Chinese village children find their voices through verse

ZHENGZHOU: One afternoon in late September, little Zhang Haofeng sat down with his school friends and read out a poem he had just written: “In the eyes of a bug, / Raindrops form seas, / Big and small, / Wherever they fall, / But me, too, / I see those seas.”
It was a rainy day, the children sheltering inside during their lunch break. Eleven-year-old Zhang’s poem had been inspired by the rhythm of the raindrops, the first sign of autumn.
He had hardly finished reading when his classmate Zai Bingjie eagerly shared his own verse: “It is raining. / Ordinary, docile raindrops fall on the ground, / But the naughty ones slip off the wall, / Into my soul.”
“You must be a rebellious raindrop yourself,” one boy joked. The group burst into laughter.
The children are members of a poetry society established in 2019 at a rural school in Xiuwu County, central China’s Henan Province. The school has no more than 50 students, all natives of Dananpo, a mountain village that is home to about 1,000 people.
These young poets, however, have written more than 2,000 poems and their works have been collected into three books since the society was founded four years ago.
“I believe that poetry is a lamp illuminating life,” said Liu Xiaojiang, head teacher of Dananpo Primary School. “Poetry writing is a chance for the children to find their voices in literature, become people who are reconciled with themselves and who love life.”
Zhang Yanwen, the poetry society’s tutor, is herself an avid reader and writer. However, teaching the children to write was a different story. In her first poetry class, she said the students sat in silence for at least 10 minutes, not knowing what to write. The theme of the class was “An incredible realm.”
She ended up telling the children to simply “go out and take note of everything you see.” They came back with simple images that were readily transformed into poems.
One of them wrote: “I’ve turned into a cloud, / That chats with the sun during the day, / And frolics with the moon at night.” Another verse goes: “The sun is sleepy. / You can tell from its light, / Which dazzles and dims, / From one moment to the next… Dear sun, / Sleep tight tonight.” –Agencies