World Class: Poems Inspired by the ESL Classroom - J C Elkin

I don't read a ton of poetry but have been trying to get some more collections on my shelves to have my reading just that much more well-rounded. For this collection, World Class, author J.C. Elkin contacted me and asked if I would read over her book of poetry and write up a review. I have to say, I found this short collection lovely!

 

All the poems are inspired by Elkin's own experiences working with ESL students from a number of various countries, backgrounds and life situations & struggles. That is one thing I really enjoyed about these poems, that they featured not only students of Latin descent but of several different cultures. In the poem "Hala", there is a reference to Malala Yousafzai, known for her memoir I Am Malala, in which she tells the story of being shot in the face by Taliban soldiers (and surviving) because she insisted on pursuing an education. 

 

I really enjoyed Elkin's turn of phrase throughout these poems, using catchy word groupings -- such as "dust storms of change" or "thunderous incomprehension" -- that seemed to perfectly convey in my mind the atmosphere of an ESL classrooom as a whole or the individual students. The poem "Young Means Forever Changing" had a sweet, warm-fuzzie note at the end that made me smile, but I think my favorite of all was the very first poem, "Foreign Soil", one of the shortest poems in the bunch, but I just love the phrasing in this one -- for example, "seeds of rich loam", "soaking up language's Miracle Gro", "lush as rustling crop leaves".

 

The only real irk I had with the collection is that a couple of the poems, to me anyway, seemed to have the slightest tinge of cultural insensitivity / intolerance. Playing devil's advocate in my mind, I realized that it's possible that perhaps what the author meant was to convey a teacher's natural frustration of not connecting with a student, not being able to have them see what you're trying to teach, maybe trying to illustrate that teacher struggle came off as cultural insensitivity? I'm not quite sure, and I only recall feeling it with a couple of the poems. 

 

Overall, I really enjoyed this little grouping of poems, finding much I could relate with, having grown up in SoCal in a predominately ESL community and having been an ESL tutor myself years ago. I also was impressed that Elkin brought up Reynaud's Disease in one of the poems, something both my brother in law and sister in law both suffer from, but a disease I rarely ever hear any mention of anywhere. 

 

I'd say this collection will appeal to any number of people working within the educational system, ESL tutors, students or family members of ESL students. Or just those who love adding good stuff to their poetry chapbook collections! :-)