Courtesy of JALT's The Language Teacher, My Share Special (May 2001)

Poessays in the English Language Classroom
John Pereira, Simon Potter, Wayne Johnson
 

 What is a "poessay?" Rather than being a word that you might find in a dictionary, it is a neologism from "poem" and "essay," its two constituent parts. On the one hand, it is poetry to be appreciated for its sounds, rhythm, dramatic impact, and imagery. On the other, it contains a flowing message, an insightful opinion, or a rhetorical argument that is usually expressed in linear prose. Examples are given after the following explanation of their pedagogic use: that is, how poessays might be useful for teaching English in Japan.
 First of all, it is worth noting that poessays appeal to Japanese sensitivities in their brevity, nonlinearity, imagery, provocativeness, and humor. They are easy to read and understand,while opening up potential depths to explore. As you will see when you read them, many can be entertaining, yet at the same time convey serious thoughts, making poessays enjoyable and stimulating materials for English courses. 
 For oral English classes, poessays can first be read aloud to practice pronunciation and to get a feel for their sounds and rhythms. That poessays are not flat or monotonous adds excitement and encourages students, whether reading or repeating, to put life into their own spoken English. Once a few poessays have been read aloud for their artistry, it is possible to explore their messages, to delve into their intellectual content. A variety of techniques might be used to do so.Direct questions and answers, whether in the form of Socratic discourse (which can be fun) or something less involved, is one way to engage students. Another is to have students discuss a few poessays in pairs or groups, monitored by the teacher who might throw in a comment or two. After a sufficient amount of time has passed, the pairs or groups can report to the whole class. It is, of course, important to note that any given poessay offers a "main point" and insights, which elicit an array of responses (agreement, disagreement, or combinations) and should inspire related concepts and experiences to filter into the discussion.
 For written English classes, there are at least two important uses of poessays. One is to write them. For some students this will be easy and fun, but for others it might be more of a challenge. In either case, composing poessays is a good learning experience for students: writing the English correctly (spelling and basic grammar) blends with artistic self-expression and finding the right words. Even students who feel they are deficient in English and/or in artistic ability are likely to get absorbed in the challenge.
 The second use of poessays is to write about them. One or a few poessays, selected by the teacher or the students, can lead to pages of explanatory prose. depending on the aims of a class and the level of its students, an assignment could range from a page to several, encouraging subjectivity and creativity on the part of the students.

Sample Set 1

 The following poessays were written by university students and published through Seika University as Communicative Times. We would appreciate receiving any interesting poessays, written by your students, that might be published in future editions (e-mail: sampachi@mbox.kyoto-inet.or.jp).

Clone

The scientist
who produced
the clone
said

this is
the smartest man
in the world

He is
a genius

True
but
does he
know
his mother's
name?

Asuka Matsumiya

Moon

The moon
changes
every night

half moon
full moon
crescent moon
and
new moon

But
no

the moon
is
always
a full moon

Are
we also
like
the
moon?

Yumiko Toguchi


Train

This morning
I got up
late

I
hopped
on the
train

he
train
was
crowded

the
train
shook

My head
swam

because
I was
sleepy

I
crashed
into
my
neighbor

I
said

I'm sorry

After
a while

"Ouch!"

My foot
was
trodden on

but
my neighbor
pretended
to sleep

Yoriko Nagatani







Communication

She doesn't
know
Japanese
or English

but
she has
beautiful hair

and
a pure heart

She is
my friend

my dog

Yukari Tanaka


Almighty

Birds
can fly
but
I
can't

I
can
use
chopsticks
but
birds can't

He can
run quickly
but
she can't

She can
sing well
but
he can't

No
one
is
almighty

Yohei Kurita


Money

I
don't like
Him

because
he uses
me

Ryosuke Saeki


Legs

I have
three
lovely legs

the first
is
my bicycle

the second
is
my motorcycle

the third
is
my car

and

they are
all mine

Kana Okuda

Double Standard

My teacher
said that
trying
is more
important

than getting
the correct
answer

But
when I
tried hard
and made
a mistake

he
game me
minus points

so
tell me


what does
trying
mean?

Kumiko Onishi


Lunch Time

It will be
lunch time
soon

Everybody
will go
to the
dining room

I
want
to go
there too

I want
to have
lunch
too

But
I have
no money

Takayuki Fukano




Far Out

What is
nearer
to me

than
myself?

But
because
of its
nearness

I can't
know
myself

Keiko Nishimura


Harmony

My hands
are
vary big

But
I don't
hate them
because
I have
to live
with them

until
I die

so
I get along
with them

Yoshiko Honda


No Coffee Break

Who
is the hardest
worker
in the
world?

The
politician?

The
lawyer?

The
carpenter?

No
no no!

he
who works
non-stop
is

sometimes
he works
slowly

and
sometimes
he works
fast

yes
he who
lives
in my

left breast
is

O my sweet heart!

Masami Yamashita



War and Peace

Making
war
is

the worst
act
in the world

How
will war
disappear?

When
will war
disappear?

the
only way
I think

is
for all
of us

to kill
ourselves!

Kazuhiko Nishiguchi


Thanks

Thank you

for cooking
for me
every day

thank you

for cleaning
my room
for me
every day

thank you

for
working
for me
every day

And
thank you

for being

concerned
about me
every day

I
appreciate
what
you do

for me

but

I'm too
embarrassed
to say it

and so
I write it
here

Hiroe Kido

Loyalty

Honda
is
my partner

my friend

He is
very old
but
he's doing
fine

He has run
75000 kilometers

He tries hard

but
tires easily

Hiroyuki
Matsuyama

My Father
& Me

My father
regards everything

except scholarship

as trash

so
when he
asked me

what
I learned
recently

and
I told him
it was
the price
of vegetables

my father
cried

Saeko Hada


Soul Brothers

I have
no money
no car
and no girlfriend

But
I have
a good friend

He has
no money
no car
and no girlfriend

Kantaro Iwasaki

My Pet

I
have
a
cat

he is
a selfish cat

and
he is
a proud cat

My
neighbor
says

pets
resemble

their
owners

Keiko Yuno

Kindness

On
a crowded
train

I

told
an old woman
to sit
in my seat
but
she said

I'm not
that old!

Miho Kawamura





D-Grade

Soon
it will be

11 PM
and
my family
is already
asleep

but
not me

I'm
wide awake

as
I fell
asleep

in class
today

Keiji Yamanaka


Values

It's
only

the rain
but
it makes
some
people
happy

and
others
sad!

Masaaki Karahata

Art of Living

Workers
say
we have
money
but no time

Students
say
we have
time
but no money

Life
is not
simple!

Kuniko Katsumata

Hometown

Oh
the countryside!

how
I Love
the
blue sky
clean water
fresh air
and
pretty flowers

oh
so beautiful!


Yes
the
countryside!

but
can I
live there?

Where
are
the jobs?

Mizue Kakizoe



Love Letter

Dear Earth
I
want you
to know

I like
delicious fruit

fresh water
and
clean air

I
also like

the
beautiful
sky

emerald
sea

and
the big

big
mountains

Thank you
good earth

for
everything!

Yoko Kawaguchi




Sample Set 2

 The following poessays were written by Gambari-kun, a foreigner who lives in Kyoto. Some of them are from his book EN not YEN published by Maruzen.

Amazing

They
resemble

stone Buddha's

as
they sit
in the
classroom

row after row
looking
at you
without
speaking

You ask
a question

and
there us

an echo
of silence

You
try again
and

there is
more
of
the same

Now
is
the
moment

of
truth

I
could
go crazy

as
lots of
foreign teachers
do

or
simply
take
a deep breath
and

thank them
for
allowing me
to speak
and

indulge
my ego

I
wonder
at
it all

Are you
really

Buddha's

who are
already
enlightened

and
who know
truth
cannot be
communicated
through
words ...

I
continue
to speak ...

Ryoanji

A
cowboy
had this
to say
about
the
famous
Zen Garden

"It's just
a
bunch
of rocks"

So
is it
or
isn't it?

Borderless
Marriage

When
you marry
the right woman

your marriage
is successful

But when
you marry
the wrong woman

(even the girl
next door)

then
your marriage
is hell

international
or
not


Killer

I'd rather
read

the
dictionary

than
a writer

who has
nothing
to say


None
for the Road

Alcohol
is
for people

who
can't
get drunk

on
life





Teacher's Room

Billy
was
sitting
silently
smoking
a cigarette

when
the door
opened

and
there
walked in

Mr.
NO SMOKING

who
rushed
to open
the windows

his
nostrils
fuming
and
eyes bulging

Yes
even
with
the windows
open


the
anger in
the room
was heavy

refusing
to leave

while
the cigarette
smoke

gently drifted
away





Bloodless Coup

Don't
ask me

ask
the computer

says
a New Age
scholar

Yes

the
computer
has killed

the
old style
scholar

a
walking

talking
dictionary

knowledgeable

with
a lot
of
memory

but
who
no longer
can
compete

leaving
millions
wondering

what
is
a scholar
today?

Tastes Good

What
a sight
to behold!

expensive
cars

and
their owners

either
parked

or
waiting
in line

to
receive
hamburgers
and
french fries

making
it clear

to all
the world

how
much easier
it is

to acquire
an
expensive car

than
good taste
in food








Secret

On
this
last day

of
class

my
students
look
real happy!

So
am I
but

I
don't
show it

Mission Impossible

Why
can't Japan

give
the world
another

Daisetsu Suzuki

or
Okakura Tenshin

when
hundreds
of thousands
study

live and
work

in
English speaking
countries?

you
ask me

Japanese
who
study English
today

I
tell you

do so
to get
better jobs


move up
the ladder
of success

and are
not at all
inward looking

can do
without
the within

so
are unable
to explain
anything
significant





Belief Systems

My teacher
used to say

Judge a man
by the quality
of his shoes

Anyone
looking at
my shoes
nowadays

(which are
far from clean
and shiny)



would
take me
for
a criminal

Looking back
over the years

I have
only this
to say

Don't believe

anything

your teachers
tell you


Scholarship

I've
read

one
too
many

academic
papers

that
have
length

and
breadth

but
no depth

Food for Thought

Good teachers
always
tell
their students

how much
their homework
has
in common
with sashimi

the fresher
the better






Good Citizen

I
wrapped up
my mind
in
a furoshiki

and

gave it
to
my Boss

a
year ago

(he
did
the same
several
years
earlier)

You
are
a good
man!

said
he

Now
I'm
like
all
the others

a rib
in
a wheel

that
makes
Japan
go round

an
independent
spirit

no
more



National Fitness Day

On
this
auspicious
day

most
Japanese
stay home

and
do sports
on TV

Hobby

Poessays
are easy
to write
and fun
too

all
you need
is

simple
everyday
English
and

a
clear mind



inserted by FC2 system