Tuesday, November 29, 2011

English Teacher in Tokyo - Blackout Poetry

For Native English Speakers Teaching in Japan.

Black out Poems are a contemporary form of  poetry, lead by Austin Kleon who is the creator, I'm sure. I fell in love with the work I've seen at ds106 and their creative Blackout poetry assignments. I just had to do one!
I ran a quick Google search hoping to find a detailed Wikipedia entry, which to my demise wasn't there. However, shortly after Austin Kleon's search result, I found Kevin Harrell's work: Creative Destruction which deserves a good look! I love the power in his words. He's at the tip of the spear in Blackout Poetry.

The ds106 assignment was submitted by Tim Owens and states to:
"Grab a marker and today's morning edition and start blacking out sections to create a new story. It could be a poem, a picture, or a novella, all drawn from the words of the latest news." 
I work at the Temple University Japan Campus library, so it was easy to grab a copy of the Daily Yomiuri. I found an article by Takamasa Sakurai, in which he describes his newly published book: Let's Talk in English! (Eigo de hanso! 英語で話そう! ) He tells how Japan is connected to the world through social media. It was a great article!

After taking joy in reading it, I decided to make a Blackout Poem about this, conveying my feelings as an English Teacher in Japan; I think any English teaching foreigner will agree. However the words didn't come out quite right. Following Otto Paertz's advice on linking words; I put some digital art to work. Good ol' Paint helped me guide my thoughts. Here it is:
Not having the artistic capabilities held by Giulia Forsythe--who drew out images in her digital black out poem, or Stephanie Hughes who made some hand-drawn interpretations of her dream--All I did was circle the picture of two Japanese high school students in the cover of Sakurai's book. This is the second reason why I included his name in my work, the first being that I really liked his article. 
Sans the lack of eloquence, my poem conveys the feeling of being an English teacher in Japan. We come here because we really like Japan, the young Asian students are the most zealous about learning English, and we both form friendships while doing it. It's an immensely delightful feeling.

As for the work, it was far more appealing to do the Blackout by hand. It was relatively simple.

And here's the original work by Takamasa Sakurai. As I said, it's most interesting. Please notice the last paragraph, where he mentions keeping worldly relationships with from Japan through social media.

I've taught this last semester of preparatory English to Japanese high school students through the AEP program at my school, Temple University Japan. As the curriculum involves English conversation, we chat for the first 30 minutes of class. I find myself constantly telling them that phrase in both in Japanese and English "Let's Talk in English!" As they soon start chatting in Japanese.

Here in Japan, teaching English is were the money is at. Straight talk, but for my American readers who haven't lived in Japan before, my following words might be enigmatic. 

As soon as I came to Japan I was working as a freelance conversation partner. I'm also a Chat Host at Com'Inn English Cafe (sorry, only Japanese page for this one!) Where I get paid to drink coffee and talk to people, and drink and Party! As an extroverted American, this comes naturally and I do it all the time back home, but here I'm getting paid for it!

I've learned so much about Japanese people there. Demographics range from Businessmen and Office Ladies, to International artists and doctors. I love my work at Com'Inn, and the owner and co-workers are my distant family. It was featured in a Japanese show (sorry, no English subtitles):

I love working there SO MUCH, but I've found the greatest joy in working with Japanese high school students.


  1. Great post - your black out poem looks good.

    I was never so lucky to get one of those coffee shop chat gigs. That would be nice.

  2. Thank you! I hope it looks good. I might have done too much with the coloring...

    I wonder which one you would like better, Temple or Coffee shop? They're both energy drainers.

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