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Friday, July 26, 2013

Student Poetry Reading

I hosted a poetry reading today for my students. This semester they have studied many of the traditional Japanese poetic forms, including: the sendouka, the chouka, the mondouka, the haiku, the cirku, the lune, the tanka/waka, the renga/renku, the haibun, the haiga, the jisei, tanka prose, the senryuu, and the kasen. We learned about each of these formal traditions in Japanese (including their history), and also studied how they have been adapted for usage into English. Part of the way the students learned about these adaptations was to try writing each form in English. We had a unit on the problems of translating Japanese poems into English, and the students had a go at that as well. We also did various traditional games/activities based on the forms, including karuta (a card game based on tanka), a ginkou (a haiku walk), and renga games (timed writing of linked poems).

Today was the culmination of our class: each student had to read three poems at a reading (two original poems and one from the literature, which they may or may not have translated on their own). Many students chose to share visual poems such as haiga and cirku, and that was very gratifying for our audience. Each student also was responsible for giving our audience a brief explanation of one of the forms we studied.

For her senryuu assignment (a haiku-like poem which is often ironic, and sometimes sexual) one of my students wrote about the irony of learning about Japanese poetic forms in English from an American teacher, rather than in Japanese from a Japanese teacher. I enjoyed her poem, and felt I had really succeeded is helping her understand what irony was.

All in all I'd say the semester and today's reading were both successes, and I'd encourage other teachers of English in Japan to consider using Japanese poetic forms as a classroom device.

Oh, and it doesn't hurt to have refreshments at the end of the reading!

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