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Poetry Inside Out

Poem Page
Alfredo Espino
El Salvador (19001946) El Nido

Es porque un pajarito de la montaa ha hecho, en el hueco de un rbol su nido matinal, que el rbol amanece con msica en el pecho, como que si tuviera corazn musical. Si el dulce pajarito por entre el hueco asoma, para beber roco, para beber aroma, el rbol de la sierra me da la sensacin de que se le ha salido, cantando, el corazn . . .

Alfredo Espino was one of the most beloved El Salvadorian poets. Especially well-known for his beautiful poems about nature, he touched the hearts of many, including children of all ages. El Nido, one of his many famous poems, can be found in his book Jicares Tristes.

The Nest

Translators Glossary
Amanecer: v. comenzar el da; to awaken, wake up Beber: v. ingerir un lquido; to drink Cantar: v. producir con la voz sonidos melodiosos; to sing Hueco: n. espacio donde no hay nada; hollow, hole, nook Matinal: adj. que ocurre durante la maana; morning, matine Nido: n. Especie de lecho que forman las aves con hierbas, pajas, plumas y otros materiales, para poner sus huevos, casa, patria o habitacin de alguien; nest, homeland Roco: n. el agua que se encuentra en pequeas gotas en el zacate y otras partes por la maana. No es lluvia, sino agua condensada; dew Salir: v. pasar de dentro a fuera; leave, go outside Sierra: n. grupo de montaas, como una cordillera; sierra, mountain range

It is because a tiny bird from the mountain has made, in the hollow of a tree its morning nest that the tree wakes up with music in his chest as if it had a musical heart. If the sweet bird peeks through the hole to drink the dew, to drink the aroma the tree from the mountain gives me the sensation that its heart has come out singing


Poetry Inside Out

Teaching Translation to Enhance Literacy

Molly: Our group picked the translationthat the tree wakes with music in its chestbecause when a bird puts a nest in the hole of a tree and sings, the tree will sound musical. And because the bird was in a hole in the tree it really sounded like the tree was singing. Also, chest rhymes with nest. He (the poet Espino) wanted nature to be presented in a fun way. Saul: In line three of the poem our group thinks the translation should say that the tree wakes up with music in its chest because when the bird made its nest in a hole in the tree it probably hatched an egg and the baby started chirping. When the baby chirped it sounded like music that was coming from the tree. This translation flows because in the line before, they use the word nest, and like the other groups said, chest rhymes with nest. This translation also goes with the whole meaning of the poem, that is that the tree became alive because its heart was full with music. Also the bird was happy and that is why it is singing. Molly: When thirty-four people read the same thing they each come up with different ideas. Their minds picture different things because they understand the words differently. The thing that happens is that each mind works in its own way so we see things differently and then our mind makes its own connections.

is happening here. This discussion, mid-way through a sixteen-lesson program called Poetry Inside Out, is being held by linguistically diverse middle-school stuOMETHING QUITE REMARKABLE

After several years as a bilingual teacher in Oakland Unif ied School District, Marty Rutherford left the classroom, completed her doctorate in language and literacy at UC Berkeley, and worked on disseminating culturally relevant, high-expectation literacy programs that offered the promise of transforming high-poverty schools into vibrant learning communities. Currently she is director of research and dissemination for the Center for the Art of Translations Poetry Inside Out program.

dents from the lowest performing school in a large, diverse urban school district. They have just spent more than two hours translating a poem and then discussing the rationale behind their word choices. What is so compelling about this curriculum that it captures students attention at this level and for this length of time? As a former Poetry Inside Out student explained,
In the process of translation, one comes to know a poem so well, so intimately,

Spring 2011

Marty Rutherford

as each word is pondered, considered, and wrestled with, that a little bit of the authors brilliancy is rubbed into the translator, and one understands, even if it is unconsciously, something more about language and poetry.

Poetry Inside Out (PIO), established in 2000 by the Center for the Art of Translation, is an engaging, innovative language arts curriculum that heightens participants awareness of the function of language and their creative self-expression. PIO has worked with more than five thousand students throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and is now in the process of bringing the program to a national audience. This fall PIO partnered with Teachers & Writers Collaborative to begin a pilot project in New York City. The PIO curriculum is structured around workshops in which students encounter great poems in the language in which they were writtenSpanish, Chinese, Russian, Arabic, and many othersand engage in the practice of literary translation. Students then use these newly translated poems as inspiration and resource for composing their own poems. The synergy of the two practicestranslating and composing poetryallows PIO participants to hone their awareness of language while building essential cognitive and literary skills. The poems and translations produced by participants in PIO reflect their profound responses to language, culture, society, and themselves. The work that PIO asks of studentsdoing literary translations and writing poetryis not easy. It is work that requires concentration and perseverance. Yet our students eagerly delve into this work. Why? Because they are inspired. They are inspired by reading and translating great poems from renowned poets and from their peers. They are inspired by writing poems and by having their fellow students read these poems. This work allows our students to see themselves in a new light, with greater possibilities. This fourth-grade PIO student speaks for many:

I feel different about myself. In PIO you get to express yourself more and you change by pieces. Translating poems is like forming a puzzle and once you are almost done it is like turning on a light. And then in your own life you start looking for the puzzles . . . looking for the way for me to be better . . . the puzzles are hiding and when you find them, and solve them, your life has more light, like the poems.

Literary translation is fundamental to the program because it leads to a deeper understanding of the form and function of language. Translating poetry generates the closest possible relationship with text, in part because attention to syntax, grammar, vocabulary, rhythm, nuances, and colloquialismsof both the original language and the language into which the poem is being translatedis vital to the process. The back and forth from one language to another, and between the whole and the parts, are what allows the translator to build a new version of the text. A fourth-grade PIO student describes the process like this: When I translate a poem I look for what the author is trying to tell us, but you have to figure it out. You need to look at all the words and what they mean. Its like a riddle. Students come to understand, when learning to translate, that a piece of writing isnt finished until someone has read and interpreted it. This deeper understanding of language that students gain from translating poems comes into play when they begin to compose their own poems. This process includes learning new forms and ways with words, building students capacity to communicate with clarity. They experience that writing is useful for exploring ideaslived and learnedand for communicating with others. As one sixth-grade PIO student explained: When we started I didnt know anything about what it meant to write poetry or what it would be like to say things you really mean, but now I do.


Teachers & Writers

Poetry Inside Out

Poem and translation


No todo en la vida
No todo en la vida es tristeza hasta una lgrima derramando de tu mejilla hace cosquillas

Not everything in life

Not everything in life is sadness even a teardrop running down your cheek tickles you

How It Works
A Poetry Inside Out workshop consists of sixteen lessons that are presented in three sequential parts. Workshops usually occur two to three times a week for one hour. During a typical workshop the teacher and students read, recite, and discuss poems by great authors from around the world in the language in which these poems were written. Participants then engage in the work of creating a literary translation, considering the context, lines, words, cadences, and the structure of the poem. Influenced by this experience they then produce their own poetry inspired by the authors they study. Although each PIO unit is modified to fit the particular needs of each classmodifications can include the choice of poems, poets, countries, and languagesthe workshop format remains the same.

Cycle One
The emphasis in the first six classes is on learning basic translation skills using poems that become increasingly more complex to translate. When students translate, the process is so layered they not only build the necessary skills to move the text from the source language to a new language; they also come to see that poems have different characteristics and qualities, that a poet communicates many concepts, including feelings, emotions, opinions, and perspectives; that language itself can be subtle, bold, aggressive, full of

slang, or very elegant. PIO students figure this out as they translate the poems, considering each word and phrase on its own and within the context of the piece. One way we help students learn to do literary translation is through a protocol we call the translation circle. To begin the translation process, students are given a poem page (see p. 8), which includes the poem in its original language, a short biography of the poet and a glossary that serves as a key for translating. Heres an example of how the process works: A group of sixth-graders is given the poem, Formas y Colores, by the Mexican author David Huerta. After the whole class works with the poem a bitreading it aloud, talking about the poet, his or her place of origin, and the language of the poemstudents move into pre-arranged groups of four and begin their translation circles. Within each group, students first work in pairs, reading the poem and arriving at a phrase-by-phrase translation. This work includes re-reading the poem and listening carefully for clues about meaning from personal knowledge, pronunciation, context, the glossary, or a dictionary. Once they complete the phrase-by-phrase translation, the students are asked to make it flow. They join with the other half of the translation circle and this group works together to create a more polished version of the poem. After this, each student writes their own final translation of the poem. The translation shown below is by a sixth-grader named Samuel who is bilingual in Spanish and English. It is important to note that although in this example the student translator speaks the language of the original poem, the use of the glossary also allows students to translate poems written in languages with which they are unfamiliar. The attention to language, the careful re-crafting of Samuels make it flow version are striking. It is clear that the essence and meaning of the poem has influenced his word choice.


Spring 2011

Marty Rutherford

Formas y Colores

Original Language


Make it flow

Escucha una palabra con atencin, cualquier palabra. Es puro sonido pero algo quiere decir: Naranja, una fruta; avin, mquina que vuela; Clodomiro, nombre de una persona; Azucena, flor blanca. Ahora vuelve a escucharlas y encuntrales formas y colores

Listen one word with focus Which ever word Is pure sound But something it wants to say Orange, a fruit Plane, machine that flies Clodomiro, name of a person Lily, white flower Now return to listen to them And encounter the forms and colors

Listen to a word with attention Any word It is pure sound It has something to say Orange, a fruit Airplane, a flying machine Clodomiro, a name Azucena, white flower Now come back and listen again And find the forms and colors

Cycle Two
In the next part of the curriculum the emphasis turns to learning about the craft of writing poetry. Building on what students learned from their translation practice, we continue with practical lessons about basic poetic elements, such as line and stanza, repetition, refrain, and the way a poem is constructed. We also work with poetic forms, such as couplets, quatrains, ballads, odes, pantoums, haikus, tankas, sonnets, and others, and with various forms of figurative language. Once again, we use renowned poets, other students poems, and translation as key inspirational tools. The following poem is written by the same bilingual student, Samuel, whose translation is presented above.

Words flow through your mind like a river. You choose the way. You choose the end. It goes to your mind It goes to your heart.

Cycle Three
In the final section of the program, participants apply what they have learned thus far to produce written and oral presentations of their work. Students may choose to revise a previously composed piece, or they may create a new poem. Within the Poetry Inside Out curriculum, all classes produce a volume of student work that includes original poems and translations. Students also perform their work in a variety of ways, from simple classroom presentations to more ambitious efforts, such as school-wide exhibitions, crossschool poetry slams, back-to-school night presentations, and school-wide assemblies. Every few years, a selection of poems from all PIO classrooms across the country are published in the Center for the Art of Translations Poetry Inside Out Anthology.

Listen to the each word. Every word. Listen for the meaning. Different meanings. What is the difference? Do you hear it?


Teachers & Writers

Poetry Inside Out

Sometimes you feel something inside in your heart and then poetry comes and you can spread it outlike waves of emotions. Writing poetry is like sharing your mind with someone else that may have felt the same thing. PIO student interview

ith every Poetry Inside Out workshop, students teach us the importance of this work. Poetry Inside Out students come to know that almost everything we do requires translation in some form: whether we are reading a street sign, reading our friends, or reading the world, we translate. Translation is about interpretationmoving something from one context and making it comprehensible in another.
Translation made me use words that I knew but did not say, . . . made me think of other words with other people with different languages, . . . made me use words that I didnt even know. Translation helped me learn how to say what I want to say, . . . how to choose my words, and say what I mean for the people who read my poems to understand. PIO student interview

How do we do this? Simply. We introduce students to a few tricks of the trade. We teach them how to translate through the introduction of a few basic protocols. And then we practice. We teach them how to write poetry by teaching the basic structure and form, and we play and practice those skills. Most

importantly, through the poems we choose and the activities we use, we show students that we see them as smart, capable people able to learn seemingly complex and important things. This is the single most essential part of PIO. As a fifth-grade student working in a bilingual immersion school said, When we saw what artists and Latino poets wrote we thought we could do those things . . . we could be like them. Learning to write poetry provides our students with a vehicle for learning to say what they really mean. Through the practice of constantly questioning word choice they learn to find the best way of expressing their intended message. American psychologist and educational theorist Jerome Bruner famously said that any subject can be taught effectively in some intellectually honest form to any child at any stage of development (The Process of Education, 1960: 1116) and we have found this to be true in the PIO program. The poems we choose for the PIO project are great works, and the translation process is rigorous. But students recognize when they are given work that matters and it makes a difference. Our choice of content explicitly tells our students that we think highly of them and that they are eminently capable of using their minds wellwhen the content is something worthy of their minds. Students see the Poetry Inside Out program as an intellectually sophisticated endeavor and by extension they come to see themselves as intellectually sophisticated. While this quality is not unique to PIO, it is a quality worth emulating. When students understand the importance of using their minds wellthey do just that.


Spring 2011

Bringing Translation Skills to Everyday Learning



Hold Tight to Dreams

Hold tight to dreams For if dreams go away, Life is a broken heart That stops. Hold tight to dreams For when dreams fly away, Life goes fast Like a tornado.

This poem, an English-to-English translation of the well-known Langston Hughes poem Dreams, was completed by a seventh-grade student halfway through the Poetry Inside Out pilot program at our New York City public school. The students had been focusing on translation skills in this part of the program, mainly translating poems from Spanish into English. This work gave a deeper sense of purpose to our use of dictionaries, thesauruses, and our analysis of parts of speech, and allowed our Spanish-dominant students like the one who wrote the poem above to finally feel like experts in the literacy classroom. The students

Elizabeth Lacy has been teaching middle school for eight years. She was originally a Teach for America corps member in the South Bronx, and currently teaches seventh-grade reading and writing at MS 324 in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. She holds an MS in Education. She is currently working with an independent writing group to craft both fictional stories and a nonfiction account of her experiences in teaching. Jennifer Romanoff has been teaching for six years. She was originally a high school Spanish teacher in Philadelphia, and currently teaches seventh-grade reading and writing at MS 324. She holds an MS in Education and an EdM in Educational Leadership. She has a passion for studying and teaching languages.

gained confidence in their reading and writing skills and developed strategies for coping when they got stuck on unknown words. But we wanted to take this work to the next level and show students that translation is a part of their everyday lives. We wanted them to understand that the choices we make about word meanings can deeply affect our interpretation of others writing. This was something we as teachers discovered firsthand as part of the PIO training we attended, when we tried to make a Spanish translation of Langston Hughes seemingly simple Poem which starts, I loved my friend. / He went away from me. We soon discovered that Hughes line He went away from me could be translated by one person as, He left me, and by another as He died. We were fascinated at how much thought went into selecting the right word to convey a particular meaning and wanted to bring this lesson into the classroom. To do so, we showed our students the two very different translations of Poem we had written, and then had them apply the translation skills they had learned to translate Langston Hughes Dreams. We asked them to translate the poem from English to English, and then defend their choice of words to the class. As the students examined the poem and wrote their own versions of it, they began to recognize how the translation skills they were acquiring could be transferred into other realms of literacy as well, sharpening their skills as writers and as readers. Most importantly, they saw what a difference a word can make!


Teachers & Writers


Notes From a New York City Classroom

The Five-Senses World
The round world has a smart brain. In life there is time to think. There is no crying baby born without Intelligence. The round world has a mind to think. Most of the world has the five senses. The world remembers how it was made. The round world sleeps? The flower sleeps? The sleeping animal dreams? And sleepy me, on the round world,

the dreams have awakened me.

of Homero Aridjis Poema de La Tierra Inteligente by a seventh-grade special education student. I didnt hear much from this young girl in class; she always sat with the same two

boys, also special education students, never volunteered, and didnt often look up. Her first phrase-byphrase translation of the Aridjis poem was barely comprehensible due to poor grammar and punctuation. Over a few individual editing sessions, however, we worked on arranging her thoughts and ideas in stanzas, and on punctuation. She began to smile as her poem took shape, and I was amazed to see a thoughtful poem emerge that showed more depth than the work of some of the more proficient students. I was impressed by her translation, in particular, of Aridjis sixth line in the poem, [La tierra] una memoria que se olvida a s misma, as The world remembers how it was made, and by the way she used question marks to suggest a new, speculative meaning for lines in the poems third stanza. For the title of her poem, she drew from our classroom discussions about how effective imagery emerges from describing the world through our five senses. When I read over all the student translations, I was surprised to find that her interpretation was one of the richer and more original, and that it stayed with me.

Sari Wilsons prose has appeared in literary journals such Agni, Slice, and on Signif and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Wilson has received a Wallace Stegner Creative Writing fellowship at Stanford University, a Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship, and a residency at the Corporation of Yaddo. She is a teaching artist for Teachers & Writers Collaborative.

eres another wonderful poem, also by a seventhgrade girl, that was born through a process of culling from her pages and pages of free-writing:


Spring 2011

Sari Wilson

I feel like a hibernating bear, smashed potato chips in a bag on a shelf I want to sleep Like sleeping beauty Dreaming completely About things that are not in this world Let my imagination do jumping jacks in my head While I relax But no, I have to get up and walk on something thats hard as ice So I take a deep breath, get dressed, and walk out the door Mad as a witch.

This student-authors writing flowed out nonstop, like water from a faucetbut she had trouble reviewing and selecting concepts to refine. The sonnet above emerged in response to a two-day writing exercise created by fellow T&W teaching artist Adam Wiedewitsch. We did this exercise toward the end of the PIO pilot project and were excited by the students response. First, we gave the students a copy of a sonnet (Soneta LXII) by Pablo Neruda, in both the original Spanish and translated into English. Students read the sonnet aloud in both Spanish and English and spent some time getting familiar with the poem. Then we discussed what they noticed about the poem and its structure. I asked them if they could tell me what problem or issue was being discussed. We looked at themes, similes, metaphors, and other literary devices. Finally, we looked at how sonnets are like essays in that they traditionally present a problem, look at the problem from different perspectives, and end by posing a question or offering a resolution to the problem. After this discussion I led a free-writing exercise in which students described a problem they were having and offered possible solutions to it. The next day we looked at some of the formal aspects of Nerudas sonneti.e., that it has fourteen lines with ten syllables each, and that it is structured in the following way: eight lines that map out a problem, four lines offering another perspective on the problem, and two lines of conclusion that offer a res-

olution. Then students used the material theyd generated in the free-write to craft their own fourteen-line, tensyllable sonnets. At first I felt students were getting stuck in meeting the formal requirements of the sonnet (line and syllable count), so I pulled back and told them that the formal elements were simply guides and they should let the rhythm of the words and what they wanted to say dictate the line and poem length. At this point, the girl who wrote Stressful edited her sonnet down to its current form, which works much better than it did when she was trying to meet the formal requirements. The truth is that I felt we were not teaching sonnets so much as experiencing with our own writing what we had experienced as translators. The students, after many lessons of translating others work, were bursting to express themselvesto write. The sonnet was one form, one framework, with which we worked. At the same time, we continued to develop our skills as translators. When they were finished writing their poems, the students shared what they had written and defended why they made the choices they did, just as they had when translating. I wanted to highlight the poem Stressful because it shows the same attention to language as the translations we had done earlier in the PIO process. The student-author integrates metaphor and imagery into her poem, which is suffused with that elusive thing the voice of a writer. How is this acquired? The process draws from so many sources that it can easily elude testing specialists and curriculum planners. It occurs in an interstitial space where artistic creation happens. Poetry Inside Out seeks to bring young writers into this space, allowing them to find their own voices through a closer engagement with language. During the program our students became familiar with the act of moving a text from literal meaning (in the phrase-by-phrase translation) to poetic meaning of their own making (when asked to make it flow). From literal to figurativeand the space in between this is where the voice of a seventh-grade writer, like the ones whose poems are featured here, finds room to grow.


Teachers & Writers