- AT THE POETRY CENTER
- K12 EDUCATION
- AWARDS & RESIDENCIES
- GET INVOLVED
by Julie Swarstad
Founded in 2000, the University of Arizona Bilingual High School Corrido Contest celebrates the corrido--a musico-poetic form unique to the U.S.-Mexico border region--by asking high school students to write their own corridos. Three winners are chosen each year by a distinguished judge, and music is written by a professional musician to accompany the corrido. The Poetry Center celebrates the first ten years of the contest by publishing Ten Years of Young Corridistas in September 2010.
The Poetry Center will hold a panel discussion by corrido experts on Saturday, September 24 at the Poetry Center. A benefit performance for the Corrido Program, featuring many of Tucson's top Mariachi musicians takes place Saturday, October 2.
The University of Arizona Poetry Center's Bilingual High School Corrido Contest is truly unique in what it celebrates. For the past eleven years, the contest has challenged high school students to learn about the corrido form and its deep connection to the U.S.-Mexico border region while demonstrating this knowledge by writing a corrido of their own. Edited and published by the UA Poetry Center, the winning entries presented in Ten Years of Young Corridistas cover an incredible range of topics and demonstrate remarkable emotional depth. They speak to community concerns, personal hopes, and cultural values, presenting the voices of Arizona's high school students at their finest.
Review by Julie Swarstad
Sherwin Bitsui is a Dine poet originally from White Cone, Arizona. He received an AFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts Creative Writing Program and has been awarded numerous grants and fellowships, including the prestigious Whiting Writers' Award, along with publications in American Poet and The Iowa Review. Currently residing in Tucson, Arizona, Bistui is the author of two collections: Shapeshift (University of Arizona Press 2003) and Flood Song (Copper Canyon Press 2009). Bitsui is a frequent guest in classrooms as a visiting poet through the ArtsReach program.
Bitsui will read at the UA Poetry Center on Friday, September 10th at 8 p.m. along with Ofelia Zepeda and Alberto Rios.
In Flood Song, Sherwin Bitsui explores "the dimming atlases of our lungs," atlases which are infused with his Dine background and a distinct sense of place that is both rural and urban with a hint of apocalypse. This sense of place is rendered in a stream of surrealistic images that rush and brim with an energetic, almost wild, power.
by Julie Swarstad
A two-time graduate from the University of Arizona, Alberto Ríos is a writer whose stories show us the overlooked magic of the world. Born in 1952 in Nogales, Arizona, Ríos is the author of six full-length collections of poetry, including The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body, which was nominated for the National Book Award in 2002. His publications also include several volumes of short stories and a memoir. Six Pushcart Prizes, the Arizona Governor's Arts Award, and the Walt Whitman Award are just a sampling of the honors received by Ríos. Ríos is currently a Regent's Professor of English at Arizona State University.
Alberto Ríos will be reading at the UA Poetry Center on Friday, September 10th at 8 p.m. along with Ofelia Zepeda and Sherwin Bitsui.
Alberto Ríos writes, "Science may be our best way of understanding the world, / But it may not be our best way of living in it." The Dangerous Shirt, his latest collection of poetry, provides an answer to the question this statement makes, affirming that story is perhaps our best way of living in the world. Ríos' poetry is story woven into verse, and his writing can be an exciting entryway into storytelling through poetry in the classroom.
Interview by Elizabeth Maria Falcón
Richard Shelton is the author of numerous books of poetry and nonfiction, including Crossing the Yard: Thirty Years as a Prison Volunteer (2007), and The Last Person to Hear Your Voice (2007). In 1974 Shelton founded the Creative Writing Workshops at the Arizona State Prison, which is still serving prisoners and which has since served as the model for many other prison writing programs. He is an emeritus Regents' Professor of English at the University of Arizona and has been associated with the Poetry Center since its founding. Richard Shelton will give a poetry reading at the Poetry Center on Thursday, September 2, at 8:00 p.m.
Elizabeth: So before we start talking about your work in the prisons, what brought you into the profession of teaching?
Richard: I guess I always wanted to be a teacher. I think I always knew.
When I set out to find the Worlds of Words collection, I knew little beyond that it was located in the basement of the Education Building. After a few unsuccessful attempts in various stairwells, I opened a door and knew I had found the right place. The walls of the stairwell were covered in posters promoting literacy with bright, colorful illustrations all pulling me forward into an incredible collection of children's books.
The most immediately striking thing about WOW is the sheer number of books they house. There are books everywhere, filling shelves in four rooms, covering tables, sometimes even stacked on top of each other on the shelves in sections where there wasn't quite enough space. This impressive collection is housed in a series of interconnected classrooms which have been converted into a library space with tables and chairs scattered throughout. The lighting is slightly dim and the atmosphere cool and quiet, a perfect respite from the world above.
by Julie Swarstad
Ofelia Zepeda is a Tohono O'odham poet and professor of linguistics at the University of Arizona. Her works include Where Clouds are Formed (2008), Ocean Power (1995), Home Places: Contemporary Native American Writing from Sun Tracks (1995), A Papago Grammar (1983), and When It Rains, Papago and Pima Poetry = Mat hekid o ju, 'O'odham Na-cegitodag (1982). She received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1999 and is the Poet Laureate of Tucson.
Ofelia Zepeda will read at the UA Poetry Center on Friday, Septemer 10th at 8 p.m. along with Natalia Toldeo, Alberto Rios, and Sherwin Bitsui.
From the first lines of her latest collection, Where Clouds are Formed, Ofelia Zepeda makes it clear that she sees the world with a preciseness of vision that few writers achieve as completely as she does. Where Clouds are Formed explores memory, experience, and myth while remaining firmly situated within the landscape of southern Arizona. Zepeda lays out her stories and ideas bit by bit in short, almost clipped statements which reveal her ideas at a restrained, thoughtful pace. "The piece of skin riding on my shoe falls," she writes, "At dusk a coyote wanders through the wash. / He picks up my scent. / It leads nowhere." Zepeda's sentences are tightly packed with just what is needed to convey her ideas in a clear, seemingly straightforward way.
What I needed, one year ago, was an easy way to put get my poems into collection form, an easy way to "publish" my poems. And Lulu was definitely that.
At that time, I was visiting my grandmother in Montana, and was having great fun, and I wanted to get my poems "published" but I really didn't want to waste time that I could be spending otherwise (since I was of course, on vacation). But it turned out to be really enjoyable, and a short process. You fill out your form, attach a document, choose the style you want it to be published in (spiral bound, hard cover, etc.), and then get to the more creative aspects, from choosing your cover to picking out your font styles.
Review by Elizabeth Maria Falcón
Christopher Nelson is a master's candidate and Jacob Javits Fellow at the University of Arizona. In 2009 his chapbook Blue House, selected by Mary Jo Bang for the New American Poets Series, was published by the Poetry Society of America. You can purchase a copy of Blue House at http://nelsonpoetry.blogspot.com. He is also a teacher of composition, creative writing, and literature. Click here to read Chris Nelson's recent interview with WordPlay on teaching.
Familial "troubles" are tricky to render. If the poems are too personal, they run the risk of being sentimental, melodramatic, and could easily alienate the reader. If they are too aloof or impersonal, they risk of being insensitive, not genuine, and leaving the reader wondering why s/he should care. However, Blue House is neither confessional nor distant. Nelson has crafted a meditative speaker who, even while employing the third person as a distancing tactic, manages to sustain an intense closeness to the subject--familial devastation--and a direct connection with the reader, and manages to leave the reader devastated.
Collaborative Poetry can push an experience and build group cohesiveness, validate feelings and foster confidence with words. My first experience facilitating a collaborative poem remains a model for my other forays into group writing.
In 2000, I was working with an inter-generational group of refugees from Central America in the Owl and Panther Program, a partnership of The Hopi Foundation and the Pima County Public Library. We started the workshop by viewing the poignant film If the Mango Tree Could Speak. The film documented youth who couldn't flee the violence in Guatemala and El Salvador as the families in this workshop had. We watched and listened as the youth in the film shared what they experienced and witnessed.
Interview by Elizabeth Maria Falcón
Christopher Nelson is a master's candidate and Jacob Javits Fellow at the University of Arizona. In 2009 his chapbook Blue House, selected by Mary Jo Bang for the New American Poets Series, was published by the Poetry Society of America. He has taught composition, creative writing, and literature for several years at Catalina Foothills High School and, most recently, at the University of Arizona. His interviews with poets can be read at http://nelsonpoetry.blogspot.com.
Elizabeth: What inspired you to teach to the Poetry Center's Reading & Lecture series?
Chris: There's a history to that inspiration that goes back ten years, which is how long I've been enjoying the Poetry Center's offerings. Actually, it goes back further than that, in a round-about way: as an undergraduate at Southern Utah University I had the privilege of being in a small writing program (directed by poet David Lee) that was visited by several talented poets: Samuel Green, Joy Harjo, Robert Hass, and Leslie Norris, to name a few. During these visits I remember feeling something new to me: poetry as a living thing, as something that would inhabit the room and pass among us. These moments with living language were catalytic and quickening in a way that time alone with my favorite books was not. I remember hearing Joy Harjo sing her poems, and now when I read them, I can hear her vocal inflections and sense a poem's lilt and pulse. I remember Robert Hass's fascinating introductions to his poems; there was such seamlessness between the man and the poet that he was often well into reading a poem before I realized that he was no longer introducing it. I would draw inspiration for weeks from one such visit. So, you see, I'd caught the bug, the poetry virus.