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poems of w itness & cour age in collaboration with Ballet Austin’s 2012 Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project

© Esteban Rey

In Front of Strangers I Sing


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Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project is a full-length contemporary ballet and Holocaust education partnership that promotes the protection of human rights against bigotry and hate through arts, education, and public dialogue. Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project returns to Austin in 2012 from Martin Luther King Jr. day (January 15) through Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day (April 19), with events/initiatives led by more than thirty community partners. For Badgerdog’s part in this important project, our teaching artists incorporated new lessons into their ongoing work in the classroom, lessons that highlighted writers of witness and exile. Our students encountered the work of poets like Osip Mandelstam, Federico García Lorca, and Mercé Rodoreda, writers who suffered through periods of genocide and civil unrest, writers who continued to write—if secretly—in the face of grave danger. The students in our programs studied these poems both as pieces of history and as evidence of courage, as bits of truth, and messages of hope. The work of these exiled writers inspired writers here in Austin to reflect on history’s most frightening moments and offer their own words of bravery, peace, and resilience.

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speci a l th a nk s to Applied Materials Austin Independent School District Ballet Austin Chorus Austin Del Valle Independent School District David and Cooky Goldblatt Neena Husid Impact Austin Manor Independent School District Forrest Preece Jr. and Linda Ball Esteban Rey 21st Century Community Learning Centers Eli Winkelman Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project Lead Partners Ballet Austin Anti-Defamation League Austin Independent School District Austin Police Department City of Austin KLRU

Th is project is funded and supported in part by a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts and the City of Austin through the Cultural Arts Division believing an investment in the Arts is an investment in Austin’s future. Visit Austin at NowPlayingAustin.com.

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contents

Tell Your Song

Lindy Calvac

My Silent Language Dear Mahmoud Rainbow

Jakoyah Bodie

Tiarra White

Jose Marin

Without Freedom

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15

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Saira Pitaya

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The Dragon that Speaks for the Boy What I Think About You My Chances

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Jason Parson

Kayla Smith

Freddy Damian

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23

25

Mi imaginación importante (Balada de Brayan)/ My Important Imagination (Ballad of Brayan) ■ Brayan Molina 26 Mis cosas/My Things Cry or Die

Elizabeth Peña 28

Carla Escobar 31

Golpeando el corazón/Hitting a Heart ■ Deonicio Gabino 33 Mi hijo/My Son

Marlen Rogel

Disappearing Parents

Vincent Ho

The Ballad of the Soulless Souls [Postcard/Mixed Mutters]

Light

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Bijou Kanyambo

Olga Bonilla Milk

Zenobia Orimoloyé

Jenell Scherbel

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Markel Clayborne 40

The Light of the Holocaust Anticipation

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46

43

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for ewor d

As we grow older, our knowledge of history expands in ways that are both enlightening and troubling. We learn humanity’s stories of mass atrocities, such as the pogroms, slavery, and genocide, and we are obliged to examine and reflect on these moments so that such embarrassments will not have occurred in vain, so that later generations may learn from them and choose a smarter future. In my own experience understanding the horrors of history, I have always wondered: Would I be brave enough? Would I be bold enough to stand up against wrongdoing, to speak out? Could I ever be as strong as Carlotta Walls LaNier, one of the Little Rock Nine, a group of black students who boldly set foot in the halls of a desegregated white school despite a mob of hundreds of people threatening them? Would I be brave enough to do the right thing, even silently, if it meant risking my own life? If faced with a world gone mad, could I hide someone in my home if it put me in danger of losing everything? Could I do as Jacob and Wijntje de Vries did in the summer of 1942, hiding a Jewish girl, Louise, in their home in Nazi-occupied Holland? After being betrayed, Jacob was arrested and eventually sent to a concentration camp. But even after his arrest, Wijntje and the family’s grandparents continued to hide Louise at great personal risk. If faced with these situations, what would I have done? Could I be brave and strong enough to make heroic decisions like those of LaNier and the de Vries? Could I become part of history? Could I save the world? In the Jewish tradition, we believe in the idea that saving a life is like saving a whole world. I do not mean that we can

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turn away from the broader patterns of history and the world today, instead retreating into the small world of one. But I do mean that in each of us there is—at least!—one whole world, and saving a life or improving someone’s experience can make a big difference in that one, singular universe. The poems contained in these pages are a testament to that idea. As one fourth-grade writer declares, “Some said koalas could not sing,” while another writes, “I read his poem to remember him / and I understood that he was a dolphin,” while another writer imagines a daughter whom she squeezes to take “color out of her skin . . . so she could hear me.” Each of these poems reveals each writer’s particular way of seeing and knowing and responding to his or her existence; the words on these pages are proof that entire and beautiful worlds are contained within each of us. The words you’ll find here remind us that we should be careful how we treat each of the worlds around us, that we must always safeguard one another. Of course, we do not have to—and we cannot—alone save the whole world with its billions of people or billions and billions of creatures. But in sharing stories, in telling our own, and in recognizing and hearing others’, as this collection does, we begin to see the truth in the idea that a world exists in each of us. We can see that we do not need to literally save a person in order to make that person’s world better. But we do have a responsibility to care for those around us and speak up in the face of injustice. The Badgerdog writers—of all ages—who have participated in Ballet Austin’s Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project have done this in their remarkable work. They have acknowledged and honored and paid tribute to just a few of the writers and artists who lived through—or died at the hands of—conditions like those experienced by the de Vries and LaNier. The poems published here help ensure that we do not forget, that

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we remember the look of courage when it stands before us, and that we do all we can to brighten the worlds that create our communities. I hope the writers and readers of this collection will not only continue to use their voices and hear others’, but inspire us all to do the same. I hope we will remember that the stories we tell and the process of sharing them can nurture dignity at every turn. Eli Winkleman Founder and Executive Director of Challah for Hunger

■ E L I W I N K E L M A N has transformed kneading challah dough into an empowering experience for young people across the United States and beyond. While a student at Scripps College, Eli co-founded the first chapter of Challah for Hunger (CfH) and now serves as executive director. CfH brings people together to bake and sell challah in an effort to raise money and awareness for social justice. In the 2011–2012 school year, CfH’s fifty-plus chapters will engage a thousand volunteers to bake 35,000 loaves of challah, raising more than $115,000 to donate. Eli was cited in Bill Clinton’s Giving as an exemplar of “compelling” giving.

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Youth Voices in Ink

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Baty Elementary School As a means of discussing human rights for Badgerdog’s part in Ballet Austin’s Light / Holocaust & Humanity Project, I explored the roots and evolution of blues music with my students at Baty Elementary School. After a brief discussion of slavery, the civil war, and the civil rights movement that burgeoned as their heir, we talked about how the amped-up, electric guitarheavy blues music we so often hear on the radio and in commercials and film soundtracks actually grew out of spirituals, work songs, and holler cadences heard on cotton plantations during slavery in the deep south. Primed with this bit of history, we looked more closely at the lyrics of “Trouble So Hard,” a spiritual sung by Dock Reed, Henry Reed, and Vera Hall. We also heard Charley Patton’s “Mean Black Cat Blues,” taking note of the longing and emotive inflections found in both songs, as well as the more formal aspects of the A-A-B form the lyrics seemed to follow. We guessed at the lyrics before looking at a typed-up version. We talked about times we had witnessed acts of injustice. We pondered the idea that music is a vessel for healing, and we wondered at our connection to songs that spoke of things so remote and unthinkable but at the same time made us feel things so familiar and near. When I asked students to write their own blues lyrics, the results were utterly humbling. Lindy, in her poem published here, reminds the reader of the power in each individual voice, the power of speaking the truest words, and the importance of defiance for the sake of dignity. The leaps we managed to take between our discussion of slavery and the birthplace of the blues, whether it was West Africa or the cotton plantations of the Mississippi Delta, did not seem, by the end of class, like leaps at all.

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If the blues are as hard to define as they are easy to feel, I’d like to think that with our words, we entered into dialogue with a tradition not so much siphoned off by history, but rather built on the mysterious interplay between resistance and release. And I hope Lindy’s blues poem, and each student’s blues poem, continues to evolve and resonate each time they are read and retold, and continue to find new ways of putting personal and shared struggles to music. Alexis Almeida Badgerdog Workshop Instructor

tell your song Some said koalas could not sing, but you can sing what’s in you heart. Let your feelings tell your song. Don’t let anyone tell you how it goes. Lindy Calvac Fourth grade

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Blackshear Elementary School Mercé Rodoreda was born in Barcelona in 1909. She spoke and wrote in Catalan. Between 1932 and 1937, she published five novels and several short pieces in her native language. However, at the end of the Spanish Civil War, her life changed drastically. Catalans were on the losing side, and their language fell under attack. Books were burned, newspapers were suppressed, and offices hung signs reading, No ladres, habla el idioma del imperio español (Don’t bark, speak the language of the Spanish empire). Rodoreda fled the country and lived in exile for twenty years. She did not write at all during that time. However, she eventually returned to Spain and wrote, among others, the novel La plaça del diamant (The Time of the Doves), which follows Natalia, a working-class woman who stays in Spain during the war. Rodoreda put her voice and language into the doves in her book. My students and I read passages where those doves sit like stone in the windows of a tower and then fly “like a garland of feathers and beaks” from the top. We discussed the role of voices. We defined their jobs. For these students, voices “make noise, talk back, fight, hurt, sing, move, and speak.” They also “run, warn, whistle, fly, lie, and stand still.” “What if?” I said to these writers. “What if you were not allowed to use your voice?” In our workshop at Blackshear Elementary, Jakoyah wrote of a voice that is both powerful and in jeopardy. Someone— or something—is out to stop it, to silence this voice. Perhaps because it’s heroic, because it’s an entire world unto itself, or perhaps because it is “smooth” and “important.” In Jakoyah’s words, we see the force that exists in words and the ability

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to speak them, but we also see the devastation wrought when these voices are silenced and shut away. Virginia Reeves Badgerdog Workshop Instructor

m y silent l a nguage My language is silent. It left my heart to be a hero for my people. That voice left twenty years ago. My language is like a love song. It left my heart to be a hero for my people. It makes me and my family who we are. My language is like a love song. It makes me feel strong, colorful, smooth, and important. It makes me and my family who we are. My parents can only speak it behind closed doors. It makes me feel strong, colorful, smooth, and important. It is who I am. My parents can only speak it behind closed doors. My language is silent. It is who I am. That voice left twenty years ago. Jakoyah Bodie Fourth grade

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Bluebonnet Trail Elementary School In trying to give my young students a way to understand how political catastrophe can completely undo a person’s world, we focused on Home, both as an idea and lived fact. We read poems by Osip Mandelstam and Mahmoud Darwish, poets for whom Home had been transformed. In the case of Mandelstam’s Soviet Union, Home had become a terrifying police state. In the case of Darwish’s Palestine, Home no longer existed as a state or place that can be experienced as a simple lived fact, but rather must persist only as metaphor, dream, and controversy. I asked the students in Ms. Hertz’s class at Bluebonnet Trail Elementary School to imagine their poems as letters addressed to either Osip Mandelstam or Mahmoud Darwish. I asked what they would say to either of these poets from whom ordinary life had been overthrown by political catastrophe. Tiarra chose to address her poem to Mahmoud Darwish. Born in 1942 in the village of Birwe in upper Galilee, Darwish and his family were forced to flee from the Israeli Army in 1948, and subsequently he lived as an exile—an “internal refugee” and a “present-absent alien”—all in a place he should have simply been allowed to call home. Darwish died in 2008 of complications following heart surgery. Four years earlier, he gave an interview as part of Jean-Luc Goddard’s film, Notre Musique, in which he said, “I’m looking for the poet of Troy, because Troy didn’t tell its story . . . and I wanted to speak in the name of the absentee, in the name of the Trojan poet. There’s more humanity and inspiration in defeat than there is in victory.” Mahmoud Darwish insisted that “a poet is made up of a thousand poets,” and what he meant by this aphorism was not only that to become a poet, one inevitably reads lots and lots

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of other poets, but also that within each poet there is the possibility of a multitude of perspectives, of voices, of lives. In this second meaning there is the possibility of artistic freedom, of becoming someone else, someone new in the course of the poem. There is, however, also a powerful memorial dimension to the poet who is made up of a thousand poets, made up of those who have gone before, perhaps violently; this is the poet who witnesses, who remembers, and who lights the catastrophe with her efforts, her words. Tiarra’s poem, “Dear Mahmoud,” makes of this imaginative sympathy a beautiful hymn. Jeff rey Pethybridge Badgerdog Workshop Instructor

de a r m a hmoud In this hymn I wish you good luck in this hymn I’m sorry for you in this hymn I wish I were you in this hymn you wish you were me but life is life in this world you have loved ones in this world we’re just the same in this hymn life is life in this hymn death is death. Tiarra White Fourth grade

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Brown Elementary School In our workshop at Brown Elementary School, I introduced students to poet Michael Flack, a notable survivor of the Terezin Concentration Camp just northwest of Prague. His poem, “On a Sunny Evening” was found in the cracks of the walls of the concentration camp, and I shared this work with students after a discussion of some of the events that happened in Terezin. The words of his poem turned the conversation to hope and light in the midst of great despair. I then asked students to identify lines from Flack’s work that focused on hope through nature. They pointed to these lines in Flack’s poem: “The world’s abloom and seems to smile. / I want to fly but where, how high? / If in barbed wire, things can bloom / Why couldn’t I? I will not die!” After reading Flack’s poetry, we discussed how people, when standing together, possess strength in numbers. We decided we must act when one voice calls attention to an injustice. We discussed leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., who, through his tenacity and courage, brought about change. When I asked students to author their own responses to Flack’s work and the themes we talked about together, Jose identified the feeling of loss in his poem as similar to a bullet through the heart. He expressed an optimistic view using a universal symbol of hope—the rainbow. His poem speaks honestly of the suffering we all sometimes feel and the balance of hope that helps us continue through the most difficult times. Jena Kirkpatrick Badgerdog Workshop Instructor

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r a inbow I feel like my heart is broken. It feels like a bullet through my heart. It is gushing with blood. My blood is yellow, blue, green, purple, and red. But I still feel like I am a rainbow. I still feel sad. It feels like a bullet through my body. Jose Marin Fourth grade

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Hillcrest Elementary School We shared the colors, sounds, and emotions of Freedom. We asked ourselves, what can we do with freedom? How do we feel about those liberties—how do we value them? Freedom to these third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade writers meant “colors of the rainbow” and “butterflies spreading their wings.” We approached our investigations of freedom through the poems of Visar Zhiti, an Albanian writer who spent the years of 1979 through 1987 in jails and concentration camps. Because he was not allowed to write, he instead memorized his poems. After reading two of his works—“The Forbidden Apple” and “In Our Cells”—we imagined what it would be like to be locked away and lose that precious freedom. How can a writer find his voice when there is no paper or pen? Or discover her hope in such a dark and seemingly hopeless situation? Saira Pitaya, featured in this publication, feared she would be “without the privilege to let [her] imagination go wild.” When Zhiti wrote, “Transforming the very iron into the verdant branches of a cherry tree,” he brought the nightingale’s song into his dreary home and experienced a cell floor “covered in warbles.” As he found hope in the birds and in his “chest of goods” that were the memories of his jail experience—to share with others forever—the Hillcrest writers found beauty in their imaginary cells through their words on paper, beauty they now share with you. Terri Schexnayder Badgerdog Workshop Instructor

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w ithou t fr eedom I see darkness in my life when I don’t have freedom. Freedom might be like the colors of the rainbow. But when I don’t have freedom, I feel like I am in jail with only the color black around me. Without the privilege to let your imagination go wild. Stuck there not able to read or write poems. Thinking about what it would be to feel the air or the hot summer and the cool winter again. Thinking about what it would feel like to be free again, like the butterflies spreading their wings for take-off. What would it be like? Let your imagination go wild and don’t lose your freedom.

© Esteban Rey

Saira Pitaya Fifth grade

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Oak Springs Elementary School Mercé Rodoreda was born in Barcelona in 1909. She spoke and wrote in Catalan. Between 1932 and 1937, she published five novels and several short pieces in her native language. However, at the end of the Spanish Civil War, her life changed drastically. Catalans were on the losing side, and their language fell under attack. Books were burned, newspapers were suppressed, and offices hung signs reading, No ladres, habla el idioma del imperio español (Don’t bark, speak the language of the Spanish empire). Rodoreda fled the country and lived in exile for twenty years. She did not write at all during that time. However, she eventually returned to Spain and wrote, among others, the novel La plaça del diamant (The Time of the Doves), which follows Natalia, a working-class woman who stays in Spain during the war. Rodoreda put her voice and language into the doves in her book. My students and I read passages where those doves sit like stone in the windows of a tower and then fly “like a garland of feathers and beaks” from the top. We discussed the role of voices. We defined their jobs. For these students, voices “make noise, talk back, fight, hurt, sing, move, and speak.” They also “run, warn, whistle, fly, lie, and stand still.” “What if?” I said to these writers. “What if you were not allowed to use your voice?” In our workshop at Oak Springs Elementary School, Jason imagined a dragon that speaks on his behalf because his own voice has been banned. Then, in imagining a reason for this, Jason offers a simple but beautiful line about the senselessness of war: “Why / is my voice banned? / Because there was a war / that we lost.” In the end, the speaker in Jason’s poem is

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resilient, offering a note of defiance, signaling he won’t let his voice be taken from him forever. Virginia Reeves Badgerdog Workshop Instructor

t he dr agon t h at spe a k s for the boy In a castle my dragon is telling people what I need to say because my voice is banned. This dragon speaks for me. Why is my voice banned? Because there was a war that we lost, and now I will put my voice in this book. Someday I will bring my voice back. Jason Parson Fourth grade

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Perez Elementary School In Ms. LaTouf’s fourth-grade classroom, we discussed and imitated a poem called “The Stalin Epigram” by Osip Mandelstam. Mandelstam, a poet writing in Russia in the 1920s and ’30s, criticizes that country’s dictator in a way that, while incisive, is also subtle. Mandelstam’s reliance on figurative language likely wasn’t entirely aesthetic—he was eventually jailed for reciting “The Stalin Epigram,” and its complicated metaphor and strange, circuitous description may have helped save him from immediate punishment by death. In endeavoring to write our own pieces in Ms. LaTouf’s class, we addressed poems to a figure we imagined as a representation of injustice. We then used our own metaphorical language not out of necessity, but to color and describe a unique type of human who brought about our greatest feelings of unease. We also asked ourselves, How does one forgive injustice? How can one address unfair circumstances without coming out bitter? Kayla Smith, in her poem “What I Think About You,” demonstrates this generosity in the poem’s last sentence, one that, with nuance, complicates the notion of culpability. “But I still forgive you for making me / fall through / the ice,” she writes. The phrase demonstrates how easy it is to direct blame at one person, when really it requires the acknowledgement of many coalescing, random, and sometimes horrible factors—as we blame the offender, we must also blame gravity, thin ice, and the speaker who finds herself on it. From Kayla’s poem we learn that justice and injustice are more complicated concepts than they first seem, and therefore we must approach them with an open and unselfish mind. Claire Sylvester Smith Badgerdog Workshop Instructor

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w h at i think a bou t you You look like a sock. You sick. You have two mud hands. You have two eye feet. You always say Ha ha! But I still forgive you for making me fall through the ice. Kayla Smith Fourth grade

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Perez Elementary School Federico García Lorca’s poem, “Rundown Church (Ballad of the First World War),” was published posthumously in 1940, four years after he was arrested, driven into the countryside outside Granada, and executed in the early days of the Spanish Civil War. In my three fourth-grade workshops at Perez, I opened our lesson by talking about empathy and how, in order to empathize, we must first imagine. The poem we were going to read was written by a man who had (this I wrote on the board in capital letters) a GIGANTIC IMAGINATION. In the poem, García Lorca imagines a son who was a giant and a daughter who was a fish. He writes, “If my son had only been a bear, / I wouldn’t fear the secrecy of the crocodiles / and I wouldn’t have seen the ocean roped to the trees.” After we read and discussed the poem, I told my students that García Lorca never had a son to lose, but he created what becomes the poem’s incantation—“I had a son”—in order to write about war. In the poems that follow, three young poets imagine losing their friends, their magic desk, their backpack, their rhinoceros, the box that was their spaceship, and their imagination. Elizabeth’s poem begins with the imagined loss of her friend Sarai. In the classroom next door to Elizabeth’s, after Brayan had shared his poem, Sarai asked him, “How did you lose your imagination in the war?” He answered, “I imagined I’m big, I’m a soldier in the war, I’m twenty-two . . . and I’ve had an imagination . . . I’ve imagined good things, like flowers and other stuff . . . and then I’m in the war, and I see bad things, a lot of pistols . . . and I lose my imagination.” An hour later, down the hall, Freddy thought about his good friend who had just moved away. “I read his poem to remember him,” Freddy wrote, “and I understood that he was a dolphin / who left and came back.” Cara Zimmer Badgerdog Workshop Instructor

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m y ch a nces —after Federico García Lorca’s “Rundown Church (Ballad of the First World War)” I had a friend and his name was Brandon. I had a friend. He disappeared from my imagination one Thursday. He was taking his stuff to the bus. He said goodbye to me so sadly from behind the window. My friend! My friend! My friend! I read his poem to remember him and I understood that he was a dolphin who left and came back. I had a rhinoceros. I had a rhinoceros who protected me. I had a rhinoceros from Jupiter. Jupiter! I had a rhinoceros from Jupiter who protected me from bad people. I had a box that was my spaceship, but it got ripped and lost its life. If my box would only come back, I wouldn’t rip it, and I wouldn’t treat it badly. If my box had only been alive! I would take care of it and put tape on it. I know very well that my box was a spaceship. They will say I’m crazy, but I’m not. My box! My box! My box! Freddy Damian Fourth grade

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mi im aginación importa nte (ba l a da de br aya n) —inspirado por “Iglesia abandonada (Balada de la gran guerra)” de Federico García Lorca Yo perdí mi imaginación en la guerra. Yo perdí mi imaginación. Mi imaginación traía cosas buenas, como las cosas que tenía en la iglesia. ¡Mi imaginación! ¡Mi imaginación! ¡Mi imaginación! Yo tenía una imaginación importante y comprendí que se había perdido por todo el mundo. Yo tenía una imaginación. Yo tenía imaginación. Yo tenía una imaginación de todo el mundo. Yo tenía una imaginación que era importante para mí, pero me di cuenta que se perdió. Si mi imaginación hubiera sido un tontito, yo no la hubiera perdido. ¡Si mi imaginación no hubiera aparecido nunca, yo no sabría nada! Tendré mi imaginación. Yo sé muy bien que mi imaginación es importante. Ellos dirán que me aman. ¡Mi imaginación! ¡Mi imaginación! ¡Mi imaginación!

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m y importa nt im agination (ba ll a d of br aya n) —after Federico García Lorca’s “Rundown Church (Ballad of the First World War)” I lost my imagination in the war. I lost my imagination. My imagination brought good things, like the things that were in the church. My imagination! My imagination! My imagination! I had an important imagination and I understood that it had been lost all over the world. I had an imagination. I had imagination. I had an imagination of the whole world. I had an imagination that was important to me, but I realized it was lost. If my imagination had been a small, silly thing, I wouldn’t have lost it. If my imagination had never appeared, I wouldn’t know anything! I will have my imagination. I know very well that my imagination is important. They will say that they love me. My imagination! My imagination! My imagination! Brayan Molina Fourth grade

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mis cosas —inspirado por “Iglesia abandonada (Balada de la gran guerra)” de Federico García Lorca Yo tenía una amiga que se llamaba Sarai. Yo tenía una amiga. La perdí en una guerra, pero ahora tengo amigas diferentes. Nunca la voy a olvidar, y nadie lo va a quitar su lugar en mi vida. ¡Mi amiga! ¡Mi amiga! ¡Mi amiga! Yo la extraño mucho. Comprendí que podía hacerla revivir si la hubiera llevado al agua y le echado azúcar. Yo tenía una amiga. Yo tenía una amiga que perdí. Yo tenía una amiga de verdad. ¡Cómo la extraño! Yo la haré revivir y tendremos magia. Yo tenía un escritorio que era mágico, pero lo perdí en una guerra. Yo tenía una mochila. Voy a pelear por mi mochila en la guerra. Yo sé muy bien que si la he perdido para siempre, nunca me olvidará. Ellos dirán que es una mochila igual que las otras, y yo les diré, ¡No es cierto! ¡No es cierto! ¡No es cierto!

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m y things —after Federico García Lorca’s “Rundown Church (Ballad of the First World War)” I had a friend, and her name was Sarai. I had a friend. I lost her in a war, but now I have different friends. I’m never going to forget her, and no one is going to take her place in my life. My friend! My friend! My friend! I miss her so much. I understood that I could have made her live again if I had taken her to the water and poured sugar on her. I had a friend. I had a friend I lost. I had a true friend. How I miss her! I will make her live again, and we will have magic. I had a desk that was magic, but I lost it in a war. I had a backpack. I’m going to fight for my backpack in the war. I know very well that if I’ve lost it for good, it will never forget me. They will say it’s a backpack like any other backpack, and I will tell them, It’s not true! It’s not true! It’s not true! Elizabeth Peña Fourth grade

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Pickle Elementary School When introducing the Holocaust, I used the story of the children of Terezin, a Nazi concentration camp just northwest of Prague, and one of its most notable survivors, Michael Flack. As I shared this story with my students, I think they were most shocked by the number of children taken to Terezin (15,000) and the very few (100) survivors. As a group, we discussed basic human rights, and I asked students to identify what these are. They gave examples like food, water, shelter, and an existence free of physical abuse. I then asked these young writers to reflect: How it would feel to be taken from your home, separated from family members, and forced to wear the Star of David on your clothes to identify you as Jewish? One student raised his hand and exclaimed, “I would not do it.” We thought about what it would feel like to sleep on a concrete floor, having little food and water, and being asked to work eighty to one hundred hours of hard labor a week. As we began writing, Jose penned this line: “I am sitting here in this ugly place. My tears are rolling down my red, puffed cheeks.” Carla offered these words: “I want to survive, / but I don’t know how. / Must I die to see my parents? / Then I see a big flower. / I want to smell it, / but it’s on the other side.” Carla’s poem etched a picture in my mind. I saw a small child in Terezin mourning the loss of her parents, standing before a barbed wire fence with a blossoming flower on the other side. Carla beautifully expressed the pain one feels in losing someone you love and the fragrant hope that nature offers in a simple flower. Her powerful ending leaves us with a difficult question: Is it possible to survive those times when we feel no hope and make it to the other side? Jena Kirkpatrick Badgerdog Workshop Instructor

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I have lost my parents and so what? I guess I might live alone. I might cry or die. I want to see my mom and dad. I have no hope. I want to survive, but I don’t know how. Must I die to see my parents? Then I see a big flower. I want to smell it, but it’s on the other side.

© Esteban Rey

cry or die

Carla Escobar Fourth grade

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Pickle Elementary School I chose to share a poem by Federico García Lorca with my workshop students in Ms. Becker’s and Mrs. Fuenzalida’s bilingual fourth-grade classes at Pickle Elementary School. Together, we read “Iglesia Abandonada (Balada de la Gran Guerra)”—or “Rundown Church (Ballad of the Great War).” In our discussion, students learned García Lorca died at the hands of the Spanish Civil Guard in 1936 and that his writing had put him in danger during a time of oppression. Reading the poem out loud brought up discussions of human rights issues, the importance (and necessity) of writing and selfexpression, and how García Lorca used the surreal to represent real-life horrors. Through his imagined suffering in this particular poem, lamenting the loss of a son he never had, he conveys the pain that came from living during a time of civil war, during a time where freedoms and lives were lost. Amazingly, many of my Badgerdog students picked up on these issues independently and translated the suffering of a poet and a country into poetry that is both inspired and completely their own, playing on García Lorca’s knack for whimsical images and haunting prose. In Deonicio’s poem, the dead beat upon a heart, while in Marlene’s poem, the heart is kept safe in a treasure chest guarded by a mother. These new poems, sparked by the words of a poet whose life was stolen, profoundly celebrate the memory of García Lorca. These new poets, whether they realize it or not, have embraced their right to expression and in doing so, shine brilliantly. Dana De Greff Badgerdog Workshop Instructor

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golpe a ndo el cor a zón —inspirado por “Iglesia abandonada (Balada de la gran guerra)” de Federico García Lorca Vi muertos golpeando un corazón. Juan estaba en un cubo de hielo echa sangre por todos lados. Y juega solo en la misa.

hit ting a he a rt —after Federico García Lorca’s “Rundown Church (Ballad of the First World War)” I saw the dead hitting a heart. Juan was in an ice cube, covered in blood. And he plays alone at mass. Deonicio Gabino Fourth grade

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mi hijo —inspirado por “Iglesia abandonada (Balada de la gran guerra)” de Federico García Lorca Tienen que decir que esta durmiendo. Es mi hijo. ¡Mi hijo! ¡Mi hijo! Era mas mio, ¡él era su hijo! Su hijo original. Había una mariposa de blanco y negro. ¡Mi hijo ha muerto! En el agua, volando y volando, viene su amor. Su madre agarro su corazón y lo guarda en un cofre de tesoro.

m y son —after Federico García Lorca’s “Rundown Church (Ballad of the First World War)” They’ll have to say he sleeps. He’s my son. My son! My son! He was more mine, he was his son! His original son. There was a black and white butterfly. My son has died! In the water, flying and flying, comes his love. His mother took his heart and keeps it in a treasure box. Marlen Rogel Fourth grade


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Pioneer Crossing Elementary School Inspired by Ballet Austin’s Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project, I led our fourth-grade workshop in Ms. Rich’s classroom at Pioneer Crossing Elementary School on an exploration of the word “injustice.” Because this lesson fell within Black History Month, we began by discussing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights movement, and nonviolent demonstrations. We also listened to audio clips of three men who’d gone on strike in 1968, all of them Memphis sanitation workers. Their descriptions of dangerous conditions, low pay, and discriminatory treatment brought us closer to a definition of injustice, and just by looking closely at the word, students were able to see “injury” and relate to unfairness, something hurtful and undeserved—something we have all experienced. We then turned to Maya Angelou, the incredible AfricanAmerican writer who worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1960s. Several of Angelou’s autobiographies detail the violence and abuse she suffered as a girl and how writing helped her heal after long periods of silence. We watched a video of Angelou reading her poem “Still I Rise” and considered the ways in which she overcame injustice in her life. When asked to come up with their own examples of injustice, students amazed me by listing everything from global injustices, like slavery and the Holocaust, to personal and passionately felt injustices, like bullying and divorcing parents. Each student created an original poem that approached the issue of injustice from his or her individual perspective. Vincent Ho’s beautiful poem, “Disappearing Parents,” stayed with me for a long time after reading it. Vincent has a delicate way with language and a talent for using lovely images to render powerful emotions in his readers. “Disappearing Parents” begins with the image of vanishing hands and eventually conveys an injustice large enough to fill the universe. It is

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a poem about loss and heartbreak, but also about prevailing over tragedy. I’m incredibly proud of Vincent and can’t wait to see what wonderful poems he will write next. Elizabeth Wyckoff Badgerdog Workshop Instructor

disa ppe a r ing pa r ents I tried to grasp my mom’s and dad’s hands but they disappear. I would search the world for my parents. I would even search the universe if I have to. I would fly to the heavens to search for my parents. But then I found my parents—they were in my heart. The moment was so blissful. I could have cried until the universe was filled with my tears. But the only thing I could do at that moment was live a happy life to the end for my parents who live in the blissful heaven. Vincent Ho Fourth grade

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Ojeda Middle School In the early days of the Spanish Civil War, the poet Federico García Lorca was arrested, driven into the countryside outside Granada, and executed. Eight months later, German planes blanket-bombed Guernica, a small town in the north of Spain, as both practice for the Nazi war machine and aid to Francisco Franco’s forces in the civil war. In our workshop at Ojeda Middle School, we began a lesson on García Lorca’s poem “Rundown Church (Ballad of the First World War)” by looking at Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, painted in the weeks after the bombing. I told my students to imagine the painting stretched across the front wall of our classroom. I asked them, “If this is an example of surrealism, what might surrealism look like?” They talked about distortion and mutation, sticking things together that don’t usually go together, people screaming their heads off. At work in surrealism is the idea that the loss of imagination leads to the loss of love, of the ability to love. García Lorca never had a son to lose, but he imagined what becomes his poem’s incantation—“I had a son”—in order to write about war. He writes, “In the anemones of the offertory I will find you, my love!” In Bijou’s poem published here, we see a series of disconnections and attempts to reconnect, losses and attempts to find. Early in the poem, the speaker drowns herself in the color she’s squeezed from her daughter’s skin so the daughter can hear her when she calls. It is an act of violence that, like the poem and like so much of Bijou’s work, is stunning in the intensity of its imagination and love. Cara Zimmer Badgerdog Workshop Instructor

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the ba ll a d of the soulless soul s —after Federico García Lorca’s “Rundown Church (Ballad of the First World War)” I had a daughter and her name was Lení. I had a daughter. She was caught by the wind and thrown into the shadow land. I felt her—in my mind she was nothing but ink. I squeezed her, taking some color out of her skin and drowned my body in it so she could hear me when I called, My daughter! My daughter! My daughter! I disconnected myself from her and I understood that she was a phoenix burned while regenerating. I had a daughter. I had a phoenix deep down in my heart trying to escape. I had a chocolate of fire and it felt good when my icy cold teeth took a bite and released hot pain. I had myself—that was everything and nothing— but now I’m neither—I’m gone, flown over mountains of rivers in search of my thousand lost souls. My eyes are open but deep inside I’m opaque and soon my whole body will be infected. Bijou Kanyambo Seventh grade

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Reagan High School Throughout history, writers have risked their lives to tell the truth. Augustus Caesar exiled the Latin poet Ovid from the Roman Empire, Stalin imprisoned Boris Pasternak and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and killed Osip Mandelstam. Irène Némirovsky, Bruno Schultz, and Miklós Radnóti are only a few of those who died at the hands of the Nazis. It would fill the pages in this book to name all the writers who have been exiled, tortured, or killed across continents and centuries—writers who exemplify the age-old struggle for truth, the peaceful act of rebellion, the necessity of memory, and the desire for change. We are fortunate to live in a country where it is unlikely we will be imprisoned or executed for our ideas; however, writers around the world continue to face these challenges. In November 2011, the PEN American Center marked its thirtieth annual Day of Imprisoned Writers, a commemoration dedicated to those who resist repression of a basic human right: freedom of expression. Thirty-four poets, novelists, and journalists were killed in 2011. The numbers are astounding. These are some of the things I discussed one wintry afternoon with teacher Ryan Helgerson and our group of thoughtful, kind, and generous students at Reagan High School. We read a group of four short poems by Miklós Radnóti called “Picture Postcards” that depict, in glimpses, Radnóti’s experience in a forced labor camp during the Holocaust. What is striking about Radnóti’s poetry, aside from its stunning images and empathy, is the fact that these poems were found in his coat pocket when his body was exhumed from a mass grave eighteen months after his death. Radnóti wrote these poems during a forced march only days before he was murdered. In class, we wondered how writers find the courage to write even

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under penalty of death. We asked: Why is it important to bear witness to one’s time and place in history? How can we be poetic ambassadors for social justice? In Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel’s memoir, Night, Wiesel remembers his Kabbalah teacher’s response to a series of his questions. Wiesel writes, “He explained to me with great insistence that every question possessed a power that did not lie in the answer.” In the following poem, “Playing with Words to Make Sense,” Markel Clayborne borrows and rearranges the words of the fourth section of Radnóti’s “Picture Postcards” to investigate our questions. With haunting detail and surprising turns, Markel juxtaposes the living with the dying and beauty with evil, and in this small but immensely evocative poem, he poses his own question, “Will the end be about death?” It lingers, powerfully, with earnestness, fear, and hope. Adeena Reitberger Badgerdog Workshop Instructor

[postc a r d/mi x ed mu t ter s] Through the string, on shot. I grow the flower near dirt. Break. Fear unfolds already patient, myself too calm. Blood-clotted, his body turns over. “Get away with it, Soldier.” You wait. My ear hears mixed mutters. Will the end be about death? He’ll lay like that quip to tumble. Markel Clayborne Twelfth grade

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Silver Voices in Ink

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YMCA East Communities Branch, Fall 2011 In our Silver Voices in Ink workshop, we talked about the Holocaust, about the physical and emotional pain this caused the persecuted—the destruction of families, desperation, disappearance, those who managed to escape, and the horrible way so many people died, among them so many innocent children. Our instructor, Debbie Gonzáles, and education coordinator, Jessica Wigent, shared two poems by Visar Zhiti from the Forbidden Apple: “At the Bars of My Cell” and “In Our Cells.” Zhiti, an Albanian writer, spent nearly eight years in jails and concentration camps. After reading Zhiti’s poems, together we shared our understanding of the imagery in their lines, especially when we learned the poet was denied any kind of writing tool or paper. But inspired by what he was able to see from the small space or window in his cell, Zhiti instead kept the poems he composed stored in his mind—the one thing his jailers could not take from him. Debbie also brought to class a series of images, evidence of some of the horrifying tragedies that happened again and again in so many places around the world. In Cambodia, a school had been converted into a prison, taking away the place where students had gone to learn and leaving only reminders of the terrors that had gone on there. For those of us who have not lived through war, it’s impossible for us to imagine the real pain and sorrow, even after seeing the pictures of destruction and terror. We don’t know where people had to run and hide, especially little children. We don’t know the experience of living in camps without hope of returning to our homes. We haven’t seen what the persecution left in places such as Poland, Sudan, Kosovo, Bosnia, and many other countries.

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As a class, we developed a list of sense-related words describing the effects of war on the innocent. We read a poem by Wallace Stevens, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” Then, from our list, we selected words to use in our own poems following the format of Stevens’s work. As I began to write, I was drawn to the word “fear” and the feelings caused by fear.

the light of the holoc aust —an excerpt Children happily play in the streets. Their games they know, dreaming without fear. This time is sacred, no interruption. Parents look for their children. They await their return. Will it be soon? With much fear, will they return? The commander fears nothing, he said. He is sure, he knows it all— who should live, who should not. He orders, Shoot! Young leaders must obey. They cannot question, not even in their minds. They must not fear, or think about tomorrow.

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New mothers fear most of all. Will their new babies see the light of the world? New mothers fear the future of these new lives. The world is confused. Fear all who disagree, who say maybe, who hide their faces so no one sees their tears of so much pain. We all fear that tomorrow the sun won’t shine, and the rain won’t come. We fear the darkness that hides the truth. Olga Bonilla Milk Silver Voices in Ink

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YMCA East Communities Branch, Spring 2012 At its best, the lyric poem has the strange power to capture worlds and lives while providing very little context. It can strip down a nation-sized tangle of pain, conflict, turmoil, and joy to its bare, electric core of emotion. It can allow us to bypass huge and seemingly incommunicable differences of place, time, and society in an instant. Obstacles become irrelevant— it is as if the writer were whispering in the reader’s ear. In our class, we read two short poems by Polish poets, both women, who lived in their home country through the Nazi occupation. Neither poem directly addresses the events of the occupation; each poem is a tiny flame against the dark of history, and the writers of Silver Voices in Ink workshop were struck by their words. Poet Anna Kamieńska, who worked as a teacher in underground village schools in the small city of Lublin, begins her poem, “A Prayer That Will Be Answered,” with the devastating opening: “Lord let me suffer much / and then die.” She progresses, however, to a series of bright and small images: “Let the grass stay green / so that the frogs can hide in it . . . And let my poem stand clear as a windowpane / bumped by a bumblebee’s head.” There was a silence in the room as we let the space fill with her suffering and strength. We also read Anna Swir, who worked as a wartime nurse in Warsaw. In “The Same Inside,” she tells a story about someone who runs into a beggar woman on the street and is instantly overcome with compassion: “she was / the same inside as I am, / from the same kind, / I sensed this instantly / as a dog knows by scent / another dog.” The writers in our workshop, drawing upon their own intelligence and vision and experience, reached a quick and deep

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understanding of Kamieńska’s and Swir’s struggles and witness. And their poems reflected this profound connection. In “Anticipation,” it takes Zenobia Orimoloyé only a few lines to ignite the beauty of humanity and allow it to shine before us. Shamala Gallagher Badgerdog Workshop Instructor

a nticipation Hair is graying Steps are slower Heart is heavier Hopes have diminished Eyes are bright as light Smile is radiant as fire Take my hand So we can go together Zenobia Orimoloyé Silver Voices in Ink

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Austin Public Library, Yarborough Branch This poem was inspired, first, by a class prompt—“Evil has taught me . . .” following a discussion of the Holocaust in my creative writing course, Silver Voices in Ink, sponsored by Badgerdog Literary Publishing and led by our writing instructor, Neena Husid. I was further inspired after watching a sad, beautiful film titled “Korkoro,” which means freedom or liberty. This film, directed by Tony Gatlif, is about the French deportation of Romani peoples from France to Auschwitz. Charlie Chaplin’s grandson, James Thiérreé, portrays one of the Romani tribe, and his character serves as an icon for the suffering of these nomadic peoples during World War II. Events in the film are based on actual events, and some of the actors are Romani. I was also inspired by a version of the Beowulf saga—an adaptation titled Grendel—which I read some years ago. In this book, the Beowulf legend is told from the point of view of the monster, Grendel, so named by John Gardner. Finally, I drew upon my own childhood experiences of abuse and the deeply felt lessons of a long recovery, toward becoming a “survivor”—with all the connotations of hard effort, gratitude, earned understandings, and, I must hope, the continuing development of empathy the term implies.

light Evil has taught me darkness begets darkness. If you can’t bear the truth you will live in darkness.

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What we most want to do of course, is close our minds and harden our hearts against the realities of evil and cruelty. But Evil has also taught me reasons for compassion. If I deny evil, I miss all of the reasons for caring. Does anyone doubt cruelties are often enacted by amiable light-hearted people who’ve simply shut the door on seeing? Evil has taught me its source is fear and pain. But it’s not what we fear— no thing is evil’s source. It’s perfectly natural to fear losing what we love, our most prized possessions, our precious valuables. No, Evil has taught me it’s what we do to hang onto things slipping away that generates cruel action. Suffer your losses and let them go peacefully. Face your crouching fears— the pain within and without.

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Evil has taught me the enemy is not strong, is rather, weak with pain and fear like Grendel raging against man. If I, like Beowulf, say to Evil, don’t forget your darkness; do mourn your loss, your unloved hate, sing it now, strong and free, Will Evil also teach me that I, too, have a choice? Can turn my rage to song, or be the destroyer destroyed? The old saga teaches us to see clearly all that is. We are all Grendel and Beowulf, monster and hero/heroine. Evil has taught me to face crouching fear, to love darkness, forgive pain but never, ever condone evil. Evil has taught me, I will say it again— if you can’t bear the truth you live in darkness. Jenell Scherbel Silver Voices in Ink Writer

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B A D G E R D O G L I T E R A RY PU BL I SH I NG, I NC ., is an Austin-based nonproďŹ t dedicated to the literary arts. We publish the work of youth and senior citizens through our creative writing workshops in the anthologies Rise, Emerge, and Transcend, and we publish the work of emerging and established writers in American Short Fiction, a national quarterly literary journal. www.badgerdog.org

In Front of Strangers I Sing: Poems of Witness & Courage  

In Front of Strangers I Sing is a Badgerdog Literary Publishing chapbook, part of a collaboration with Ballet Austin's 2012 Light / The Holo...

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