USING POETRY TO BRIDGE CULTURES

This Spring, we brought poet and playwright Dave Johnson into the Hudson City High School to lead poetry workshops for over 500 students. These classes are so popular, often the library will see extra activity during the periods Dave’s teaching. On one of his visits, the teachers were talking about the large Bengali and Spanish speaking populations in the school and how they would love to have an arts program to support these English Language Learners.

It just so happens Dave has taught poetry programs in New York City for this very purpose. This month, he will lead a Poetry Inside Out Workshop: Bridging Cultures Through Translation as Professional Development for the Hudson English Department and the Hudson ELL teachers.

“Poetry is readymade for bridging cultures,” says Dave. “The rhythm of the words transcends language and offers unique opportunities for making connections between the languages. It’s also a way for bilingual students to share their knowledge as native speakers of some the poems we will be translating.”

The workshop will offer Hudson teachers concrete exercises to bring into their classrooms. From treasure hunts through dictionaries to dissecting the colloquialisms in world literature, the activities are designed to stimulate conversation, play, and engagement.

From Dave’s proposal:

Participants are encouraged to consider two translation questions: “Does it mean the same thing?” and “Does it sound good?” As students read their translations aloud, pooling knowledge of English with their peers, looking up key words in a dictionary, and engaging in discussion that is often surprisingly sophisticated, a complex learning dance ensues between adult and child language, dictionary and memory, first language and second language.

This workshop is an extension of our Alliance Program which inaugurated this month with Betsy Fagin’s Sanctuary Series class. We at The Millay Colony are deeply committed to inclusion and believe that the arts have a foundation role to play in opening lines of communication and understanding in a challenging socio-political atmosphere. You can support our programs here.

poet and students writing poetry in school library
Poet Dave Johnson in Hudson Schools