portrait of venice with a side of pasta
by Kara Jackson
Photo by (Handout)
Workshop Title: Portrait
Ask your students, “Has there ever been a place where you felt more “at home” than at home? Where was this place? Why did you feel that way?” Then give them time to discuss.
Read “portrait of venice with a side of pasta” by Kara Jackson. When you’re done, briefly discuss the differences between Venice and America, according to the speaker of the poem.
Say, “Think of the place where you felt more comfortable than at “home.” Simply write down the reasons that made this space more inviting to you.” Then give your students a bit of time to brainstorm.
Have your students compose a poem similar in sentiment to “portrait of venice with a side of pasta” in which they discuss their experience and feelings inside of a space that made them feel more at ease than the place they typically call “home.”
When the students are done, have them share their responses with one another.
Area of Focus: Selection of Detail
If your students are not familiar with the concept of “selection of detail,” go through the brief introductory lesson.
The following quote (provided below) is from an interview with James Baldwin. In the interview, Baldwin was asked why he decided to move to Paris, France in 1948. Read the quote aloud. Then ask your students about the allure of a foreign country to James Baldwin.
- “I was broke. I got to Paris with forty dollars in my pocket, but I had to get out of New York. My reflexes were tormented by the plight of other people. Reading had taken me away for long periods at a time, yet I still had to deal with the streets and the authorities and the cold. I knew what it meant to be white and I knew what it meant to be [black], and I knew what was going to happen to me. My luck was running out. I was going to go to jail, I was going to kill somebody or be killed. My best friend had committed suicide two years earlier, jumping off the George Washington Bridge. When I arrived in Paris in 1948 I didn’t know a word of French. I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t want to know anyone. Later, when I’d encountered other Americans, I began to avoid them because they had more money than I did and I didn’t want to feel like a freeloader. The forty dollars I came with, I recall, lasted me two or three days. Borrowing money whenever I could—often at the last minute—I moved from one hotel to another, not knowing what was going to happen to me. Then I got sick. To my surprise I wasn’t thrown out of the hotel. This Corsican family, for reasons I’ll never understand, took care of me. An old, old lady, a great old matriarch, nursed me back to health after three months; she used old folk remedies. And she had to climb five flights of stairs every morning to make sure I was kept alive. I went through this period where I was very much alone, and wanted to be. I wasn’t part of any community until I later became the Angry Young Man in New York.”
Read “portrait of venice with a side of pasta” by Kara Jackson. Tell your students to pay attention to the similarities in sentiment between the two pieces, even though the subject matter is somewhat different from one another. When you’re done reading, ask your students about the allure of Venice, according to the speaker of the poem.
Have your students open the following document and go over the instructions with them. In this assignment, your students are going to have to analyze the details of the piece and determine how they contribute to her feelings about “home” in the United States. Then give your students time to work.
When the students are done, have them share their responses with the rest of the class.
- Selection of Detail
- Children / Youth
- Community / Culture
- Death / Grief
- Food / Hunger
- Figurative Language
- Selection of Detail