Marco Castillo


April is National Poetry Month, and TeacherPop is celebrating every Friday by featuring four poetry selections from teachers who have participated in Teach For America’s Poet Warriors Project. Interested in getting your class involved? Email for details!

1. “Soneto XVII,” by Pablo Neruda

Most kids struggle with understanding figurative language, but for ELLs—even the most advanced—navigating the waters of simile, metaphor, and personification in a second language can be nearly impossible. Neruda’s “Soneto XVII” is a gorgeous introduction to figurative speech in my students’ first language—Spanish. My seventy Latino students are shocked that we are allowed to read something academic in Spanish, and the multi-lingual process of learning the poem brings difficult nuances of figurative speech across language lines.

The love poem hits at the core of every love-lorn teenager in existence, so interest level is not a problem, and its use of language is divine:

“but this, in which there is no I or you,

So intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,

So intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.”

-Translation by Steven Mitchell

And of course, Neruda himself a necessity to any inner-city classroom—the Chilean diplomat used his poetry as a means of political advocacy and he earned, among many Peace Prizes, the title “the People’s Poet” for his work. The combination, then, of poet and poem, makes “Soneto XVII” a must-read.