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"The Average Fourth Grader Is A Better Poet Than You, (And Me Too)," Hannah Gamble
While in graduate school at the University of Houston, I supplemented my income by working as a writer in residence for Writers in the Schools (WITS). I was with WITS for three years, during which I visited third, fourth, and fifth grade classrooms, and worked with groups of students visiting the Menil museum of art, the Houston Historical Society, and the Houston Arboretum.
When first hired by WITS, I expected that working to explain some of my favorite poems to fourth graders would result in me becoming a better teacher of poetry. What I wasn’t expecting was that (thanks to having my brain blown apart on a weekly basis as I browsed my students’ folders of barely legible poems) I would become a better poet.
Here are some lines written by students in grades 3rd-6th:
“The life of my heart is crimson.”
[Writing about a family member’s recent death:]
“My brother went down/ to the river
and put dirt on.”
“Peace be a song,
silver pool of sadness”
“Away went a dull winter wind
that rocked harshly, and bent you said,
[Writing about a terminal illness:]
“I am feeling burdened
and I taste milk……
I mumble, ‘Please,
please run away.’
But it lives where I live.”
“The owls of midnight hoot like me
shutting the door to nothing.”
[Writing about life as a movie:]
“The choir enters, and the director screams
‘Sing with more terror!!!’”
“I have provisions. Binary muffins.
It’s an in/out/in/out kind of universe.
We cannot help you,
this is a universe factory.
A sound of rolling symbols.
Disappearing rocks, screams of lizards.
Sanity must prevail. Save vs. Do Not.”
“I, the star god,
take bones from the
underworlds of past times
to create mankind.”
These young writers are addressing subjects that still obsess poets fifty years older: sadness, death, love, responsibility, aging, family, loneliness, and refuge…and they are addressing these subjects in language that is new, and thus has the power to emotionally effect a well-seasoned (/jaded) reader. The average fourth grader is able to do this because she hasn’t been alive long enough to know how to do it (and by “it” I mean talk about the world) any other way.
Story time: When I was a child I believed that one day I might be allowed to cross into an alternate dimension by walking through a quilt hanging on my living room wall. As I got older I stopped believing that this was a possibility—not because I grew to believe that the universe was not an extremely strange place where incomprehensible things could happen on a daily basis, but because I passed year after year after year not being able to enter the spirit realm through a wallhanging.
Anecdote that I hope you’ll find relevant: When Jean Piaget began studying the intellectual processes of children, he was not doing so because he had any special interest in children. Piaget was interested, rather, in the intellectual processes of (adult) humans and was seeking a control group. [His first thought was that the best control group would be comprised of martians but, as he did not have access to martians, he decided to use children since children possessed what is farthest from human consciousness.]
So let’s look at what happens to our young writers as they age [I took these lines from poems written by middle-school/ high school students (Italics, mine)]:
Snacking on this and that
my friends and I keep the party going
even when it is over”
“Whispers of a
secret crush being unraveled”
“I’m trapped in this hole that
I can’t break through”
“Barack Obama in the White House.
I can feel the inspiration
Can you feel it?”
“Now I feel secure with my head held high.
Sad times. By middle school/high school, the average student has learned how normal people talk. The resulting language is underwhelming and predictable—the safe regurgitations of a thoroughly socialized consciousness.
While the average older student’s poems are heavy with allegiance to a limited view of reality, the average younger writer’s vision of the world is nimble and surprising—bazaar, yet true.
Last year I spent every Saturday tutoring an extremely undersocialized kid in vocab. When I taught her the word blandishments (“to flatter, coax, sweet-talk, appeal to”) she wrote this sentence: “The blandishments of the sugar flowers made the cake so much more inviting.”
The sentence is interesting because the student understood that a blandishment is something that attracts favorable attention without fully realizing that people almost always use the word to refer to a human action.
The poet’s job is to forget how people do it.
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Remember when actors wanted to be versatile? Benedict Cumberbatch does
Ask the next 10 people you meet—or interact with on Facebook or Tumblr—if they’ve heard of Benedict Cumberbatch, and you’re likely to get at least a few affirmative answers. The actor’s popularity has been building steadily since he started playing Sherlock Holmes in the BBC’s update of the series, and his brilliant turn as the villain in Star Trek: Into Darkness may be the role that finally makes him a household name. (Not an easily pronounceable one, admittedly, but a household name nonetheless.)
But ask people if they’ve heard of Cabin Pressure, and you’ll get more than a few blank looks. However, if you have a Cabin Pressure fan in your circle of friends, trust me, you will be assimilated…The show is sweet and funny and thoroughly addictive. And more than that, I think it helps explain what makes Cumberbatch such a rare and compelling actor.
It turns out the man who’s rapidly becoming known for playing cold, calculating geniuses has a completely different side. Once you hear him play Cabin Pressure’s Martin Crieff, the almost pathologically insecure captain of a decrepit charter plane, you’ll never look at him the same way again—and that’s a good thing. It shows just what a well-rounded, versatile actor Cumberbatch truly is, and it reminds the rest of us just what an important quality versatility is.
In fact, a lifelong obsession with classic movies has convinced me that versatility is one of the best tools an actor can have…But this kind of versatility, it seems to me, is becoming rarer among actors these days. The British, to their credit, still seem to encourage it, but Hollywood, not as much. I’m not sure we even understand anymore what genuine versatility looks like…Maybe having a strong sense of who you are makes you more comfortable in a wide variety of circumstances and genres. And that in turn gives you even greater confidence and security as an actor.
Does the same hold true for Benedict Cumberbatch? It’s a little early in his career to say for sure. And it’s true that the hilariously awkward Captain Martin Crieff and the ruthless “John Harrison” (I’ll use the alias for the sake of those who haven’t yet seen the new Star Trek) have little in common. Or is it? Mannerisms and motives—and willingness to wipe out human life on a massive scale—aside, they’re both passionate, driven, eccentric loners who are nevertheless deeply committed to the relationships they do have. As is Cumberbatch’s Sherlock.
We may have found a pattern here, after all. It looks as if, deep down, there’s something much more substantial and consistent to Cumberbatch’s persona than an ability to jump down from great heights wearing a long coat.
Also, the fact that he’s stuck with Cabin Pressure throughout its run, even while he was busy shooting to stardom on TV and in film, says something about Cumberbatch’s dedication to his craft. Drama is impressive, but comedy, as Cary Grant firmly believed, really proves an actor’s mettle. Many of the qualities Cumberbatch shows in Star Trek: Into Darkness—the excellent timing, the physicality, the veering between superhuman restraint and uncontrollable emotion—are qualities that may be best developed by sweating to get a laugh out of an audience.
There’s no doubt that if you saw that simultaneously icy and ferocious performance of Cumberbatch’s on the big screen this past weekend, you saw something special. But if you haven’t yet heard him desperately hunting up and down a cabin full of passengers for an elusive lemon, or being tricked into delivering a cabin address in the world’s worst French accent, or saying things like “I carried the sheep for you. I climbed the tree. I rode the back of the truck. But now I have to X-ray these geese” … you’re missing out.
-The Atlantic [x]
Details about the group’s third offering have been a closely guarded secret. But Louis Tomlinson told me they started working on it weeks ago.
He said: “We’ve already started recording the album, we started about a month ago. We’ve been writing and recording it while on tour. We are really happy with it. We don’t want to rush it but it will be out for Christmas.”
The boys are busy working on the record with the same close-knit team who helped both their previous albums hit the US top spot. Louis, Liam, Zayn, Niall and Harry have all been involved in the writing process – separating in various pairs for inspiration. They have then been recording vocals in their hotel rooms while on tour thanks to a portable recording studio.
Louis added: “We have the film coming out as well so we are all pretty shattered but we are all having a great time. We have had a week off this week before heading on to Europe for the tour.”
A source close to the band said: “There was talk about the boys taking some time off before the next album but it was decided to release the record while they are so popular. The band are going from strength to strength so it would be silly not to have an album out in time for the profitable Christmas market. All the lads are incredibly hardworking and career minded. Although they are knackered, they all love what they are doing.”
Nothing we didn’t really know already but nice to have a confirmation. Even if it does mean that they basically won’t have any time off this year. Unsurprisingly too, this all comes under the guise of yet another promo for Yorkshire Tea… And of course, they’ve all had such a relaxing ”week off”…
Update on "Brosie the Riveter" and a challenge
AnonymousFan8675309’s post earlier about the Hawkeye Initiative inspired poster she had designed for her boss as a prank has struck a chord with a lot of people.
Six hours later, and it’s now the 2nd most popular post ever on Hawkeye Initiative!
Along with that comes
twothree news articles:
“Things We Saw Today” -via themarysue.com
“How the Post of One Sexy Dude Helped a Game Developer Make a Point” -via kotaku.com
“Hawken Developer Levels the Gender Playing Field with Brosie the Riveter” -via pcgamer.com
More than just redrawing Hawkeye in ‘Strong Female Poses’, Brosie goes a step further to challenge the current standard in the comics and gaming industries.
So what is your Brosie moment?
Drawing your own comic that portrays men and women equally?
Cosplaying as a redesigned fully dressed superheroine?
Standing up at a NYCC panel and asking artists and publishers to stop breaking backs for the sake of showing T&A in the same panel?
Or simply writing a review about a comic that you support.
Find something, make something, do something that asks for a change in the industry, then share it with THI here.
30 Days of Sexism
My name is Alanah Pearce and I’m a videogame journalist. I write for various websites, and make regular videos for four separate YouTube channels. I present on one TV show and for Xbox Australia on the Xbox Dashboard. I make news videos, review videos, I host events, I interview developers and I really, really love what I do.
I also happen to be female.
From March 7 – April 7, I documented everything blatantly sexist anyone has said to me. None of these comments were provoked, none of them were replies to something I said, none of them were at all out of the ordinary and the vast majority of them (an original count of 77 images) have been taken out so that this post isn’t as long as it probably should be. This is a 10-picture indication of what it’s like to be a woman who endorses game culture, every single month.
Gravity Falls Renewed for Season 2!
Buoyant after another year of record-setting ratings, Disney Channels Worldwide affirmed its plan to further build its creative and ratings strength, its audience engagement and its valuable multiplatform sales opportunities, today at Disney Media’s 2013-14 Kids Upfront presentation. Held at New York’s Hudson Theatre, many sponsors and advertisers attended the event with their children…
The exciting 2013-14 slate also includes new episodes of the hit sitcoms “Good Luck Charlie,” “A.N.T. Farm,” “Jessie,” “Austin & Ally,” “Shake It Up” and “Dog With A Blog,” and the animated series “Gravity Falls” and “Phineas and Ferb” for Disney Channel; and new seasons of the Disney XD series “Kickin’ It,” “Lab Rats,” “Crash & Bernstein” and “Ultimate Spider-Man.”…
New series pickups include Liv & Maddie (working title), which finds 17-year-old newcomer Dove Cameron playing the dual role of identical twins in the live-action sitcom. The series was created by John Beck and Ron Hart (both of According to Jim).
Then there’s the just announced animated comedy Star and the Forces of Evil (working title) from Disney Television Animation that introduces magical teen princess Star Butterfly to the unsuspecting inhabitants of Earth.
Entrants from last year’s upfront Teen Beach Movie, set to debut on July 19, and Craig McCracken’s Wander Over Yonder, premiering this summer, were also highlighted.
On the returning series front, long-running hit Phineas and Ferb is getting a mash up with the Marvel Universe in the animated special Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel, which premieres this summeron Disney Channel and Disney XD. It’s a crossover first for Marvel and Disney and we’ll see the eponymous pair meet up with Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor and Hulk in Danville. Other series getting renewals are: Austin & Ally (season three), A.N.T. Farm (season three), Good Luck Charlie (season four) and Gravity Falls (season two).