Friday, December 5, 2008

'Tis the Season... to Write Poetry

Sinterklaas receiving his honorary degree from Roosevelt Academy, November 2006

Last year, at about this time, I went to my last French class of the semester. The teacher had arranged for a little Christmas celebration, so we ate some candy, sang “Petit Papa Noel” (4 or 5 times if I remember correctly), and wrote Christmas poems. Most people wrote 2 or 3 rhymed couplets, but after four or five minutes and a few “Attendez! Attendez!”s, I finished this composition:

Venez, tout le monde, et célébrez,
Parce que le Noël est arrivée
Nous ne faisons pas les études
Nous pouvons laissez les habitudes
N’importe pas en quoi on croit
Maintenant, on pense aux trois rois.
Nous cherchons un sapin de Noël
Pendant que la niege tombe du ciel.
Après, nous chantons de belles chansons
Nous rions et nous dansons
Toute la famille est en attendance
Et, si on a de la chance
On mangera une bûche de Noël
Très délicieux, et douce comme du miel.
Ouvrez, alors, tous vos cadeaux
Et buvez de la champagne et pas de l’eau.

But this year, I take Dutch. Tomorrow is one of the last classes, so we’re having a little Sinterklaas party – Sinterklaas being the Dutch Saint Nick. We drew names and got a present for someone, and we have to write a little gedicht, a short poem, to go with it.

And I am struggling.

I get two lines to start, because the gedichten usually begin this way:

Sint en Piet zaten te bedenken
Wat ze ______ nu eens zouden schenken.

But what comes after that, I don’t know.

Making it all the more difficult is the subtle clever way you are expected to hint at the present you got.

So I think this may be the new test for fluency: if you can throw together a Christmas poem in a given language within a few minutes. I wonder if I can do it in Spanish?

Something to try over winter break.

One week till vacation!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Winter Break Reading List

What better place to keep track of it?

1. My Antonia by Willa Cather
2. Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
3. Little Women, considering a Marxist perspective
4. Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
5. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov (in preparation for "Reading Lolita in Tehran" next semester, but then again not sure I really want to.)
6. Something wintry, i.e. A Christmas Carol
7. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, as recommended by S. Winter
8. Inevitably lots of shallow fun, such as early Betsy-Tacy books, and the ridiculous S.A.S.S series...

Yes. Vacation is a wonderful thing.