Monday, May 5, 2014

LIFE OF A POET - GABRIELLA

Today, to satisfy all of the romantics among us, I am taking you on an overseas flight to Gay Paree ! We will even take a peek at the Eiffel Tower and I am excited. Hop aboard! We are going to visit Gabriella, who writes at Gabriella's Writing Corner. I am certain you have enjoyed her work as she makes her way around the blogosphere. Get ready! I can see the Tower off in the distance! We are circling, and are about to land. 


Sherry: Gabriella, I am so thrilled to be interviewing someone who lives in romantic France!  Which area do you live in? And what does life look like at your house?




Gabriella: I live and teach English in Northern France, between Lille and Paris, in a region called Picardy. This area was the place where many battles were fought during WWI.
Quite a bit of my time is spent working, teaching, grading papers and preparing lessons, which also includes trying to find authentic documents online.





I am the proud and happy owner of a six year old Cavalier King Charles called Poppy.

Sherry: She is adorable, Gabriella! What a sweetheart!

Gabriella: As you know, I also spend time writing poetry. I take part in different challenges at dVerse, Poetry Jam and Poets United – in no particular order.

My other interests include reading, cooking, traveling, visiting museums, going to see movies, photography and walking.

La Tour Eiffel

Sherry: I just have to ask, when you see the Eiffel Tower, do you really see it, the way those of us in other lands do, nearly swooning with the romance of it all, or is it part of the landscape for  Parisians?

Gabriella: I think that Parisians see the Eiffel Tower as part of their landscape. When you come from another region, things are a bit different. I remember that, as a child, I was quite excited when my parents took us to see the Eiffel Tower for the first time. But after some years, the excitement is not so strong. There are places in Paris which I find more beautiful, exciting, and even romantic, than the Eiffel Tower but I think that as a symbol it is a great monument. 


Notre  Dame de Paris, the big cathedral, 
as seen from a boat on the Seine. 

Sherry: Would you like to tell us a bit about teaching: what age group you teach, what you love about teaching, the gratifications, the difficulties, what you believe about the importance of what you pass on to the children?

Gabriella: I work in French high school which also has post-baccalaureate classes. My youngest student is 15 while the oldest is 23.


A lake in my home town

I became an English teacher because I loved English. I fell in love with the language from my first English lesson. I can still remember that the teacher asked us to list all the English words which are used in French.  I was stunned to realize I already knew so much.

From then on, I knew I wanted to teach English and share what I enjoyed about this language and, later,  literature in English and the cultures of the numerous countries where English is spoken.

Sometimes when I teach, I feel this is exactly what happens. I have the feeling that I am actually imparting something. Most of the time, however, teaching is also about disciplining teenagers.

Sherry: The most daunting aspect, I have little doubt.

Sweden

Gabriella: Fifteen years ago, a colleague and I initiated an exchange with a high school in Sweden. We have since been there about ten times. We go to Sweden in September and the Swedes come and visit the following March.  The students are hosted by their pen friends' families on both sides, which means they get an insight into Swedish (or French) family life and culture. These visits are also great opportunities to visit the country and its capital for both students and teachers. 

Sherry: It sounds like a wonderfully enriching experience for all concerned. I admire you for beginning that program, Gabriella!


Sweden

Gabriella: What I find hardest is lack of motivation, ambition and the desire to learn and improve that so many youngsters evince nowadays.

Sherry: That is a  huge problem in North America, too. I have read that the French education system is very advanced. Are there some significant differences that you  note between education in France as opposed to, say,  North America?

Gabriella: This is a difficult question. A couple of decades ago, I would have probably agreed and said our system had a lot of strengths. Nowadays I am not so sure that it compares favourably with other systems.

Sweden

I think France used to have ambitious goals as far as learning is concerned.  For instance, in their last year of high school, most students learn philosophy. It is supposed to teach them how to think by themselves, which is a great goal.

However in the last two decades a lot of things have changed, and not always for the better. Sadly when you mix financial cutbacks and ideology from pedagogues who have hardly ever set foot in a classroom, the results are rarely good.

Sherry: Yes, when money enters the equation, quality often goes out the window. 


Sweden

Gabriella, I read on your blog that you wrote as a child. Would you like to talk a bit about that? What brought you back to writing as an adult?

Gabriella: I began to write when I was about seven. I wrote little stories in notebooks, mainly for myself although I may have shown my parents a story or two.

Sweden

I started blogging about seven years ago. I discovered some blogs by chance and what I read there encouraged me to start my own. Mine was a very eclectic blog. I wrote about lots of different topics. I reviewed books and movies, shared recipes and more general thoughts. I also interviewed a few people.  My writings and the subjects I tackled evolved with the years.
I had reached a point where I did not want to quit blogging but at the same time felt I no longer wished to keep the blog I had. I had in fact stopped writing altogether on a couple of occasions. When I discovered writing challenges on other people’s blogs, I decided to have a go.

Sherry: And that is where the journey accelerates, for so many of us! What do you love most about writing poetry?

Gabriella: This is a vast question. But I like how it enables me to explore my thoughts and feelings and then convey them as best as I can.

Sherry: Well said. How has blogging impacted your writing? Does it encourage, motivate, inspire? Would you be writing as much today without it?

Gabriella: Prompts are great incentives to write. They are a bit like deadlines and spur me in a very effective manner.

Then obviously linking one’s poem and then visiting other poets lead to discovery and interaction. I always enjoy discovering new blogs, seeing where the poets are from and what they post regularly. Similarly when people visit and comment, I am encouraged to write more and improve, especially if they come back periodically.

A market in Hong Kong, one of my favourite
places to travel

Sherry: You list your writing style as “impulsive, evocative, feminist”. What is your process for writing a poem?

Gabriella: I like to start from some words or a full sentence that come to mind or that I find in a book or online, or even once listening to a radio program. Then I try to build my poem around this. Sometimes the sentence will be at the beginning or the end of the poem.

By evocative, I mean that I like my words to be understood when read the first time. I find it hard to relate to poetry that is obscure and obfuscated. The poets that touch me the most are those who do not hide behind big words or convoluted metaphors and images.

Sherry: I especially love your poems My Manifesto and My Tune, and would like to include My Manifesto here.


MY MANIFESTO
I write because nobody will
write for me how I feel
who i am, what i believe
what makes me strong
tame my demons
i write because
penned words survive
can be read again
i write in the hope that
you will hear the whisper
behind the noise
and that it will
touch your soul

A perfect reason to write, Gabriella. Do you have a poem you are especially pleased with that you would like to include?

Gabriella: I too like the two poems you mention, Sherry. It is difficult to choose a poem. I tend to be quite critical of my own work. The following poem was written only a few weeks after I started writing poetry and  I liked it at the time. I had the impression I had managed to convey my feelings better than at other times.

I remember wondering where and how we’d meet
in a cafe, at a party, through friends or chance
maybe we’d be on a train and just share a seat
I’d initiate the talk, faking nonchalance

I remember wondering what you would look like
speculating about the color of your eyes
in my dreams oftentimes we vaguely looked alike
I gazed at your shadow set against the blue skies

I remember wondering how we’d spend the time
whether we’d share the same jokes and smile together
how my heart, joys and passions with your own would rhyme
whether you’d like to dance, who would lead the other

I remember wondering if i’d recognize you
what sign we’d be given, how we’d come to know
whether we’d dare to face what we’d feel to be true
risk the uncertainties, allow our love to grow

Now I know


Sherry: I love this poem so much! In your As I Sat On the Bus page, you have an on-going story. Which came first for you, poetry or prose, and how do you feel on completion of a poem, as opposed to a story?

Gabriella: Prose came first. When I was a child and then when I went back to writing.  I wrote a few tentative poems because a challenge blog I followed had prompts with a very limited number of words. The positive comments I received encouraged me to write more poetry. The rest is history.

The As I Sat On the Bus page was created as a challenge to myself. Then I started writing more poetry and have put it aside for the time being. I have not totally ruled out the idea of going back to it eventually, when the time is right.

Feelings are better and more easily expressed in a poem and the sense of achievement and completeness is stronger. Yet I believe that people who manage to write a full-fledged novel must feel very proud. I would.

Sherry: Yes, I suspect it is a ton of hard work to complete an entire book. What other interests do you enjoy?

Gabriella: I’d say that reading, cooking and going to movies are among my favorite pastimes. I mainly read in English and enjoy all sorts of books as well as articles on current issues.

I also enjoy cooking. I like to read cookery books and now have quite a collection. Nowadays I also read recipes online and save them on my computer for later. I like spicy food, such as Thai or Indian curries as well as fish. I try to eat healthily and I hate food that is bland. Yet I must confess I have a soft spot for sorbet.

Sherry: You have written about train journeys you made with your family as a child, going on annual ski vacations in the Alps (which must have been wonderful!). And that you still love travel. Favourite place you have ever been? Place you would most like to travel to? Anywhere you return to again and again?

Gabriella: I love traveling. My parents only had one ordinary car so as to save money to take us on vacation. They also encouraged my siblings and me to learn languages. This combination fostered a love of traveling, which is made easier by the fact that I live in a country which shares borders with a number of other countries. Thus as a child and teenager, I visited Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and the UK, of course. Later in life, I also went to Croatia, Hungary, Tunisia, Hong Kong and the United States.

Hong Kong

I found Hong Kong exciting and very engaging. I have visited three times because one of my brothers lives there with his family. I thought it would be a kind of very Westernized part of Asia because of it being a former British colony. In fact there are lots of Western visitors and expats but it is first and foremost an Asian country that has strong links with the West.
The streets are teeming with people and activity. The markets are fascinating. Some are devoted to produce while others sell clothes and gadgets.




In the streets, one can see traditional activities such as shoe polishing next to a series of high rise buildings. You can spend a fortune in very posh restaurants but also eat a very decent meal for a few dollars.

Sherry: It sounds fascinating. I am interested in everywhere - but I have to explore them through books and movies - and these interviews! Anything else you would like to say to Poets United?

Gabriella: People who post at PU have always been encouraging and supportive. I think this is due to a great team. I know the staff at PU works hard to make it the friendly place it is. I am amazed that you four manage to constantly post something new and inspiring. Thank you Mary, Sherry, Rosemary and Susan! Keep up the good work!

Sherry: Thank you for your very kind words, Gabriella. I have enjoyed our conversation very much. Thank you for sharing your life with us and for letting us see a bit of life in Paris, Sweden and Hong Kong.

Wasn't that wonderful, kids? I am allowing myself one last look at the Eiffel Tower, a heartfelt sigh, then back we zoom to Real Life. Now I always say come back and see who we talk to next. But this time I really mean it. Next week I have a big surprise for you - a Chat which includes a Big Reveal! I promise you don't want to miss it.


32 comments:

  1. So nice to read about you ... always adds a dimension, Sherry .. Next time you come to Stockholm we have to meet -- a little bit longer would be fun.. Your connection to Sweden is so nice.. and imagine - the header of your blog is from a Käringön -- and I know that place so well...

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  2. Thank you, Björn. I think you live in a beautiful country. There are a lot of things I love about Sweden and my students have always received a warm welcome. I agree, when I am next there I will let you know so that we can meet longer.

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  3. This interview series is great.A chance to meet such creative talented writers. Sherry once again a beautifully presentation. So glad to meet you Gabriella specially when are professions relate. I teach English as a Second language and love it 'beautiful expressions in your Manifesto'-a pleasure to read...there is a strong message. Thank you Sherry...

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  4. Thank you, Anjum. Always nice to meet fellow teachers from around the world. I am glad you enjoyed what you read.

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  5. It is always my pleasure, my friends, to feature the wonderful members of this community. The interviews write themselves, as everyone is so interesting. As I live vicariously, if, indeed, I live at all, these weekly trips are food for the soul for me.

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    1. You do a great job, Sherry. It was a pleasure talking to you.

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  6. I thoroughly enjoyed this, Sherry and Gabriella. I find it interesting that some of the same things go on in education "politics" there as here. It always irked me (I'm a former teacher, too) how people with no classroom experience thought they could relate anyway. You do a great job... and the program you started is wonderful!

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    1. Thank you, Laurie. Yes, politicians and education rarely understand each other I am afraid.

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  7. smiles...cool to get to meet you a bit more...one day i will have to catch you and mary on a visit...smiles...so is the school year almost done for you? i have 14 days left in mine...and then a short break before summer school....smiles...cool on finding a phrase on the radio and such...i might need to try that....

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    1. I certainly would like to meet you too, Brian.
      Our school year officially ends at the beginning of July but the exams start soon and this certainly changes my schedule a lot. Starting next week, no week will be the same as the others.

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  8. Great to know more about you, Gabriella, after enjoying your poetry and finding your comments on mine insightful. I'm a retired teacher myself with a similar concern about students' growing lack of curiosity. I can't remember boredom, and I bet you don't either! Great going, Sherry!

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    1. Thank you, Susan. Interesting that so many teachers write poetry.
      I always enjoy it when students ask questions and wish they did so more often.

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  9. What an interesting conversation Sherry and Gabriella...... I agree with your insightful observation on teaching and learning specially these days when children find so many things to concentrate on other than books.... sometimes we are at a loss with "education politics" as Laurie points out interfering all the time...enjoyed your photos and both the poems Gabriella...it's really a pleasure to know more about you...and thanks Sherry for the great job as usual... :)

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    1. Thank you, Sumana. It seems that, wherever they live, teachers experience the same joys and frustrations.
      I agree, Sherry does a great job!

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  10. very cool interview...and even more interesting after having had the pleasure to meet gabriella in person just a few weeks ago... i always find it interesting to read about the different ways how people started to write poetry... some interesting things about the school system as well... very cool....thanks sherry and gabriella

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    1. It was a pleasure to meet you, Claudia. I agree that it is fascinating to see what made people write as well as what keeps them writing or makes them go back.

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  11. Thanks for the great interview, ladies! It's nice to get to know the poet behind the lines.

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    1. You are welcome, Karen. I am glad you enjoyed it.

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  12. Thanks Sherry for this wonderful interview ~ Always a pleasure to know more about the lovely words & this time its Gabriella ~ I enjoyed your journey & pictures & look forward to reading more of your work ~

    Cheers ~

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    1. Thank you, Grace. Sherry is a great interviewer!

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  13. Gabriella, glad to know a bit more about you and your poetry. :)
    i have a great respect for teachers. i won't know where i would have been if not for the good teachers i had in school.
    thanks for sharing your poem, "My Manifesto". i like how you used the word to describe writing. it shows a clear purpose of your pursuit.

    and Sherry, another great interview, as usual. :)

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    1. Thank you, dsnake, for your kind words! I am glad you have positive memories of your teachers.

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    2. I second Monsieur dsnake1's comment. Both about the wonderful writer and the interview(er) :-)
      ZQ

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  14. Excellent interview again, Sherry. Gabriella, I especially like your poem "Manifesto." The idea of wishing that readers will hear the 'whisper behind the noise' in our poetry resonates with me. And I like the idea of writing poetry that can be understood when read for the first time. You definitely are fortunate to have so many countries (and cultures) so close and accessible. I think this broadens a person's perspective, and this is a good thing! And indeed, the Eiffel Tower is a beautiful symbol of Paris indeed.

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    1. Thank you, Mary. I do not think I could write obscure poetry, even if I wanted to.
      You are right we, Europeans, are very lucky when it comes to traveling and meeting other cultures.

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  15. Lovely conversation in here, my friends........makes me happy!

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    1. Thank you, Sherry. You are a wonderful interviewer and it was a pleasure talking to you. I also enjoyed seeing how the interview turned out on the blog. You did a great job!

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  16. I'm late coming to this, but so glad I finally made it. What a delightful interview! Of course Gabriella feels like an old friend after all the online interactions, but I now realise I knew little of her life. It's nice to find out.

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    1. PS I love the love poem! Such a perfect concluding line.

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