WWW: Three Latin American Poets and a Translator

three poets cervantes

I am incredibly excited to share this week’s resource from the Wide World of the Web, because this resource not only contains the translated work of three phenomenal female modernist poets from South America, but it also helps tell the background story of how these three women came to be bound together in the June 1925 Issue of Poetry Magazine.  This historic issue, published in New York during a time when modernists such as Ezra Pound and T.S. Elliot were working out ways to form a new poetic tradition for the 20th century, this June 1925 issue featured an astonishing thirty-one South and Central American poets.  Among them were poets Alfonsina Storni, Juana de Ibarbourou, and Gabriela Mistral (featured in Lorraine’s Mira Look post earlier this week).  In this amazing resource you will find the poets featured in 1925 organized according to country.  You can find Storni’s poem “Running Water” under Argentina, Mistral’s “Ecstasy” under Chile, and Ibarbourou’s “Bond” under Uruguay.  All three of these pieces are excellent examples not only of 20th century modernist poetry, but of the perspective of Western educated Latin American women of that time.

In Ibarbourou’s “Bond”, the poet replaces common articles of feminine adornment to symbolize the suffering endured by societal pressures of beauty.  Ibarbourou (spelled Ibarbouron in the 1925 edition), who was a lifelong advocate and writer on women’s rights in Uruguay and abroad, replaced diadems with a crown of thorns and earnings with “two burning coals vermilion.” Continue reading

En la Clase: Rethinking Columbus and the Anti-Stereotype Curriculum

This is the second post in our En la Clase series on Rethinking Columbus.  While many of us may agree that it is a fruitful and important exercise to encourage our students to re-evaluate the traditional history of Columbus’ exploration, it’s not always easy to know where to start. Embarking on an investigation into what really happened in the conquest of the Caribbean after 1492, can often challenge not only the history we’ve learned from textbooks, but also many stereotypes that accompany that particular view of history.  Given this, Bob Peterson’s Anti-Stereotype Curriculum might be the best place to begin a study like this.

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En la Clase: Why we should rethink Columbus

Christopher Columbus, Rethinking Columbus

Photo of Christopher Columbus statue taken by Dmitry Shakin on December 25, 2008 in Valladolid, Castille and Leon, ES

Christopher Columbus is among the most well-known of our historical figures.  For many school-age children, Columbus’ exploration of the Americas is their first exposure to the concept of history.  It can be quite significant, shaping how they will interpret many other historical accounts of conquests and settlements across the globe.  For many of us, the mere mention of Columbus brings that familiar chant “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. . .” running through our minds.

Unfortunately, too often, our knowledge of Columbus and his explorations stops short soon after Columbus set sail.  Rarely do any of our history books delve too deeply into the years of Caribbean history following 1492.  Continue reading

World Wide Web: The Rethinking Schools Blog

Today we’re highlighting the Rethinking Schools’ blog for our weekly world wide web entry. I thought the timing was appropriate when I saw their latest post–Fists of Freedom: An Olympic Story Not Taught in Schools by Dave Zirin. Many of you will be going back to your classroom in the next week or so, and your students will soon follow with the Olympics fresh in their memories. Why not build on that? Use your students’ excitement to teach them something about the Olympics that they might not already know. It would be a great way to begin a year-long dialogue on social justice in your classroom.

The Rethinking Schools blog has a variety of resources and a search option to help you find the information you’re looking for.  They post teaching activities, information on issues in education important to teachers and parents, and discussions of current events among other things.  I hope you’ll check it out, and if you like what you see sign up to follow their blog!

Book Review: Krik? Krak!

"Krik? Krak!," written by Edwidge Danticat.There is no question that Krik? Krak!’s short stories are gritty.  Danticat doesn’t hold back any punches as she gives us a glimpse into the reality of Haitian life through the nine short stories included here.  Her prose is both beautiful and simple—it’s part of the genius of her work.  The clarity and subtlety of her writing stands in stark contrast to the heaviness of what her stories share. Rarely can an author translate such depths of emotion and paint such lasting images, much less in the span of a short story, as Danticat does.

The power of these stories is found in their examination of the lives of ordinary Haitians trying to survive the brutality of both of the Duvalier regimes.  Taking place in Port au Prince, the fictional Ville Rose, and New York City, the majority of her stories focus on the lives of individual women. They force us to acknowledge both the plight and the unending strength of these Haitian women. They are a testament both to the survival and the depravity of the human spirit. Poverty, hunger, corruption, and torture are depicted alongside resiliency, faith, dignity, and hope. As we become familiar with Danticat’s characters, moved and pained by the seemingly increasing distance between their hopes and their lived reality, we are forced to realize that it is the actions of other humans that have created such painful experiences.  Not all of Danticat’s characters survive; in fact, many do not.  But what continues to remain is the spirit of hope, the determination to hold on to what it really means to be Haitian, even after one has escaped to the United States. Quite creatively, Danticat weaves a more circular connection among the female characters of her stories, alluding to related lineages.  While there are connections among the stories through references to other characters or events, each story can stand on its own, making it easy for a teacher to pick and choose which stories would be most appropriate for his or her class. Continue reading

Book Review: Before we were Free

In Julia Alvarez’s first young adult novel, Before we were Free, we meet 12-year-old Anita de la Torre.  Like many young children, she is curious and talkative.  Having lived a comfortingly protected life thus far, Anita is sweetly innocent and naïve.  Her life seems rather normal.  She annoys her older sister and has a crush on her new American neighbor Sam.  However all of this will change quickly.  The story takes place in the Dominican Republic during the months leading up to the assassination of the infamous dictator Trujillo.  As the events of the story unfold, Anita’s life is forever changed.

Anita comes to realize that “El Jefe” is in fact, not the hero she believed him to be, but a dictator who threatens her family and friends, disappearing and torturing many Dominicans.  She is forced to grapple with what is right and wrong, as family members flee the country, while others are forced into hiding.  Her life is literally invaded by El Jefe’s Secret Police, the SIM. Continue reading