For six weeks in September and October, Emerson Elementary School in Oakland (a Poetry Inside Out school site) was a partner in a neighborhood art and poetry installation project that brought a local visual artist together with student poets to make pieces incorporating their words and original art (We wrote about the project kickoff party back in September).
The kids chose verses from poems that they had written and added them to boards that they painted and decorated, creating completely new works of art by combining two disciplines. The idea behind Temescal InSitu was to create public poems and visual art installations to be presented in Oakland’s Temescal district, and to “transform the neighborhood into a book or art gallery”.
The children’s creations were hung on the playground fence for six weeks and are now on display in the hallways of the school. The kids loved working with the artist and thinking about their work in new ways.
Devin, a fifth-grader, says she wrote her “recipe” poem thinking of her mother’s favorite comfort food, “Momma’s Burgers.” “When my poem was mounted on the school fence,” Devin said, “it made me feel like a famous poet. And my name, Devin, means poet in Celtic.”
Celebrated author and poet Maya Angelou has been joined by 120 other children’s writers in signing an open letter to President Obama criticizing his education policy and its “overuse and abuse” of standardized testing. They are concerned that over-reliance on testing hurts imagination and destroys children’s love of reading.
Here’s an excerpt from the letter:
We the undersigned children’s book authors and illustrators write to express our concern for our readers, their parents and teachers. We are alarmed at the negative impact of excessive school testing mandates, including your Administration’s own initiatives, on children’s love of reading and literature. Recent policy changes by your Administration have not lowered the stakes. On the contrary, requirements to evaluate teachers based on student test scores impose more standardized exams and crowd out exploration….As Michael Morpurgo, author of the Tony Award Winner War Horse, put it, “It’s not about testing and reading schemes, but about loving stories and passing on that passion to our children.”
You can read the full letter here. If you agree that education should inspire curiosity and independent thinking, read our last post “3 Things You Can Do To Help Arts Education”, share it with your friends, and become an active supporter of arts education in your community.
(photo by Brigitte Lacombe)
October is Principal’s Month, and before it’s over in a few days, we thought we’d pass along some ideas about how school leaders can increase arts education in classrooms. The Arts Education Partnership has come up with 3 simple suggestions for teachers and principals. If you believe in the value of arts education, please share these no-cost ideas with other parents, teachers, and administrators:
A establish a school-wide commitment to arts learning
B create an arts-rich learning environment
C rethink the use of time and resources
Read the full article here. (pdf)
Even the President’s Council on the Arts and Humanities agrees that arts education is critical for student learning and engagement. Involvement in artistic activities—music, dance, drama, performing arts, literature—can give kids a reason to come to school and a new interest in learning. Unfortunately, the last twelve years have seen huge cuts to arts instruction. If more schools start following these tips, it could make a huge difference in kids’ lives.
After a busy summer Poetry Inside Out is starting off September with two exciting family-friendly community events.
Saturday, September 14, at 3 pm, PIO students from Emerson Elementary School in North Oakland will join poets and artists from Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood to read their work at the kick off party for Temescal InSitu. The event will take place at the Temescal Public Library and is free and open to the public. Learn more about the event at the Temescal InSitu project at this link.
On Saturday, September 28, PIO student poets will join Gary Snyder, former US Poet Laureate Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman, Matthew Zapruder and others in reading in the 18th annual Watershed Eco-Poetry Festival. The festival runs from 12 noon to 4:30 pm at Berkeley’s Civic Center Park and is free and open to the public.
We hope to see you there!
When third through eighth graders translate great poems from twenty languages (including Magyar, Ohlone and Tigrinya as well as the Spanish and Chinese many speak at home), you know something unique is happening in education.
Poetry Inside Out, the Center’s in-school literary translation program, completed a very successful 2012-13 school year, bringing its high-expectations curriculum to nearly a thousand young people in 38 classrooms in eleven schools in the Bay Area and beyond. In addition, a total of 13 PIO students were finalists for their own original poems in this year’s national River of Words contest, and PIO’s Artistic Director John Oliver Simon was named ROW’s Teacher of the Year. Here’s one of the winning River of Words poems:
Un poema no es una mano
sino lo que toca
No es un mapa
sino el mundo
A poem is not a hand
but what it touches
It is not a map
but the world
—Viridiana, 4th grade, Lighthouse Community Charter School, Oakland
Looking towards the 2013-2014 school year, we are hoping to recruit a number of Teaching Artists to work in the program. To find out more about the position and how to apply click here.
We have just published the June 2013 edition of TWO LINES Online, with two heavy hitters of world literature: the Argentine novelist Juan José Saer and the Japanese poet Kazuko Shiraishi.
First up, we offer an excerpt from the forthcoming novel La Grande, to be published by Open Letter Books in Steve Dolph's excellent translation. La Grande was Saer's final book, which he had almost completed at the time of his death in 2005. It delves, in Saer's characteristic manner, into the Argentine Dirty War and military junta:
Now, the operatives, as they were called, were much more discreet. One morning, someone had watched from their balcony as they kidnapped a young man who was walking calmly down the sidewalk, not far from the center: a car had pulled up to the curb with the engine still running and three hooded men jumped out onto the sidewalk, pushing and hitting him, and shoved him into back seat, on the floor; two got in the back with him and the third got in the front, next to the driver. The car accelerated, pulled away quickly, and after few meters turned at the first corner and disappeared forever. Because there was no one in the street, the witness thinks that if he hadn’t been on his balcony, no one would have seen what had happened. Of course this witness wouldn’t be crazy enough to report it to the police: just as the kidnapped boy (who was a more or less familiar face in the neighborhood) was never heard from again, no one would ever again see the witness were he to report the kidnapping.
For fans of Saer, keep an eye out. We will be publishing more of him (from a different book) in the next volume of TWO LINES, due out thie fall.
For our second piece this month, we offer "A Requiem for the Earth," a poem from the internationally acclaimed Japanese poet Kazuko Shiraishi, translated by Yumiko Tsumura. Shiraishi has received just about every Japanese literary prize worth having, and she was also, for a time, recognized as Japan’s leading Beat poet. New Directions has published three of her books, and will be publishing another one in 2014. Here's how it starts:
one who dies does not return to life
so we make a memorial day call to the dead person
Issui Yoshida, Samantha and Teruo's father
all have died
riding on a swan on a drug on a glow in the morning sky
each had a different style
but set out on a journey
“write down the memorial day, your own memorial day”
even though you are not yet dead
even though you are still alive
It's been a busy couple of weeks for Two Lines Press author Marie NDiaye. First she was in London to read from her book Three Strong Women at the awards ceremony of the International Booker Prize (see the video below). While Stateside her latest book, our very own All My Friends, has been garnering some rave reviews. Here's Michelle Bailat-Jones at The Rumpus:
Marie NDiaye has a significant publishing history. Her work has also stimulated a good-sized body of critical writing in France. Hers is a unique voice among other contemporary French writers, and her fictional vision both intricate and distinctive. She is an example of exactly the kind of non-Anglophone writer who should have already been translated in full. Hopefully, this new translation will renew interest in her work, prompt further translations and give English readers the chance to experience her entire contribution to world letters.
And here's an excellent discussion of the book at Mookse and Gripes:
All My Friends is a collection of five stories, each featuring characters and situations grotesque and unconventional, yet fully realized. Each is narrated by or closely follows characters fighting — foolishly fighting – their situation in a world that, in more cases than not, despises them.
This post comes to us from Marty Rutherford, the Research & Curriculum Director for the Center’s Poetry Inside Out program. Here, she talks about how Poetry Inside Out subverts traditional classroom expectations—to the benefit of students.
Nowadays there is a lot of pessimism surrounding our national education system, and it’s often regarded as naïve to think that all students can succeed if they are simply exposed to challenging, engaging material and offered sufficient support. And yet, time and time again, research and experience have shown that a focus on offering students challenging, creative content (regardless of discipline) keeps kids engaged and learning.
For instance, here’s one hopeful recent news story about a school in Roxbury, Massachusetts—the principal there fired his security staff and invested those funds in art teachers. The result? The school atmosphere has improved dramatically, as has student engagement and achievement rates.
But it’s not essential to go to such extremes to transform a school. A recently published book I contributed a chapter to, High-Expectation Curricula: Helping All Students Succeed with Powerful Learning, highlights many successful approaches and programs. My chapter details Poetry Inside Out’s unique literacy curriculum.
The book intends to prove the point that I’ve asserted above: “given the right sort of opportunities, all children will confirm our belief that they are competent thinkers, speakers, readers, and writers. Put another way, under the right circumstances, ordinary people . . . are capable of extraordinary things.”
Last month I was on a panel at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting in San Francisco with other representatives from programs included in the book. I talked about what I have learned from Poetry Inside Out students, and the warm response from the audience was very, very encouraging.
One of the best things about being involved with Poetry Inside Out is that it’s given me a context for re-thinking questions about who we are as teachers and learners. We are all very complex individuals comprised of many, many ways of relating to the world around us. When we look at ways of learning—examining talk and text, designing schools and classrooms—it‘s essential that we take into account this complexity—the very essence of who we are and how we operate.
Poetry Inside Out blends the wisdom of students with the building of new knowledge, and in the process provides ample opportunity for all of us involved—adults and children, teachers and students—to learn that meaning is not found in the dictionary but is found in context, as language itself is the vehicle for learning.
Poetry Inside Out is in classrooms in San Diego, New York City, and Boston, as well as the Bay Area, and has reached almost 10,000 kids since 2000. Our hope is to continue to bring inspiration and creativity to students and classrooms around the country.
Want to read more about arts education? Check out the Arts Education Partnership website.
Over at the Two Lines Press blog we celebrate the news that Publishers Weekly has just named All My Friends a “Pick of the Week.”
Check back in at the Two Lines Press blog regularly for the latest info from the press, news, giveaways, and some other odds and ends from the world of literary translation.
This may be the very best way to help the Center and treat yourself: you can subscribe to a year of Two Lines Press for just $36! That includes our 4 2013 titles, plus a free 5th book.
As many of you probably know, Two Lines Press is the new translation-only publishing venture started by the Center. Our first two books are publishing right this minute--Hi, This Is Conchita by Santiago Roncagliolo (translated by Edith Grossman), and All My Friends by Marie NDiaye (translated by Jordan Stump). (If you're in the Bay Area, come celebrate with us on May 22.)
We'll have two more books coming in the fall: The Fata Morgana Books by Jonathan Littell (translated by Charlotte Mandell) and the 20th anniversary volume of TWO LINES.
Subscribing gets you all 4 books, plus a free fifth one from the TWO LINES archives. Full details are right here.
Subscribing is an awesome way to support all the Center's programs, as well as treating yourself to some great world literature year-round. On our 2013 list, we've got 2 Prix Goncourt winners, one Independent Foreign Fiction Prize winner, a Granta Best Young Spanish-Language Novelist, a International Booker Prize finalist . . . not a bad list for our first year (and wait till you see what we're publishing in 2014).