Friday, February 5, 2016

Reading Period 17: February 5-11: Poland and Latvia

Birches, Latvia
Long Read: 

Night by Elie Wiesel, through the end.

Short Read:

"Chocolate" by Michal Olszewski


"The Black Time" by Vizma Belševica
"I Carry my Love" by Vizma Belševica

Here are more poems by her, if you like her.

Creative Assignment:

Choose one of Vizma Belševica's poems and illustrate it using any medium you choose. Pencil and paper, markers, paint, etc. Please use color and unlined paper. If you have mostly chosen the creative assignments that involves writing, today I challenge you to choose this one that involves art. Your work doesn't have to be realistic or representative -- can be thoroughly abstract.


Read "Bird Cherry Trinity" on this page. You'll have to scroll down. Now write a poem in three parts that involves a tree as a central image or symbol. Look out your window, go on a walk, think about the season of the year, and the place where you live, and whatever you're feeling, and write about that. If you have mostly chosen the creative assignment that involves art, I challenge you to choose this one that involves writing.


Pretend you are a lawyer, and your client is Dudek from the story "Chocolate." Write your opening statement to the jury, defending his actions. You can make up whatever details you want to about Dudek's life, as long as your details don't conflict with what we know in the story. 200 words.

Writing Assignment:

Think back a long time ago, to September, when we first talked about why we read "world literature" and how ultimately we can't ever truly know what it's like to write in another language, or live in another country, or another time, under circumstances vastly different from ours, but that it's important to try, and to reach, and to get partially there. Sometimes this reach is a long one, and sometimes the experience we are trying to understand is upsetting to us.

Night is a book often assigned in high school and even middle school, but this is controversial, because some parents believe the book is too violent and upsetting, or causes their children to feel unnecessary guilt. Some teachers have decided to write permission slips to send home to the parents, so that they are aware of what's coming, and can help and prepare the children, or can opt out of the book altogether.

Pretend you are a teacher, and write a permission slip to be signed by the parents of your students. Make an argument why you want your students to read Night, but make the parents aware of the challenges involved and suggest how they can help their children get through it. 200 words.


Read the assignment above. Write a letter to the teacher, as the parents of a student who will be opting out of reading Night, explaining your decision. 200 words.


You're going to write a research paper! This is exciting! Choose a topic, broad or narrow, strange or familiar -- anything at all that interests you in the history or geography studies we've encountered in the last year. Bring your idea with you to class. That is all. You will have the opportunity to change course if you want to, later, but the next step will more likely be to narrow this initial idea. Make good choices!

Riga: Historical town square

Read "A Note About Vizma Belševica, A Latvian Poetess" by Astrid Stahnke and answer the following questions:

1. What is the author of the article's relationship to Belsevica?
2. Into what language does Belsevica herself translate English work?
3. What is the capital of Latvia?
4. During Belsevica's life, Latvia was under the control of what government?
5. What particular word did Stahnke have trouble translating?
6. Why does Stahnke believe that Belsevica needs to be read in English?
7. According to the article, what do Belsevica's poems show us about the landscape she's writing in?
8. What did Stahnke's own family do in 1944?
9. Why does Stahnke compare contemporary Riga to a birthday cake?
10. Why does Stahnke worry about contemporary Latvian poets and poetry?

Riga: Soviet era apartment buildings.
11. Bonus: Read the poems under the article until you find an example of this: "Belševica's poems are like hidden photographs of the country." Give the title of the poem and a few lines.

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