
Eileen Lee, Sequoyah Development Associate, is an avid fan. “I am moved by the intensity and sophistication of the poems,” she said. The project makes “a serious commitment to examining the Trump administration. It’s a daily dose of despair in a beautiful form.”
The project’s stated goal, taken from its Web site, is to “be discursive and strange, personal and political, coherent but contradictory, and devotional yet kvetchy, the way the best sonnets are.”
The students plan, write, and release their day’s sonnet using the little time they have. Most of the time, two or three students work on each sonnet. During the week, they occasionally meet during lunch for a short amount of time to convene on their work, but the students mostly use their free time to write the sonnets.
The project has received feedback from a disparate audience that includes Ira Glasser, the former head of the ACLU, some renegade Shakespeare scholars, and Alex McDowell, the product designer for Spaceship Earth 2050. No response has been received yet from @realDonaldTrump.