Today each of the Skopje students built a Haiku House out of small lego-like sticks and blocks, clay and beads.  The windows and roof were made of colored wooden ice-cream spoons and the walls were of cashier’s tape to make sure that the 5-7-5 syllable lines looked right on the narrow paper.  One group refused to make single houses and created “The Tower of Love.”  There were 12 haiku in the three stories of the “Tower of Love” and, of course, the students wrote out “Tower of Love” in beads in front of the tower.  I have to admit that many of the Haiku Houses were wonderful, but the romanticism of the “Tower of Love” was almost more than I could bear.  It was beautifully decorated with wonderful haiku that fulfilled the discipline of having each wall have a haiku that represented a different season — summer, fall, winter, spring.  I was told that there is no tradition of haiku in  Macedonian and that I was very lucky that my fellow teachers could help me at the library because they had been trained by various Scots who had been on their faculty and trained them in the form.


The students did a wonderful job, translated the word “syllable” for me into “slog,” and I didn’t laugh.  I saw many young people counting like mad as they attempted to follow the more rigorous rules of the classical haiku and as they prepared their houses for the experience.  They seemed almost relieved when we went on to “Found Poetry,” and they were asked to select five words from the colored paper on the walls and bookcases and write a poem using all the words.  Compared with the busy fingers counting as we sounded out the syllables, this was easy for them and they took to it.

Several students were selected to read from their notebooks based on having a red piece of paper under their charge that said “Hot Seat.”  Even the shy ones seem to accept this as their destiny and read from the six words that they have begun in the portfolios.  All in all it was a great day.  I got to play in the wood glue, which is always exciting and now the teachers are deciding the “Best so far Day Two” awards and putting in the “My Personal Best so Far Away” so that the students can at least consider revisions as well as visions.  We have already set up the tables for tomorrow’s “Life Clock” and its follow-up work and then we are off to wherever we go after Creative Writing Camp.

I will be off for my walk toward my hotel passed some wonderful Soviet-Era sculptors and some amazing glamour girl statues and their dog, one without arms. Several of the students wrote essays saying that they would like to see fewer statues in the park and more hungry folks fed. I have to admit to being very impressed with the seriousness of thought and social consciousness of my Macedonian students. While I hate to leave my world to anyone and don’t plan on going just now, I am convinced that my beloved planet will be in pretty good shape if these Macedonians are typical.

Merilee Cunningham

WITS Writer to the Balkans

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