Saturday, February 18, 2012

Wordsalve: poet Sunita Jain & my class

My most recent classroom Skype with an author emerged from a parent email.  A mother asked me if her daughter had ever mentioned her grandmother, a writer who lives in India.  The implication in the email was that this may be someone I would like to invite into my classroom through Skype, as I have with many authors over the past two years.

You never know when some of the best experiences in life will come, or how they will emerge.
Be Mine
I am afraid to touch
the hurts you have known, child
the sobs under the skin
the terror forged in your lines.
Will poems make up for these?
I'll make poems while the mind keeps.
And send you wordsalve for manbite.

Be well.  Be mine.
I asked if the family had anything I could read by the grandmother or photocopy to share with my classes.  The granddaughter brought me in a stack of books--when I say a stack I mean a stack.  The grandmother's writing and life experience is humbling and moving.

I Want You to Say

I want you to say
you love me
as leaves grow
on clinging vines--
say it again and again till
feeling is a net of veins
flowing with life.

Till music, hard and clean
like river water on stones,
courses through my soul-chime.

Having Indian poet Sunita Jain speak to my class was, without a doubt, one of my best experiences as a teacher:

a) The Indian students (particularly the females) had a chance to connect with a female Indian author--just last year the significance of these types of experiences were illuminated before me as an Indian female student in my class expressed heartfelt joy that I had Mitali Perkins speak to my class.  I can distinctly recall her saying that she could not believe she got to speak to real Indian author.  I'm learning first hand that mentor connections in general carry great formative influence of young people, yet to be able to zero in on specific cultures or the social features of your students is equally as relevant.

In Losing
In Losing I lost not you.
The self
migrated from self.
The music ceased.
The anguish
charred the rest.

b) A grandmother not only got to see her granddaughter in school, but also engaged with her in my classroom--imagine all of the parties, dinners, soccer games that this grandmother misses by living in New Delhi while her family lives her on the east coast of America.  She misses seeing her grandchildren grow because of the great distance between them.  Yet, a technology like Skype allows families and friends connect around the world.  I have to say that watching my student and her grandmother interact, and especially the repeated smile on the grandmother, has been one of my great honors as a teacher.  It was fulfilling to see my student so involved with the overall experience in addition to the privilege of seeing her interacting with her grandmother--not to mention the fact that all of my other students got to participate in this experience.  There were so many levels to it that I am still processing it.

Deserts are Space

Deserts are space
and ache is time,
when to part lovers
an ocean walks in.

c) Good writing is international, ageless, boundless, and timeless.  The personal nature of Sunita Jain's writing really comes through in her responses.  If you view the 20 minute video below, you'll hear her talk about the observations that came alive for her when her mother old and dying.  Her deeply personal and reflective response of how her own sensibilities and sensitives were altered in those moments served as such a touching and poignant lesson for my young writers.


The dawn's silver grey
with sparrows, crows, bird in transit--
sunshot suddenly
with crimson blended.

d) In reading her poetry together before the Skype session, and then hearing her responses to our class, felt like I was hearing greatness.  It was great.  These were not only great moments for all of the beauty and sincerity mentioned above, but these were great words coming out of her.  I was really moved by the entire experience and I hope you gain something out of my sharing as much as I can here online.

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