Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Poetry Night: For Joy

My dearest friends know that I deeply admire the essayist, fiction writer, and American poet Wendel Berry. Tonight was poetry night at The Culture Club and I shared his To a Siberian Woodsman. I began to choke up during my reading of the last stanza, which was not particularly professional nor did it help my Chinese listeners to understand me. I also shared Wild Geese by Mary Oliver.

One of the students brought Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to share. Her chosen English name is Sunshine, but she came to the wine-tasting event a week ago and Jack, who is a delightful tease, called her Moonshine. He had no idea what moonshine was, but it was a perfect teaching moment.

We also talked about Shakespeare--alliteration, iambic pentameter, rhythm, rhyme, and onomatopoeia. It was fun to walk them through all of this. I had them baa like a lamb and maa like a goat. Baba is papa and mama is mama in Chinese. I had them ribbit like a frog and roar like a lion, zippppp their zippers and then we did tongue-twisters. She sells seashells by the seashore. How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

The range of levels makes these classes a real challenge. How do you know if the the new student, who is sitting there smiling, is really enjoying herself or if she is dumbstruck by how little she understands of the conversation. There are a couple of boisterous boys who have started to come. They are younger than our stated minimum age, but add a fun dynamic sometimes. How will I know if some of the adults wish they would just go away? These are the small challenges of what I do here. (I am not going to write a blog post about the big challenges.)


  1. Nice post! I like this quote of his :"Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup."

    So, what "culture club" are you enjoying? Do you read poems and discuss it? You started? :)


  2. Hello Alex and Blog Readers,

    Greetings from Sunny, but uniform San Diego!

    1. I just met your old galpal Rachel Kowalski from law school - we work in the same female co-work space and will be sailing together soon!

    2. A suggest for your closing dilemma and a language exercise: ask them to leave a note about a) how the Culture Club is going, b) what they like the most, and c) what they would like to see change for next time. Tell them not to put their name on it unless they want to, and to leave the note at the back of the room as they walk out. I used to do this with my students who enjoyed it, and I learned it from one of my teachers too.

    Best of Luck! We are all rooooooting for you!!!


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