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October 19th at Ka Waihona Charter School

Posted by JEAN TOYAMA
Sunday, October 21, 2012 11:07 PM


I had a ball on Friday teaching two of Kumu Chiemi Favinger's classes (about seventy students all together) at Ka Waihona Charter School (Ka Waihona o ka Na auao) in Nanakuli. It brought back memories of teaching middle school students, though here they ranged from 5th grade to 8th grade, full of energy, eagerness and some mischief.

We discussed the importance of writing. Why do we write? I asked. And one by one a student named the different reasons: because the teacher makes me, getting a good grade, learning, remembering, getting ahead, studying. They even talked about the benefits of self-expression and communication. Someone said, we write so we "don't blow up." How perceptive, I thought. It led right into the expression I had learned from reading artist, Yayoi Kusama: "self-therapy". It describes her reason for doing art. I explained that self-therapy through writing helps us learn about ourselves and get better.

These students know and understand; some of it has not yet formulated for them, but that's what writing will do, help them know what they think.

So we did a poem from my book, "Kelli's Hanauma Friends":

He'e mauli, Day Octopus
(Octopus cyanea)

I can out wait you,
outside here.
I can wait until you
decide
to slither out.
I won't move until after
you move
out.
So, He'e, let me see you;
let me see your spout.


The poetic device, which Kumu Chiemi had already taught them, was alliteration. They recognized the repetition of similar sounds and how that repetition can link to the meaning of hiding and coming out. We could have talked about personification and apostrophe, but we didn't have the time.

I then explained "renshi" poetry, linked verses, as in a chain. They even had a chance to do some math, to figure out how many links would be produced in a year with four poets writing a poem a month.

After I explain how it worked I read "Jalousied Window."

I see her look at you:
she tilts her head ever so cutely
and laughs so brightly.

I close the slats
against that look
hears
and yours, those half opened eyes taking in all
that light from her white teeth.

I close it shut, then open,
she's gone and you walk up the steps,
coming home.


We discussed the obvious theme, jealousy, and how it's possible to play with different meanings of words. When I asked whether the woman looking through the window was happy, most thought she wasn't. I thought she was, since he was coming home. But maybe they were right; he had made her jealous.

Kumu Chiemi has nurtured their desire to learn; they were very curious and wanted to ask me all kinds of questions, where I went to school, how many books I had written and inevitably how old I was. I asked them to guess, they tried to flatter me by saying 30, 31, 32. Ouch! I hope they had as much fun as I did.

I suggested that they do a renshi in class and told them that I would post their work on our "Teachers' Corner." We'll have to wait and see. I can see why Kumu Chiemi enjoys teaching her classes, and it show; she doing a terrific job. (Pictures to be posted later.)

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