Friday, April 29, 2011


Poetry Tag continues with a book review of a new book of poetry connected to yesterday's book review.

Today’s tagline: Getting the poetry out there

Guest Reviewer: Tina Shands

Featured Book: Simon, John Oliver. 2011. Cyclops Wearing Flip Flops; The Best of Poetry Inside Out. San Francisco: The Center for the Art of Translation.

Tina writes: Cyclops Wearing Flip Flops is the eighth book of poetry published by the Center for the Art of Translation’s program known as Poetry Inside Out. Poetry Inside Out (PIO) is a 16-session school program where students are taught poetry through the translation of foreign poems. It began in 2000, “bringing the poetries of Spain and Latin America to Spanish bilingual and immersion classrooms.” It has now expanded into 19 languages and is taught to elementary, middle and high school students.

The book contains the poetry of the PIO students in a session-by-session look at how the PIO program works. The information given about each session is fascinating and provides just enough guidance to make an educator want more. Specifically, the book leaves the reader wanting to see the Translator’s Glossaries, referred to throughout the book as being integral to the program. If the Translator’s Glossaries were readily available, a teacher could re-create the project without the need of the PIO professionals. Instead, it appears the only way to get the information necessary to teach the program would be bring the PIO residency program to your school or attend Professional Development and/or workshops presented by PIO.

This book is different from the other books I have reviewed. This is not a book I would recommend for reading among the general student population. I see this book as being on the “Professional” shelf in a school library for teachers to use as part of their own professional development. Even without the benefit of the Translator’s Glossaries, the book contains ideas that a teacher would find very useful. If it were to be read by the general student population, I believe it could be used as a good example of how student’s poetry writing can evolve over the course of time.

Before talking further about the great qualities of this book, I must comment on one area that I found disappointing; that is the book’s table of contents. The table of contents is broken up into five sections. While these five sections are designated in the book, it is the session-by-session concept that I noticed most. The table of contents lists these sessions, but does not identify them as such. For example, Session 6 is titled “A Nest Built of Lines”. It is in the second section of the book titled “Building a House of Words”. The entry in the table of contents is:

II. Building a House of Words
A nest built of Lines: Quatrains 46
El nido 48
Alfredo Espino (Spanish)

I believe it would be an improvement if the table of contents stated:

II. Building a House of Words
Session 6: A Nest Built of Lines: Quatrains 46
El nido 48
Alfredo Espino (Spanish)

I realize this is a minor change, but in my opinion the session information is so important to the book that the lack of the information in the table of contents is a major drawback. I believe such an addition would make the book more user friendly.

Except for the table of contents, I found this book to be of good quality. There is so much information about poetry and how to help children evolve in their writing of poetry. It also gives great definitions of different types of poetry as well as examples of ways to engage children in the poetry writing experience.

One example I particularly liked is found in Session 9: “Renga Round the World” which has students writing a “collaborative series of tanka” known as renga. In doing so, one student writes a traditional haiku 5-7-5 syllable poem then passes his or her paper to another student. That student then adds two seven-syllable lines to finish the tanka and then starts another new tanka (by writing a 5-7-5 haiku). This new tanka is then passed along to another student . This renga can go on and on this way. Prior to reading this, I had never heard of the poetic forms of tanka and renga. Even if I had known about this type of poetry, I would not have thought about using it in this round the world format. This type of information is a perfect example of why this book should be on school libraries' professional shelf.

The poetry itself is very appealing. Since the translated poems are all written by children, the language contained in them is very child friendly and speaks to things children know. The book also provides a good example to teachers as to how students can transform their work over the course of a semester. Teachers could certainly share this poetry with their students to provide them with examples of how capable students at their grade level can be if they work at their poetry week after week. For example, an original student poem in Session One of PIO is very much a translation of the original poem, Ciudad de cielo, a las cuatro by Maria Luisa Artecona de Thompson:

Fire and Water
Translated by the Author, Luana Cardenas, 4th grade
(who wrote the original in Spanish)

For a minute, I am fire
For an instant, I am water
For a second, I am no one’s
If they shut me down, if they turn me on
For a moment, I am air
For a moment, I am dirt
For a moment, I am no one’s
If they leave me, if they free me
For a second, I save in my memory
The forgotten dream, if it passes
Through the inferno while the sky
Waits for me impatient.

By Session 16, the students are translating the Sonnets of William Shakespeare and are writing wonderful sonnets of their own, such as this one:

Cold Breezy Nights
Stacy Hu, 4th grade

Cold breezy nights are abandoned
Trees are lazily blowing in the crisp breeze
Branches are breaking off of oaks
Tsunamis are swimming to shore
Nature is in the bearing cold world
Winds are forming up in the pretty sky
Suns are beaming bright rays on earth
Imagination is swirling everywhere in your mind
Ships are bringing goods to places you’ve never visited
People are in lost forests, like being in mazes
Plants are growing in the Autumn
Rivers are ending at endless waterfalls
Clouds are raining puddles
But last, nothing is doing nothing at all

Tomorrow’s tagline: Poems to tear out

[It's almost the end of National Poetry Month—last chance to get your copy of the e-book, PoetryTagTime, an e-book with 30 poems, all connected, by 30 poets, downloadable at Amazon for your Kindle or Kindle app for your computer, iPad or phone for only 99 cents. Grab it now.]

Image credit: Photo Source: Center for the Art of Translation Blog.

Posting (not poem) by Sylvia M. Vardell and students © 2011. All rights reserved.


John Oliver Simon said...

Many thanks to Sylvia Vardell and Tina Shands for your wonderful appreciation of Cyclops Wearing Flip-Flops, our latest publication from the Center for the Art of Translation’s Poetry Inside Out program. Founded in 2000, Poetry Inside Out fosters imagination, and builds students’ problem solving, critical thinking, and literacy skills through the translation and composition of poetry. We’ve found that literary translation, from a variety of languages — including those students don’t know! — is an amazingly rich language activity for children as young as third grade. Translation is the deepest possible reading of a text, and poetry packs a lot of meaning into the most condensed text. Poetry Inside Out is eager to make our unique curriculum nationwide, and I encourage anyone interested in bringing a Poetry Inside Out instructor or professional development workshop to their school or community to contact me at

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thanks so much for stopping by to read, respond, and offer this opportunity. I wasn't previously familiar with the POETRY INSIDE OUT project and I think it's terrific. As someone who learned English as a second language myself, I love the power of poetry for learning English and valuing one's own (other) language, too. I hope we can help spread the word about your good work!