Tuesday, March 8, 2011

San Quentin Stand Up

First of all . . .


I will be spending today dreaming of king cake and St. Charles Avenue and wishing I were in New Orleans.  I have so many great memories of watching the parades from uptown, catching the best beads at Muses, sipping frozen drinks out of neon plastic glasses, and trying to find anywhere that would let us use the bathroom without paying $10.  Oh New Orleans, I miss you!  Especially at your most festive.

Back to San Quentin.  Despite my borderline crazy schedule right now, my poetry class at San Quentin on Monday nights is totally the regular highlight of my week.  It's so funny/heartwarming to see the guys watching from their dorms for me to arrive and the guard to announce, "Attention all dorms: Poetry is good in the Education room . . . Poetry is good in the Education room." (Is good = students are allowed to come out of their dorms and head toward the classroom).  So far, I haven't had a single student show up without his homework.  Impressive, right?  And you should see how psyched they are to learn about complex poetic form next week.  Two of them even compiled a list of poems they want me to hunt down and print out for them, just based on their own interests (and since needless to say, they don't have access to an extensive poetry library).

Tonight, after I handed back their homework from last week (which I'd scribbled all over with a red pen), I was yammering on about how I want them to start focusing on the form/aesthetics of their poems, as well as to zero in on the sensual images & concrete details.  And one of my students said:

"See, I always thought that poetry was supposed to be abstract.  That you were supposed to use abstract language.  That was my thinking.  But then I came to your class, and I learn that I should use concrete images, and that too abstract is bad.  Which wasn't what I'd been thinking.  But then again, my thinking landed me in prison.  It landed me right in West Block."

HAHA!  See why I love them so?

and p.s., this past Friday I had a delightful blogger lunch date with this girl!  I promise to post pics as soon as she sends them to me (I left my camera/phone in the car).  Hint, hint Leeann! :)

18 comments:

jeanette from everton terrace said...

This is heartwarming, encouraging and funny. I can see why you love it and they are sooo lucky that you do. Keep it up. I'm sure my daughter is missing New Orleans today as well :)

Faiza said...

ahhh what fun for a monday night :)

hope you are feeling better today beautiful claire!

Summer {athena in the middle} said...

you are amazing. you are changing lives, darlin. mine included.

happy mardi gras. gonna bring you some love back with me when you come to nyc. yay!

and you never told me about the lunch! grrrrr.

Katy Mary said...

That's so sweet that you are teaching a poetry class! Happy Mardi Gras, I have never been to New Orleans but hopeful that one day I will experience it.

Mrs.B said...

Today, all I can sing is "do you know what it means to miss new orleans?"...but I sing that many times throughout the year.

Muses parade has great throws, but nothing beats a ZULU coconut on Mardi Gras day!

Laissez le bon temps rouler, CK!

starnes family said...

I miss the days of paying to use a porta-potty on Bourbon Street and then finding out it was overflowing. Good times.

bklyn76 said...

have i mentioned that you invigorate me whenever i'm having one of those "am i really meant to be a teacher" moments?

do you eat pancakes on mardi gras? i grew up knowing today as "pancake tuesday".

xo

Megan said...

Funny because I am enjoying my week off (yes a full week) from teaching by reading blogs and doing schoolwork. There are parades all over Houma today, but I want nothing to do with them. If I had a place to stand in New Orleans, I would love to be there. But I'm just enjoying staying away from all that parade traffic at home.

It sounds like you are really making an impact on the students. You rock!

Kimbirdy said...

oh yeah, it's mardi gras! huh... i went to new orleans once right before katrina. it was such an awesome place for the most part. i did see a girl crying on the sidewalk and i talked to her for a while. therapy in the french quarter, followed by voodoo. ;) i would really love to go back and spend more time there.

oh how i love your prison stories! in my experience, the people who end up in prison are pretty smart. i think a lot of them were crazy smart kids who were educationally neglected {because of assumptions by school staff} so they used their crazy ideas in more destructive ways. it's awesome that you're giving them a creative and mentally stimulating experience. plus, the fact that you're a pretty girl can't hurt either! :)

Megan said...

Your work seems so valued Claire that must make you feel so good about what you are doing! I think that poetry is such a good way to have a positive impact on these mens lives.

Micaela said...

AMAZING what you do... and all on your time. i'm always so amazed and when i hear their responses or when you share their eagerness to learn (and see you i'm sure!!! ha imagine how many prisoner's would name you as the HIGHLIGHT of their week! LOL) it just touches my heart.

i wish i could see you in action!

ps. i'm taking my FAT TUESDAY quite literally ;) lol yes, i did leave out that it was my 2nd birthday cake in two days LOL soooo good!

Leeann @ Join the Gossip said...

Hehe! I just emailed you about the pics lol! I'll send them tonight fo sho!

I guess they are celebrating Mardi Gras in the city. We were going to go to it on Sunday but I think it got cancelled due to rain. One day I am going with you to experience the real one ;)

Meghan said...

I simply love your stories:) I am sure that teaching the poetry class is so rewarding. And I cannot believe you met Leeann! SO COOL! Two of my favorite ladies:)

Tiffany said...

Thank you so much for sharing your stories from your classes at San Quentin! I absolutely love reading about them. You are an inspiration, friend!

~Tiffany
http://tiffanyd22.blogspot.com

Chic 'n Cheap Living said...

You do such great work and have such cool students!

Meredith said...

I've never gotten to go to NOLA (and certainly not for Mardi Gras) but I think it's a trip I need to plan in the near future. Love that quote from one of your students - they sound awesome!

PS - So excited to be Etsy swapping with you! I'll send you an email soon with all my info :)

orsoifeel said...

I just love these stories you tell about your visits at the prison... honestly it makes me feel like a bit of a slacker...

orsoifeel said...

PS ... so sweet of you to add my button to your sidebar!