Young poets growing up in Yunnan village
Poetry cannot help children solve problems in their life, but it can give them an emotional anchor. Kang Yu teaches children poetry writing, not in a bid to relieve their pain, but to allow them to see the beauty in life. "When children have a keen perception and enjoy life, it is possible for them to reduce suffering and find new happiness in life," said Kang.
Young poets growing up in Yunnan village
Located on the west bank of the Lancang river section in southwest Yunnan’s Changning county, the Mangshui village is rich in tea and azaleas out of its high mountains and subtropical monsoons. Because of its tough terrains, most adults in the area are migrant workers in the city, leaving their children behind at home. As a result, the kids have to live with their grandparents.
In 2016, Kang Yu arrived at the Mangshui secondary school as a teaching volunteer, nourishing the children with poetic ideas. Thus, students in the school began writing poetry on a rainy day, without any romantic motive. Kang knew that they were afraid of writing long compositions, so she came up with a compromise, allowing them to write lyrics with conciseness.
Children growing up alone gifted in poetry
In the past, children in the school were usually in a worrisome state. Not interested in learning, they were fond of making trouble, and boys sitting in the back row would suddenly fight. "To my surprise, they would be quiet in my poetry class," Kang said.
Since first arriving in Mangshui in 2016, the newcomer Kang Yu wanted to learn as much as about the children, but their response was always negative: "My life ends here and now!" or "I’ve no dream, I just need a job.” Kang was unable to tell them directly the meaning of working hard.
Many junior high shcoolers can only get six or seven percent right in their math exams. They have been lagging behind not just in this term, but perhaps even since the first year of primary school. The number of teachers in the countryside is limited, and too many children are there to look after. The children could hardly meet their parents working in the cities in a year, so the teachers have to take on the role of parents. It is really hard for them to take good care of every student.
Gradually, Kang Yu found that these children, who had grown up alone, needed to express themselves and build up their self-confidence. To give these children an outlet for their emotions, Kang began to teach them poetry. At first, the children didn't know what poetry was, so she told them: "Whatever you want to say to others most is poetry". A few months later, the girl sitting in the corner of the classroom handed in a poem: "I’m a selfish child, so I wish the sun after rain could shine on me only and warmed me up; I’m a selfish child, so I wish there were a corner in the world to comfort me when sad; I’m a selfish child, so I wish my mother's love belonged to me only. "
Poetry expected to bring kids ease, freedom
After poetry became popular among the children in Lianshui town, Kang Yu founded the "Shiguang" Seasonal Poetry Society, so that children all over China could have access to poetry. At present, this non-profit organization has presence in 21 Chinese provinces. More than 600 rural primary and secondary schools have introduced poetry courses, and nearly 110,000 students are trying to write poetry.
Poetry cannot help children solve their problems in life, but at least it can serve as an outlet of their emotions. Kang's purpose of teaching children poetry writing is not to relieve pain, but to let them see the beauty in life. "When children are sensitive and love life, it is possible for them to reduce pain or find new happiness," said Kang.
Li Kunfu, a seventh grader this year, is much taller than other students. "Li often fights, but he writes nice poems". Sitting on the hillside, children in the club were writing poems at the vast expanse of nature, while Li Kunfu was writing poems under the tree alone. He once wrote: "In midsummer, the whether is unpredictable like a girl, who is trying to anger you. When you hope sunshine, she(it) will rain. Actually, she's not raining on you, she's just weeping. Please forgive her occasional emotion."
Kang Yu wondered why the boy who often fights could be tender, and “forgive other's emotion". And it occurred to Kang that when writing poetry, the students are a little different. Li spent little time with his father, but he still has a vision for being a father: "Ten years later, I want to be a father like the sea, and I’ll let my children sit on my back, which is like a boat for them."
With regard to poetry creation, the children like to use local materials. From these poems, Kang could see they were inspired in poetry writing, either by banana trees, sunsets, field ridges, snails, or a long-anticipated phone call from a parent.
Having lived with children long, Kang Yu really felt that their inner world is much richer than that in poetry. In their poems, they wrote about loneliness and sadness when missing their mother. "But they did have happy occasions,” said Kang. "They even imagined that the board eraser and the black board could give birth to a child one day. I felt it the right way for a kid to perceive things. Although their sadness will evoke sympathy from the public, we still chose to show the children in all-round way. They’re actually cute and naughty."
Kang thinks her poetry classes are enlightening. She has been afraid of, or at least wary of profundity, for fear that children were not relaxed when first encountering poetry. Rather, she hopes that students will take poetry writing as a way to express, or a easy and free shelter for their mind.
Compiling by Times reporters; Online photos; Trans-editing by Wang Shixue