Tuesday, April 02, 2019

The Island of Doctor Necreaux

A couple years ago I was asked to contribute to the second edition of The Island of Doctor Necreaux, a cooperative adventure game created by Jonathan Leistiko.  I had created the card art for the original edition published by AEG.  This time around, I contributed several cards, in addition to the cover art.  I wanted to capture a sort of campy, 1930s Flash Gordon feel.  I had fun on the project, but during this time I had some changes in my work and failed to post the art on my blog.  So, here it is . . . better late than never, right?

Monday, November 05, 2018

Outwitted, by Edwin Markham

One of my favorite poems is Edwin Markham's "Outwitted," published in 1915's Shoes of Happiness.  I decided to attempt a translation of this poem into Spanish.  Through this process, I learned that translating English poems into Spanish presents particular challenges with regard to the meter.  A line that is nine syllables in English is difficult to match exactly in Spanish.  I chose to use lines with 14 syllables in my translation.  I also learned that, in Spanish, a line that ends with the accent on the last syllable is counted as two, and that words, such as "que" and "él " are combined into one syllable when next to each other, because the E's flow into one another.  While the result of my efforts is far from a perfect translation, it was a fun learning process. Below is the original poem, followed by my translation.


by Edwin Markham (1852-1940)

He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

Lo Superado
por Edwin Markham (1852-1940)

A mí excluía el círculo que él dibujó —
Hereje, rebelde, una cosa de disgusto.
Pero por ingenio, el Amor y yo superamos:
Un círculo que le incluía, eso dibujamos.

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Black Heralds (Los Heraldos Negros), by Cesar Vallejo

I am fascinated with the process of translating poetry from Spanish to English, or vice versa.  It is a challenge, which ultimately is what draws me in.  To simply change the words of a poem from Spanish to English is easy, but to capture the soul of the poem, that is difficult.  It is the job of the translator to not just translate the words, but to find the power of the original poem and to implant it in the new version.  The translator must choose new words that convey the old meaning.  That is my goal--I'm not saying I'm good at it--but I enjoy the attempt.  Following is my translation of "Los Heraldos Negros" by Cesar Vallejo (published in 1918).  The original poem follows a rhyming scheme, which I did not attempt to replicate in English.  I am not that skilled.

The Black Heralds
By Cesar Vallejo
Published in 1918
English translation by Kevin Wasden

There come blows in life, so formidable . . . I do not know!
Blows, as if hated by God; as if standing before them,
the surge of all that is suffered
pools within our being . . . I do not know!

They are few; but they are . . . They open dark ditches
on the fiercest of faces and the strongest of backs.
They are, perhaps, the colts of savage Atilas;
or the black heralds dispatched by Death.

They are the deep falls of the Christs of the soul
from some revered faith that Destiny blasphemes.
Those bloody blows are the searing crackle
of the bread that burns us in the oven door.

And the man . . . Poor . . . poor! He turns his eyes, like
when we are greeted with a slap on the shoulder;
he turns his raving eyes, and all he has experienced
forms a pool, a puddle of guilt, in his glare.

There come blows in life, so formidable . . . I do not know!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Poem 20 (Poema 20), by Pablo Neruda

While serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (1990-1992) in southern Chile, I began to hear of Pablo Neruda.  I had always felt a fondness for poetry, and Neruda quickly became one of my favorite poets.  Following my mission, I took a class at Utah State University on Spanish Literature, which I absolutely loved and which expanded my interest in Neruda, as well as other Hispanic poets.  Unfortunately, for many years, I haven't read as much poetry as I would have liked.  Recently, I have sought to remedy that problem.  I have been reading W. H. Auden, Edwin Markham, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and, yes, Pablo Neruda.  To better understand Neruda, I have been reading his work in Spanish.  To better understand his poem, Poema 20, I set out to translate it into English.  There are many translations of this poem available online, but I avoided reading these before completing my own translation.  My version follows:

Poem 20
By Pablo Neruda 
Published in 1924
English translation by Kevin Wasden

Tonight I can write the saddest verses.

To write, for example: "The night is full of stars, blue celestial bodies that shiver far away."

The night wind swirls in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest verses.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

On nights like this, I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again beneath the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could I not love her wide, unwavering eyes?

Tonight I can write the saddest verses.
To know she is not mine.  To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense sky, now more endless without her.
And these words fall on my soul like dew on grass.

What does it matter if my love could not keep her?
It is a starry night, and she is not here.

That is all.  Far away someone sings.  So far away.
My soul is incomplete without her.

Hoping to bring her closer, I watch for her.
My heart looks for her, but she is not with me.

The same night that whitens those same trees.
We, we from then, we are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, it is certain, but, oh, how I loved her.
My voice sought the wind to reach her ear.

To another.  She will belong to another.  Just as before my kisses.
Her voice.  Her lucent body.  Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, it is certain, but perhaps I do. 
So brief is love, so long is forgetting.

Because on nights like this, I held her in my arms.
My soul is incomplete without her.

Though this agony may be the last she causes me.
And these words may be the last I write to her.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Building a Positive School Community: The Community Stewardship Model

“. . . community life does not organize itself in an enduring way purely spontaneously. It requires thought and planning ahead. The educator is responsible for knowledge of individuals and for a knowledge of subject-matter that will enable activities to be selected which lend themselves to social organization, an organization in which all individuals have an opportunity to contribute something, and in which the activities in which all participate are the chief carrier of control.”
-John Dewey, Experience & Education (1938)

Successful teaching and learning are largely dependent on the community structures created by administrators and teachers.  Educators can--and should-- shape supportive communities that foster positive learning experiences and give greater meaning to learning.

At Venture High School, we developed the Community Stewardship Model in order to guide the organization of a positive school community and culture.  This model helps educators to shape learning experiences that enable students to move from isolation toward full community synthesis and instills in our students a desire to use their knowledge and talents to “do good.”

The Community Stewardship Model is comprised of six types of experiences that foster community development.

Proximity - Proximity is nearness in space, time, or relationships.  A positive school community begins when we bring students together within a school, a class, or a team. The “shape” of proximity is a circle.  A circle brings a group into spatial nearness, promotes inclusion, and prepares the group for emotional nearness as well. In a circle, all are on equal ground and all are included in the whole.  
Interaction - Proximity fosters interaction.  The first interactions of a positive school community are simple greetings.  The first objective should be for each member of the group to learn the name of all other members.  Then we may begin to discover individual backgrounds and interests.  As interactions become more complex, opportunities arise for each member to contribute toward the success of the group.
Contribution -  A positive school community will ensure all individuals “have an opportunity to contribute something.”  They may give of their time, muscle, and ideas to the improvement of the group.  Reciprocity plays an important role, in much the same way as the Sans gave arrows to one another.  Contribution builds connections and obligations between community members.  As group members honor those connections and fulfill obligations, trust is formed and individuals discover a role within the group.
Interdependence - The processes of interaction and contribution enable individuals to become aware of another’s qualities, such as generosity, diligence, responsibility, etc., and mutual dependence is developed.  Group members learn to depend on each other in order to satisfy basic individual and community needs.
Connectedness - As individuals discover feelings of inclusion and purpose within a community, they will develop a powerful sense of “belonging.”  Their common values and efforts will provide social identity.  Connectedness is manifest through service, generosity, and self-denial for the greater good.
Stewardship - Stewardship is a feeling of responsibility for the well-being and success of the people and places within a community.  This occurs when we feel that someone or something is worth caring for and preserving.  A steward supports the growth and success of the community and generously works to ensure that all succeed.  Stewardship focuses, not on self, but on making things better for those who follow.
Students who feel connected to the school community will be more likely to behave appropriately, to overcome challenges, and to succeed in academic efforts.
As educators, we should be aware of the community structures that exist within our school and classrooms and strive to shape experiences that foster connectedness and stewardship.  
Students who develop a sense of stewardship toward other students, the school, and the school’s culture gain a greater purpose for learning.  

Friday, October 13, 2017

What is a Positive School Community?

The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology describes community as “people having something in common, although there is much debate about precisely what that thing is”(1).  Another article describes community as “a group of people with diverse characteristics who are linked by social ties, share common perspectives, and engage in joint action”(2). Others contend that a community is a group of people sharing a common geographical area, however many argue against a proximity requirement, stating that technology has created virtual communities that are as fulfilling as “real” communities (3).  I recently posed the question, “What is community?”, to a class of students at Venture High School. Through discussion, they crafted the following definitions: "a group of people working toward a common good,” “a group with similar values that support each other,” and “a feeling of safety and welcoming.”

Obviously, creating a singular definition of community is difficult, but looking at the etymology of the word might be helpful, at least with regard to the purposes of this paper. The latin word, “ com ”, means to be “with, together, or complete.” It is the root for many significant words, such as communication, compatible, and combine. Now, if we take “com” and add another Latin word, “ ūnus ”, which means “one” and we can create the word, “ communis ” which means “shared in common.” From communis is derived our modern day word, community. However, a more literal translation would suggest, “to come together as one.” This core definition of the word seems to be present in most explanations of its meaning.

Simply, community is a group of individuals unified behind a common purpose. From the many definitions given, we see some common traits that can be applied to our definition of community, traits which foster unity. I believe the following are the four most prominent characteristics of  community, especially as it relates to creating a positive school community that supports student success:

● A positive school community provides regular opportunities for interaction (communication, collaboration, etc.)
● A positive school community fosters a feeling of belonging and identity
● A positive school community provides social control of behaviors (norms, moral motivators, etc.)
● A positive school community provides each individual an opportunity to contribute.

As educators, we should be aware of these characteristics and look for opportunities to build learning experiences into our curricula and the school culture.


(1) "Community : The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology : Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology Online".  www.sociologyencyclopedia.com . Retrieved 2017-04-14.
(2) MacQueen, K. M., McLellan, E., Metzger, D. S., Kegeles, S., Strauss, R. P., Scotti, R., . . . Trotter, R. T. (2001, December). What Is Community? An Evidence-Based Definition for Participatory Public Health. Retrieved April 11, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1446907/
(3) Humphrey, M. (2015, April 06). Is Online Community Real, 'Virtual' Or Something Else? Retrieved April 15, 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelhumphrey/2015/04/06/is-online-community-real-virtual-or-something-else/#5f874f493c62

Monday, February 29, 2016

Learning to See


As an art teacher, I learned early on that drawing is rooted in perception, and not so much about motor skill.  In class, I like to spout little catchy cliches, like, "Look longer, see more" or "Art is an action of the eye before it is a work of the hand."  Or, as some people much more famous and important than me have said, "People who look hardest in the end will be good artists" (David Hockney) and "It is my contention that most people, including many artists, do not use their eyes to really see, but only to identify objects" (Fletcher Martin).  It's not unusual for me to take away a student's pencil while she works on an observation drawing and tell her bluntly, "Now draw."  Many of my students probably think I'm a little crazy (they may be right), but there is method to my madness, and it's always satisfying when a student learns to use their "eyes to really see," not simply to identify objects.

Today, a student brought in a lion drawing she created in 10th grade (above, on the left).  She--now a 12th grader--wanted to compare it to a recent lion drawing she created a couple months ago (seen above, on the right).   As I'm sure you'll notice, there is a notable difference, which is due to the development of this student's willingness to use her eyes to really see.