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spoken word

We'd looked at "quiet" poetry earlier--the sort you read to yourself in books--and so I brought in some recordings of poetry being performed for my students to react to and think about.

I played them Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner's "Tell Them," and felt a warm glow as they reacted visibly to her lines about Styrofoam cups and dusty rubber slippers, and my favorite line, about the children flinging like rubber bands across the street. And then when I asked them which lines stuck with them, they had so many others they loved too--the curling letters, "toasted dark brown as the carved ribs of a tree stump," "the breath of God," "papaya golden sunsets" ... and "the ocean level with the land" and "we see what is in our own back yard."

They heard what her poem said.

I played them Elizabeth Acevedo performing "Night Before First Day of School, the opening poem to her novel-in-poems, The Poet X (which I'm reading--except I lent it out to one of the students), and they loved "I feel too small for all that is inside me."

I played them Laurie Anderson's "From the Air," and several students fell in love with it. What's it about, I asked, and some talked about a plane and a crash, but several said, "It's about more than that. It's about living your life--'there is no pilot': you're the pilot. But you're not alone."

I played them Billy Collins reading "Monday," and they got his teasing affection for poetry and poets.

--I should have asked them if they noticed the boys angling across the street... in context, an echo of Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner's poem.

And then we turned to some Tupac Shakur raps. The students range in age from 22 to 55, mainly White, but everyone knew those raps. They recited right along with them, and by the end of "Dear Mama," several were in tears--I think maybe not just for the love in it, but because that love came in spite of the fact that Tupac's mom was an addict. In that piece he's acknowledging all she's gone through and asserting that he loves her as she is. **Many** of my students really want that to be possible for them, with their kids.

I felt like I had wandered into a room so much bigger than I had imagined.

"He's not dead," one student said stoutly. Yeah. Sometimes your presence and your creation is so meaningful that even death can't decommission you.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/910806.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

la piragua de Guillermo Cubillos

I've been listening to a two-CD collection of some of Colombia's most famous cumbias, and the one that's my current favorite is "La Piragua," the tragic story of the sinking of an ambitiously large piragua (pirogue--like a long canoe) on its maiden voyage. This cumbia, written by Jose Barros, has been sung by bunches of different singers in bunches of different styles, but this is the version I heard, so it has pride of place in my heart. But for instance, there's this much more romantic version, complete with pan pipes sung by Carlos Vives.

lyrics and attempt at translationCollapse )

The line that grabbed me when I was first listening was the ejercito de estrellas la seguía (an army/host of stars followed it), and when I understood that the next line meant "studding it with light and legend," I was very hearts-for-eyes.

The story goes that Guillermo Cubillos commissioned this giant pirogue to ferry goods between El Banco in the south and Chimichagua, to the north (see helpful map).

According to the dramatization on this page, the pirogue set out for its maiden voyage on November 1, 1929, met a storm, and sank. (The dramatization is done by children, and they do a super-charming job, but apart from the performance quality, the dramatization has all kinds of details--the names of all the oarsmen, what the pirogue was carrying--I'm not sure if all of this stuff is known fact or if creative liberties have been taken, but the dramatization was created in Chimicagua itself, so maybe it's all true?)

I love that page, by the way--It's a subpage of a project called "Las Fronteras Cuentan" (The Borders Count), created by the government to highlight and share the stories and traditions of marginalized parts of Colombia:
Radialistas, indígenas, jóvenes, mujeres, campesinos y diversos colectivos de comunicación son los encargados de investigar y narrar las historias sobre sus territorios de frontera.

And on the page on the story of Guillermo Cubillos, I found out that the "beaches of love" are in an area called la Ciénaga de Zapatosa (Marsh of Zapatosa), which is--so the page tells me--the largest reserve of freshwater in the world. I started out with fun music and found a folktale, a marsh, and an effort to amplify the stories of marginalized people in Colombia. I feel **happy**.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/910458.html. Comments are welcome at either location.


This helium balloon came into our life on March 10. It hung around, puffed out and full of helium, in the living room, its head brushing the ceiling, for a long time. If you pulled on the string, it would come down and then bounce back up.

We could tie things to the end of the string and entertain the cat by bouncing the balloon down and up--the balloon positively swooped and danced. And the balloon watched attentively from the corner while the TV was on.

As it began to deflate, it began to wander. One evening I went upstairs to ask the healing angel something; when I left her room, the balloon was lingering on the staircase. Its head no longer bumped up against the ceiling.

Later I found it in my bedroom. Nonplussed, I led it back to the living room.

The last few days, it's been hanging out with the loquats. For a while it was up by the shock of leaves at the top of this particular loquat; now it's down at root level, but that means it can also get the warmth of the southern sun in the window. It seems to be a good place to spend your final days.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/910025.html. Comments are welcome at either location.


Welcome to the new era in Japan: Reiwa.

During the modern period--that is, ever since the Meiji Restoration of 1868--the eras have corresponded to the reigns of the emperor. That is, the Meiji Period equated to the Meiji emperor's** reign, the Taisho period corresponded to the Taisho emperor's reign, the Shōwa period corresponded to the reign of the Shōwa emperor--better known to people outside Japan as Emperor Hirohito--and it has been the Heisei period ever since Akihito, Hirohito's son, became emperor. Akihito is going to abdicate on April 30, and today, a new era name was introduced, Reiwa: 令和. On a character level, "Rei" means "proclamation," "law," "order" and "Wa" means "harmony," "peace," and also "Japan." The first character makes some people uneasy--all that law'n'order-ness of it. But the source material from which the name was taken is an ancient poem from a flower-viewing party, and in that context, the "rei" refers to the month of the party and the "wa" to the peaceful breezes. On Twitter, Wakanomori quoted Edwin Cranston's translation of the relevant lines:
It is now the *choice* month 令月of early spring: the weather is fine, the wind is *soft* 風和ぐ。The plum blossoms open--powder before a mirror; the orchids exhale--fragrance after a sachet.

[Translation by Edwin Cranston, from The Gem-Glistening Cup, 1993]

In Japan, these era names are used *a lot*--on official forms, etc. So I know, for instance, what year of the Shōwa period I was born in as automatically as I know what year of the so-called Common Era I was born in. My kids all date to the Heisei era--this will be their first new era. My grandmother lived in all the eras from Meiji on--this is the first one she's not alive for.

Anyway, for those looking for a new start--here's one!

ETA: Funny addendum from Twitter, courtesy of Amy Stanley, a professor of Japanese History at Northwestern (link to first tweet here):
In some sense Reiwa is a perfect name for this era, because ordinary people look at it like, “huh, maybe this is a little authoritarian?” And then experts rush in with a very complicated reading and assure us it’s all fine and we misunderstood.

It is the “but actually” of era names.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/909817.html. Comments are welcome at either location.
(With this job I'm likely to be mainly a Friday-Saturday-Sunday poster, but I'll try to be reading and commenting on people's blogs on other days.)

The crow and the dove
This morning was *warm* and although the hills are still waiting to spring alive again, there are hints of life all around--pussy willows, birdsong. On a morning run saw a magnificent crow up so close, close enough to admire his bill and exchange glances and hear the wind whistling in his wings as he flew off.

Later I heard a distant radio--but it wasn't so distant: it was on the other side of the road, and there was a woman sitting there on her stoop in her bathrobe, enjoying the sun slowly climbing above the trees on the hill across the road. I waved and she smiled and waved. Something like that is as good as sharing a whole meal with someone.

Then a little further on in the run a mourning dove flew up into a tree and the sun shone through its white tail feathers, glowing ... After the flood the dove and the crow became neighbors and told their kids stories about Noah's crazy habits.

And music. I have been listening to lots of cumbia and now want to learn to dance it, couples-style. Past me is looking at present me in frank amazement. There there, past self. It's all good. But what I'm sharing here are two songs that are not only nice to listen too but also have cool videos. The first I discovered through Afropop Worldwide: "Tenemos Voz"--very cool animation and a great song.

And "Zapata se Queda" is spectacular in a different way.

Gender of the Day
There's Twitter bot called @genderofthdday that comes up with different amusing combos each day. "The gender of the day is the smell of stale beer and the sound of a dial-up modem"; "The gender of the day is a dragon with a lute." (Actually, I'm realizing as I trawl the back pages that it gives several per day.)

A couple of days ago it gave "The gender of the day is a tired basilisk on a pegasus," and I thought that one needed an illustration, so:

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/909360.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

more on microseasons

I started mentioning what microseason we were in for my classes at the jail, and the students are really into it. On Tuesday we entered "First Cherry Blossoms" (... we're not quite in sync, here in New England), and on Thursday they wanted to know what the new one was. "We're still in 'First Cherry Blossoms,'" I had to tell them, "But we'll be in a new one on Monday." (I teach Mon-Thurs).

Students in class know bits of different languages, and it's fun to have them share--Spanish, of course, but one woman has French-Canadian grandparents and speaks Quebecois French, and another student went to a high school that offered Chinese--so yeah, it's fun having people get excited about what they know and can share.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/909218.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

a book and a magazine

Those of you who enjoyed Aster Glenn Gray's Briarley but would have liked to have it in print form... now it's available! Behold its beautiful cover:

And here is a link, for purchasing ease.

And, in more news of the physical rather than the digital, the latest issue of Not One of Us is out. It's a great size for carrying with you and reading, quietly, wherever--no batteries needed. [personal profile] lesser_celery has relevant information here, and if you're not a subscriber and want to purchase an issue, leaving a note there would probably do the trick.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/908940.html. Comments are welcome at either location.


Week two of teaching completed. I love the students; I love the actual in-classroom time. Actually being employed by the jail, though, is stressful and traumatic. I haven't felt so much free-floating anxiety in a long time. I keep telling myself to breath deeply. This story is unrelated.

The first time I lived in Japan was after college. I lived for a while in special housing for foreign exchange students, where my closest friends were two women my age--a French exchange student and an Italian one. The French one, S, was ethnically Chinese, born in Tahiti, and grew up in New Caledonia, mais comme une vraie française, elle se identifie comme française, et pas comme chinoise ou caledonienne. (Not sure how grammatical that French is... just wanted to see what I could recall.)

She had a way of pulling me in. We'd be sitting in her room on her bed; she'd be looking at a magazine of photography and smoking (everyone smoked, it seemed to me, except me). So she'd be looking at this magazine, and she'd take a drag on the cigarette and thrust the magazine in front of me and say, "What do you think of this photo?" And she'd look at me intently, like it was the most important question of the decade, or at least the evening. And so I'd say what I thought. And if she agreed, she'd say "Yes! YES!" positively joyfully, and we'd talk on about the picture. And if she disagreed, she'd say vehemently, "Not me--I think [whatever]," but not with huge disappointment that we weren't in accord, but just as if it was very necessary to share what she felt.

I felt so delighted when we agreed, and so desperate to understand her point of view when we didn't.

Like me, she had a Japanese boyfriend. One time we somehow got into a conversation that somehow led to something like, What if the two of us kissed? "I don't think it would be cheating," S said, "because we're girls."

I don't have the world's strongest sex drive, but I felt a thrill just then, and a sense of possibility, but also danger.

"I think it probably would be cheating," I said.

. . . Nothing ended up happening.

We stayed in touch for a long time and even now are tenuously connected thanks to Facebook.

This memory brought to you courtesy of [personal profile] mallorys_camera, who was writing about attraction and got me thinking.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/908452.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

hills this morning

I went running this morning, and the sunlight through the clouds was turning parts of the hills into pure gold, while around them the shadowed hills were still winter purple-gray. I didn't have a camera, and it would be time-consuming to try to draw, but I discovered that MS Word has a very rudimentary drawing function. And so I created a picture! This... doesn't really capture what it was like at all, except for the contrast, and not even that. The dark was darker, the bright was glowing.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/908287.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

waving from afar

I got a message from a friend (thank you friend) checking to be sure I was okay, seeing as I hadn't posted in a while. That's prompted me to post this--I am okay! Just a bit overwhelmed at the moment with the new job. Last week was my multiple-day orientation, and that was Very Daunting--lots of rules and procedures and things that mainly won't apply to me but that I have to know.

And yesterday was my first day of teaching, and it was a positive experience--the students are great and seemed to genuinely enjoy the material--but we went through the material I had expected would last the whole class in ... less than the whole class. Fortunately I had the week's materials to hand, so I was able to just forge ahead, but that put me off my stride a bit.

It'll take me a bit to get into the swing of things, but hopefully by next week or the week after I'll be back to my normal posting and commenting habits (though in more limited hours).

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/907911.html. Comments are welcome at either location.



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