Founded in 1994, the University of Arizona Poetry Center’s Summer Residency Program offers poets the opportunity to focus on their writing during a two-week stay in Tucson, Arizona. Residents are housed in the Poetry Center’s studio apartment, located just steps away the Center’s renowned library of contemporary poetry. Residents also receive a $500 stipend and give a public reading in the Poetry Center’s Reading and Lecture Series, ongoing since 1962. The residency is offered annually between June 1 and August 31. Our most recent resident, Vickie Vértiz, answered some of our questions about her experience. Learn more here and apply for this year's contest, judged by Khadijah Queen, here.
Poetry Center: Why did you apply for the Summer Residency Contest at the Poetry Center?
Vickie Vértiz: I applied to the residency at the Poetry Center because it's an incredible place of beautiful resources, and to live near or in the library is a dream come true. I was also very encouraged by the fact that Natalie Diaz was the final judge. It's important to me to apply to contests and opportunities that reflect who I am as a person, but also as a writer, and someone who can appreciate the material and aesthetics.
PC: What were some of your favorite parts of the experience?
VV: The staff at the Poetry Center are phenomenal and kind. My favorite part was getting to know them, working alongside them, and getting to know all the beauties intricacies of Tucson. I was so happy to be on Sixth Street at La Indita restaurant writing poems about the problems that besiege so many of our borderlands. Also, the monsoons are amazing! I rode my bike through a few of them.
PC: How did access to the Poetry Center library impact your writing?
VV: On my first day there, I listened to writing and performance by Cecelia Vicuña, Manuel Muñoz, and read work by Jean Genet and Walt Whitman. I even got to erase some of it too. I had incredible privilege of being in dialogue with the legacy of writers I brought with me but also the ones I was yet to know. One of the most touching moments was a moment when I opened the guestbook inside the cottage. Lucille Clifton, Maggie Nelson,Eduardo Corral, and Helena Maria ViraMontes were only but a few people who welcomed me to the center in that book; It brought me to tears.
PC: What are you working on now?
VV: At the center I also got to work on my mixed genre project, Smart, a memoir about my educations and the different ways we value or devalue working class ways of knowing. One of my essays that I worked on in Tucson from this project was published this week in the Los Angeles Review of Books. I hope to visit Tucson again soon.
Vickie Vértiz was born and raised in southeast Los Angeles.Vértiz’s next collection of poetry, Palm Frond with Its Throat Cut, will be published in the Camino del Sol Series by The University of Arizona Press in the fall of 2017.