Cultures: A Handbook on Writing Poetry and Lyrical Prose: From
African Drum Songs to Blues; From Ghazal to Haiku; From Villanelle
to the Zoo
is an absolute treasure. This book has been so popular among
STANDARDS staff and visitors, we've had trouble keeping it in
our offices. Yes, really.
work for most students of writing is live and fully-fleshed,
in Edna Kovacs' book. Those of us who are teachers love it because
it's a multicultural writing text that in no way separates the
"other" from the "conventional." Rather,
quatrains and East Indian rubaiyat are co-mingled in the same
short chapter, in which Kovacs explains both the Persian and
U.S. techniques in accessible, almost luminous language. And
her examples, for every poetic and lyrical form, are stunning.
For example, the ghazal, a linked verse form originating in "what
is now Afghanistan," is represented in Kovac's text by the
Delhi poet Ghalib, as in this translation by the late William
Love has brought us to the world:
Beauty finds itself, and we are found.
time, all places, call -- here, not here:
no mirror finds the truth but in itself.
-- what do we know? To worship --
emptiness takes us into that craving.
trace, glimpse, whatever flickers --
that's all we have, known or not known.
by the world, targeted here in the openness,
Earth receives the sky bent forward in greeting.
A similar relation between the sacred/imaginative
and the material/physical obtains in Kapualokeokalaniakea Dalire's
choreographed hand gestures from the hula/mele of Hawai'i. Kovacs
suggests that the photographs, below, taken by the dancer, may
be incorporated into new forms of "poems, legends, myths,
and stories" (135).
No teacher expects a student to love a
text the same way only a teacher can. Until now. We've got teachers
trying this book out on high school teens, university undergraduates,
and continuing education adults. The invitation to play and explore
the world of producing poetry, through incantation, song, dance,
remembrance, and vision has been readily and happily accepted
by each of our students.
We are especially pleased to report that
one of our interns-in-training, a 17-year-old Chicano/Apache
young man who has consistently claimed to hate reading,
and who has been persistenly coded in the public schools as "learning
disabled," took Kovac's book and thumbed through it, muttering
over and over, "This is deep, man; this is deep." Already
a writer of great talent, who hides his work from critique, our
young friend had previously stated, "I'm not gonna call
myself a poet or anything." After reading through
the selections in Writing Across Cultures, he looked up
and said, "All this is poetry??"
Yes, teachers and students, all this, and
more, is poetry. Welcome to the first cross-cultural handbook
that opens a gateway wide enough for just about everybody.
And praise to Blue Heron Press for sending
out the extra copies to keep this text circulating in our communities!
Canéla A. Jaramillo
Canéla Analucinda Jaramillo