This Little Piggy

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I came across ¡Pío Peep! Rimas Tradicionales en Español (Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes) and was immediately struck by the unique adaptations of the rhymes. They are clearly not straight translations and made me wonder what makes a rhyme work in two languages and what is lost and what is found in the process of adapting–especially when rhyme is a central part of the experience.

In Spanish, “El sol es de oro” is, although concise in both languages, very different in English.

El sol es de oro

El sol es de oro

la luna es de plate

y las estrellitas

son de hoja de lata.

Directly translated:

The sun is of gold

the moon is of silver

and the little stars

are of tin.


The English adaptation, on the other hand,

The Sun’s a Gold Medallion

The sun’s a gold medallion.

The moon’s a silver ball.

The little stars are only tin;

I love them best of all.

Clearly different.

One that was closest in translation was unfamiliar except for the form. This one seemed to be counted on the hand as the more familiar (to me at least) “This Little Piggy” is counted on toes.

Aquí puso la pajarita el huevo

Aquí puso la pajarita el huevo.

Éste lo agarró,

éste lo partió,

éste lo cocinó,

éste le echó la sal,

y este pícaro gordo

se lo comió.


Here the Bird Laid the Egg

Here the bird laid one round egg.

This one found it,

this one cracked it,

this one cooked it,

this one put salt on it,

and this fat rascal

gobbled it up!

from ¡Pío Peep! Rimas Tradicionales en Español (Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes)

  • What is lost and found in translation? How does this rob or enrich you or a character? What happens when we try to rely on literal translation?

“We could not sew a sun”

It is Sunday morning, and I have only a few pesos, my iPhone, and the keys to the posada in my pocket. After an hour of walking in Llano Park, I decide that I am not done strolling, and so I wander while considering a list of places I haven’t visited recently. The Textile Museum rises to the top. I have high expectations from my last few visits.

I arrive as they open; there is only one other visitor in the whole place. She is a different kind of tourist than I. She has studied and planned for what she will see; moving slowly, she carries a list and a notebook into which she scribbles furiously.

My experience is affected by her palpable judgment for my lack of preparation, for how swiftly I pass some of the (important) pieces, for how aimlessly I seem to linger over (stirring) others. I want to suggest that we, like divorced parents, try to share custody without animosity; instead, I decide to view the exhibit out of order to avoid a showdown.

Now alone in the main gallery, I want to whoop as I come across a particularly breathtaking quilt, each square of it stuns with simplicity. Though it is composed of coloring book clean images, it reminds me of a primer I had for learning penmanship that depicted flawless lines and graceful curves.

I cannot deny that I feel impotent in the presence of all of this beauty; I admit that the other visitor was right. I have neither the materials nor the skills to devour this show.

From The Art Room

–Shara McCallum

for my sisters

Because we did not have threads
of turquoise, silver, and gold,
we could not sew a sun nor sky.
And our hands became balls of fire.
And our arms spread open like wings.

Read the rest at:

  • Acting teacher F. Jo Murdoch points out: Bette Davis always had something in her hand: a cigarette, a cup of coffee, so her character’s feelings were depicted in her physical actions. Communicate emotion through physical actions, interaction with another person, or deficit as in McCallum’s piece.


I went to a writers’ conference in Minnesota in April. It rained; it snowed; it was gorgeously sunny. And, it was four non-stop days of attending workshops and lectures and learning about all of the things I don’t know. I had never heard of small poems before the workshop on small poems. As it turns out, neither had most of the other attendees. I attended a moving panel on Poverty and Poetry. The speakers said things that I have thought for a long time but have never had the words to say. They talked about social classes and leaving people behind and how no matter how much knowledge one has, others can still make her feel like an imposter.

In one session, a Minnesota rapper, POS, did a workshop where he took his own rap lyrics from Genius ( and examined how various commenters had explicated his sentiments. In response to the line: “But so happy to be alive,” from the song, “Lock-Pick, Knives, Bricks and Bats,,” one commenter wrote:
Here, P.O.S. rejoices in the tremendous happiness he feels simply by being alive. This happiness remains with him despite “looking through dirty lenses,” which can be read as a metaphor for the pessimistic worldview one has when depressed.

POS laughed, saying, he was just happy to be alive. Moving on to another piece where a respondent had made meaning of his desire for a sandwich, he insisted, “I was hungry.” There was no psychic hunger or great void to fill beyond his appetite.

I was thinking about the Billy Collins piece, “Introduction to Poetry” where he describes students trying to “torture a confession” out of a poem. Who has been teaching us to read like imposters?


A Cup of Coffee Is Full of Ideas

sign coffee

Mari and I joke that I cannot speak Spanish without my morning coffee. I search for words as if I am bobbing for apples as if I a senseless sometimes.  Especially if I have spent the first hour or so reading in English, I feel as though I’ll never warm up to the words.

A cup of coffee is full of ideas, a mouthful.

A Little Bit of Summer

sandcastleAs we head into week three of the Fall 2014 semester, summer is a sandcastle swallowed up by an ocean of motion.

I have four Advanced Composition courses and Creative Writing, English lab hours and four independent study students.  Also, this is the semester I will start a new campus-wide writers’ workshop, bring one of the artists from Oaxaca, continue the weekly intercambios at Home Depot, and lead a week-long philanthropy fair (in November).  I refuse to use the word: busy.  I am occupied.  I am in motion.

I’ll find a little bit of summer, a diversion from the semester’s motion in my  students’ blogs.  This semester’s blogs start tomorrow, and they are:

Please follow them, like them, tell them what you are thinking.




In a tent erected to sell books:


Books are bees that transport the pollen of knowledge from one mind to another.
–James Rusell Lowell

Others boast they have written some pages; I am proud of those I have read.
–Jorge Luis Borges


To travel far, there is no better ship than a book.
–Emily Dickinson

Of the diverse instruments invented by man the most amazing is the book; all of the others are extensions of his body…Only the book is the extension of imagination and memory.
–Jorge Luis Borges