A bit of catching up

First of all, last night I went to Martfű (about half an hour away by train) to see a gala folk dance performance featuring the Tisza Táncegyüttes and several other groups. Two of my students and a former student were in it; they have been dancing for years, and you can see their love and expertise. They put so much zest, skill, and care into each gesture, each step, each syllable of the songs (they are often singing and dancing at the same time) that I couldn’t help getting caught up in the joy. The performers (in different groups) ranged from about 5 to 50. With the dancers in their late teens, you could see their work and talent taking distinctive form. They know how to work together, but each has a particular personality that comes out through the dances.

The week has been a bit of a whirlwind. Monday was the Shakespeare festival, a rousing success. That evening, my cats escaped through the window (the screen popped open and rolled upward while I had fallen asleep at my desk and actually fallen from the chair). I retrieved Sziszi right away but couldn’t manage to get Dominó, although I spotted him many times that night. The next day was my birthday, and while I sat outside early in the morning and late at night, I didn’t see him at all. On Wednesday night, my neighbor and I saw him, but he wouldn’t let me come close. On Thursday I went out with his favorite treat, chicken ham, and he came out from under a car to me and cuddled against me when I picked him up. He seemed delighted to be back home; he rolled over and over.

On Wednesday, for the professional development week, I gave a demo lesson (observed by two colleagues) in which my students and I read and discussed Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “The Fish.” My colleagues were duly impressed by my students’ ability to understand and talk about this complex poem in such a short time. We began by looking at the first and last lines (“I caught a tremendous fish”; “And I let the fish go.”). I told them, “So our goal is to figure out how the poem goes from here to there.” We considered the vocabulary closely, looking not only at the meanings of the words but at their role in the poem. At the end, I asked my students to connect the poem, in any way they saw fit, with Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo” (which they had already read); not only did they have a lot to say (a student pointed out that Rilke’s “You must change your life” actually happens—the changed life, that is—in Bishop’s poem), but just when I thought we had brought an end to the discussion, a student had more to say: she pointed out how, in Rilke’s poem, the speaker perceives the beauty of the torso right away, whereas in “The Fish,” it’s a gradual perception that ultimately becomes so overwhelming that the speaker has no regrets when she lets the fish go.

All week I was working on an exciting translation project that I finished today. It will be released soon, and I will say more about it then.

Speaking of translations, my translation of Sándor Jászberényi’s story “Nyugati történet” (“A Western Tale”) was published yesterday in the Spring 2023 issue of BODY. That’s the first of my Jászberényi translations to be published, as far as I know. In 2021 I translated his story collection A varjúkirály (King of the Crows); this is one of the stories. The translated book will find a publisher before long, I think.

I will leave off with some photos taken in the past few weeks.

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1 Comment

  1. The high points of teaching. Wonderful.
    And the cats again. One escaping; we have one like that.


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  • “Setting Poetry to Music,” 2022 ALSCW Conference, Yale University

  • Always Different



    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In April 2022, Deep Vellum published her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.


    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.


    All blog contents are copyright © Diana Senechal. Anything on this blog may be quoted with proper attribution. Comments are welcome.

    On this blog, Take Away the Takeaway, I discuss literature, music, education, and other things. Some of the pieces are satirical and assigned (for clarity) to the satire category.

    When I revise a piece substantially after posting it, I note this at the end. Minor corrections (e.g., of punctuation and spelling) may go unannounced.

    Speaking of imperfection, my other blog, Megfogalmazások, abounds with imperfect Hungarian.

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