More Alike Than We Are Different: Poems from Shaoxing, China

Back in March, after the first two days of this semester, I had been reacquainted with all of my students during our discussions about winter holiday/Spring Festival. I learned that across the waters, customs, and traditions, our holiday breaks were almost the same.

We all determined that we ate too much (even put on weight during our trips), but we had enjoyed countless meals with family and friends, we’d reunited with after a long semester, breaking “bread” of similar kinds, over and over again at different tables, with different company. We all slept, played games, traditional and technological, we honored our dead, we helped our mothers and fathers; we worked, learned a new thing or two, and took advantage of the time of rest.

It is with the sentiment that we are #morealikethanwearedifferent that I have approached teaching poetry to the sophomore English majors at ZYU. I think and speak of my experiences with the upper-class students at Du Bois Elementary often. Here, this semester, we have tackled free verse, lists and odes and read poets like Fay Chiang, Giovanni, Neruda and Hughes, but the students seemed particularly taken by our sonnet and villanelle assignments. My Chinese students tend to gravitate more toward form. They pay careful, delicate detail as they aim to master it. In our workshop component, each week they have become more open to sharing, creating and revising, volunteering and speaking “out of turn” to my delight. When challenged, they are quick and honest, and they have helped one another become better poets.

As in my year at Du Bois, I have so enjoyed watching these students’ creative talents flourish. As we, teachers and students around the world, prepare for another educational crossroads and head feet first into summer, I felt compelled to squeeze in a bit of cultural exchange. I hope you are moved from these poems written by my undergraduate learners. All brilliant, proud, Chinese youth…so reminiscent of my brilliant, proud, Chicago youth back at DuBois. Remember, we are all connected by a few simple ideas: Life, Language, Learning and Love. Happy Summer Please enjoy.

Moon and Star

Sally Ye
You are the moon sleeping in the dim sky
sharing me with the bright and warm light
I wish I had a pair of wings so I could fly
fly to you, even if I know it is not right

Right beside me, fixed your eyes on galaxy
wished I were a glittery star of that purview
Blinking all the time and still being shiny
Shining not to this universe, but only for you

I loved you, not a secret to my close friends
I loved you, a promise to myself with nerve
I wished you back, not a dream cannot realize
Realized you will come back one day, I may leave

But you still and will never know how hard I tried
How hard I tried to erase the memories in my mind

Crystal Wang

Magic Power
After Nikki Giovanni

I am a creative girl
I created the splendid
Mo Kao Grotto at Dunhuang
under the guidance of Muse

I drew countless murals
in the Thousand Buddha Caves
to illuminate the lighthouse
for Silk Roads

I am particularly melancholy
I heard a sigh from thousands of years ago
I saw flowers bloomed for thousands of years

I stood in front of the beacon of the Great Wall
looking at the vicissitude of dynasties
I chased the sun like a
giant in ancient times

I am so thirsty that I
drank water from the
Yangtze and Yellow River
My sweat watered the desert
later the Qilian Mountain appeared

I built Jingdezhen with clay
I walked in the drizzle with
my oiled paper umbrella
I saw a lotus blooming
in blue and white porcelain

I carved Lijiang out of silver
My tears of sorrow congealed into
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
My tears of joy converged together
and finally formed Lugu Lake

The whole sky was lit up
Everything I have created is thriving
I plucked the stars from the sky
using them to decorate my dreams

My long hair became numerous
willow branches dancing in the wind
I made a crown out of them
for my royal coronation

I am so creative
so ingenious so elegant
I am like a milestone
in human civilization

I mean … I am the Muse
Brian Lyn

A Day Out

The winds are invited to us for hours,
a child is messing around,
that’s why people smell the most flagrant flowers.

Left there only a few of squirrels and owls
it makes animals feel proud,
the winds are invited to us for hours.

Only when the fish start to think about why water tastes sour,
When will spring come in a regular route,
that’s why people smell the most flagrant flowers.

The permission for hanging our for an ant is not allowed,
for they have a giant kingdom to be powered,
that’s why people smell the most flagrant flowers.

As for the rest of the birds are singing aloud,
as if the rain is coming so they can take a shower,
that’s why people smell the most flagrant flowers.

Great nature instinct have been aroused,
lots of them are grateful everything that spring brought,
The winds are invited to us for hours,
that’s why people smell the most flagrant flowers.

Spring: A Villanelle

Bert Xu

The wind of spring blows the wide land,
all plants start to arise,
and it refreshes everything the land ever had.

Children flying kites in the playground
hold the line tightly for fear that the kites will loose;
The wind of spring blows the wide land.

The Cole Flowers smiling brightly in the filed,
here sparsely lined with fluttering willow trees,
and it refreshes everything the land ever had.

A angler sitting by the river as if nothing happened,
the memory in my mind I won’t erase,
the wind of spring blows the wide land.

People unwillingly get up from their bed;
But they have to work for their wealth,
and pay for what they have promised.

Every unpleasant thing in spring will fade,
because something brand new will take their place!
The wind of spring blows the wide land,
And it refreshed everything the land ever had.

Ruby Yao

The Truth of Love

“L-O-V-E”, love contains four letters.
It can be regarded as life, original,vitality, and enthusiastic;
It mixes up with all kinds of feelings—worse or better;
Its magic power changes one passive person to optimistic.

The world when love comes become beautiful,
putting smile on your face, stars shining in your eyes.
The person fall in love with each other becoming faithful.
Please, give us a chance and prove it is wise.

Like a naughty spring rain drop into the pond,
In the heart, lift a bit of waves and turn to peace;
Form a relationship with a tight, inseparable bond,
giving you a worthy pressure, as well as new breath.

We are just the distance we can touch.
But like the most familiar strangers. Only wish.



“Writing poetry makes me feel like I can see myself, like I can see my reflection, but not in a mirror, in the world. I write and I know I can be reflected.”
-Oscar S.

“Writing poetry makes me feel free.”
-Buenda D.

“Writing poetry is like your best friend.”
-Jessica M.