Alison Park invited me to read to her Asian American Studies class at Hunter College last Wednesday. The class consisted of about 20 students, half of which were Asian American. There were a few more women than men. The students were taking the class to fulfill the requirement for pluralism in their studies, so not everyone there was an English major. In fact, someone there majored in Computer Science. They were a little quiet and shy at the beginning but warmed up soon.
I read them some family and New York poems from Equal to the Earth, stopped for questions, and then read from The Pillow Book as a lead-in to Sei Shonagon and her use of the list form. The students wrote their own list for "Things That Sound Beautiful," a topic suggested by the class. After they wrote down some ideas, I asked them to write them out again, this time aiming to elaborate, organize, paragraph, and delete. They came up with some great descriptions. I remember, in particular, wind chimes, a minor chord on a violin and the laughter of friends. I really enjoyed my time with them.