This is Dini. She and I met yesterday at the Jonooge Primary School near Palu, Sulawesi, Indonesia. I spoke to her in my incredibly bad Bahasa Indonesia, and she stared at me. I spoke to her in my language, English, and she stared at me. I smiled and she stared at me. I walked away…and she followed me. We became friends yesterday. I don’t know what she thought I was, but she, to me, was innocence and beauty and everything worth protecting in the world.
This is Dini. My little friend.
I teach high school English. This means that I teach poetry. Well, more accurately, I introduce poetry to my students, teach them how to approach poetry and then let them do with it what they can. I never liked the approach most of my teachers used on me: the hunting method of reading poetry. I often imitate Elmer Fudd in my approach to poetry to illustrate the way many teachers teach poetry. They take their students on a hunting trip, during which the students are expected to track down the metaphors, personification and rhyme scheme (if there is one) and then fill in the blanks on a sheet. I feel sad when my students tell me this.
Poetry is about life and when you’ve lived as little as they have, they will not understand what the poem is about. I am always shocked by what a poem says and how it says it and how, years from now, I will re-read a poem I’m teaching right now and see all new things in it. Because by that time I may have lived the content of the poem and now it means something to me.
What does this all have to do with the photo? I love repetition. Repetition can make an element stand out, as it does above. Or it can make an element sound silly (try saying, “Unique New York,” five times). Or it can make you feel reassured, as when my children tell me they love me. Or…well, I think you get the “picture”.