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adoten's blog

Storm Poem

This is a poem came out of the most recent Poetry Joeys workshop taught by Joni Wallace. Poetry Joeys is part of the University of Arizona Poetry Center's Family Days program. For more information, visit the Poetry Center's website.

Photo Credit: Cybele Knowles

Storm Poem

The wind howls
the lightning crashes
the thunder roars
the rain pounds
the trees sway
the ground floods
the sun is gone
the clouds are here
the water gushes in my boots
as I walk through the rain
the puddles splash
the water sprinkles
the rivers over fill
the breeze softens
the lightning lessens
the rain stops
the puddles dry
the sun is here
the clouds are gone
the storm is over
the storm is gone.

-Anonymous

Photo Credit: Cybele Knowles

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Owl & Panther Speaking Peace

Marge PellegrionOn September 17, at 11:30 a.m., participants from the Hopi Foundation's Owl and Panther Project recite original work on themes of war and peace in response to Speak Peace: American Voices Respond to Vietnamese Children's Paintings, on display at the Poetry Center from August 29 to September 23. Join us!

The Hopi Foundation's Owl & Panther project will take part in the Speak Peace exhibit on display at the University of Arizona Poetry Center, even knowing that we walk a fine line when we ask those whose lives have been damaged by war to speak back, speak out, speak peace to images depicting that very aggression.

Our participants are as young as five and a few grandfathers are as old as sixty. They come from Congo, Guatemala, Mali, El Salvador, Chile, Iraq, Nepal, Bhutan, Ethiopia and Somalia. Each carries private memories of the brutality of war, some the scarcity of camps. Others still witness a family member's ongoing battle with PTSD's haunting night visitors.

When introducing Speak Peace, one woman balked. She wouldn't write about war. Done, flat out refusal. She didn't want to look at the images projected at the Poetry Center the night we introduced the project. But the images weren't all bombs and mayhem. And she will be invited to choose one with a band aid on the world, or an image where peace is already peeking out from the scarred earth. And if that proves difficult at all, she'll be asked to paint her own soothing image from which to speak peace.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Improving the Taught Toolbox: A Review of Thomas Sayers Ellis

Christy DelahantyM. A. K. Halliday, a prominent British linguist, has expressed the difference between written and spoken language thus: "While the complexity of conscious language is dense and crystalline, formed by a closely-packed construction of words and word clusters, the complexity of unconscious language is fluid and choreographic." If we, like Halliday, are used to such a distinction being upheld -- in the differences between newspapers and small talk or memos and meetings -- then Thomas Sayers Ellis' Skin, Inc.: Identity Repair Poems will at first seem strange indeed.

Ellis, commenting on poetry's split into spoken-word and academic camps, stresses that his aim is "to make every line do both." And because his most recent collection is a book rather than a performance or a recording, his lines strike their reader as shockingly choreographic for their form.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Authenticity: Writing about War and Peace

Christopher McIlroySpeak Peace: American Voices Respond to Vietnamese Children is an international, collaborative traveling art exhibit out of Kent State featuring paintings by Vietnamese children and American responses in the form of poetry. The Poetry Center invites you to visit this exhibit from now through September 23, 2011. On Saturday, September 17, from 11:30 - 12:30 participants in the Hopi Foundation's Owl & Panther Project will give a reading of their responses to the paintings in this exhibit. Join us.

I have no specific qualifications to address authenticity in writing as it relates to war, so let's get that out of the way. Assisting with Marge Pellegrino in the Speak Peace project has been my first experience of the kind. My students in the Tohono O'odham and Yaqui communities live with hardship, pain, and grief to a degree I scarcely can imagine, and produce writing of a rare eloquence and authenticity from that background, but I realize it isn't the same.

I even find it hard to define the slippery "authentic." We can't even say that "we know it when we see it."  We may not agree upon what strikes that note in us when we read, view, or hear what we believe to be authentic. Sincerity seems a necessary component but not a sufficient one. Rarely do we hear the response, "I admire the authenticity of the piece, but unfortunately it's terrible." The authentic must capture a truth, as well, and probably artfully.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

What You See in the Dark: A review

What You See in the DarkYou know the scene. The actress is standing under a stream of running water. You get a glimpse of her collarbone, of her calf. You understand that she is at her most vulnerable. You worry something horrible is going to happen. And then it does.

The shower scene from Psycho has become one of the most legendary and recognizable moments in film history. So much has been said, analyzed, parodied from Psycho that you might think that there is nothing new to be explored, but What You See in the Dark is evidence that this is not true. In his past short story collections, Manuel Muñoz has revealed his stellar lyricism in prose and skillful craft of individual stories and in his debut novel, he seamlessly weaves in and out of voices, in and out of parallel narratives to reveal something about the intricate nature of human beings' motivations, desires, and fears.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Review of Barbara Cully's Desire, Reclining

In Desire, Reclining, Cully weaves philosophy, mythology, history, memory, loss, and the self into poems that flow and beckon like water. These elegaic prose poems create the effect of ocean upon the mind--they are meditative, expansive, uncontainable even as they are formally contained.

The book is organized into sections that count off their poems in numbers, like the passage of time, like breathing.  We are lulled by the counting, and could easily get lost in the vastness of the ebbing words that follow.  The section titles help us keep our bearing, guide us along a life, toward the inevitable coming to rest.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Creating Sam: A Collaborative Furniture Project

by Elizabeth Falcón

SamAs we were planning out our week-long middle school summer camp, "What's in the Box: Creative Writing in 3D", at the Poetry Center, my co-teacher Erin and I were trying to anticipate what we would do during the first half hour of every morning. We didn't want to start a lesson while waiting for the campers who might be straggling in late, but we didn't want our campers just sitting around waiting to start.

I remembered reading somewhere (I think it might have been in David Morice's The Adventures of Dr. Alphabet) about some kind of collaborative furniture project, where students were allowed to write poems on a chair.  And it gave me an idea.  What if we had a week-long collaborative project we were working on every morning before camp?  

We looked for a piece of furniture and, as luck would have it, a friend was giving away a nice old cabinet with drawers and doors and nice little nooks and crannies.  We decided that during a lesson on character creation the first day, the class, as an example, would create a collaborative character first, who would become the basis for the collaborative cabinet project during the week.  (Erin and I prematurely called the cabinet "Sam.")

We planned out short activities day by day that the students could do to elaborate on Sam, such as cover a drawer with the place(s) Sam lives, fill a drawer with objects from Sam's pockets, write a secret Sam has and fold it so no one can see it. We even had an exquisite corpse activity where students would take turns writing on the cabinet one line at a time to create a story about Sam.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Listening to Billy Collins on the Poetry Center's AVL

Adam DeLucaWhile perusing the Poetry Center's Audio Visual Library featuring poets who have read at the Center, I came across one poem titled "Litany" by Billy Collins. On the archives I was able to view this as a video and see him present the poem and how the audience reacted. Fortunately enough, Billy Collins has read at the Poetry Center a few times and I was able to see the reactions of two different audiences to this poem. In one of the videos, the audience was bawling in laughter after every line; however, in the other video you could hear a pin drop in the audience. So I guess this poem can be taken multiple ways depending on how you look at it.

Personally, if I had to choose I would have fit in with the laughing crowd. The poem "Litany" is a love poem, I guess. It starts out with a bunch of metaphors addressed to an other such as, "you are the bread and the knife, the crystal goblet and the wine." The metaphors are somewhat strange, which I guess is where the audience can perceive them as funny or not.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Frankie's Five Brain Theory

by Elizabeth Frankie Rollins

Elizabeth Frankie RollinsElizabeth Frankie Rollins' work has appeared in Conjunctions, Green Mountains Review, Trickhouse, The New England Review and The Cincinnati Review, among others.  An excerpt from her novel, Origin, is forthcoming in Drunken Boat. She is the author of The Sin Eater, Corvid Press, 2004.  She's received a NJ Prose Fellowship and a Special Mention in the Pushcart Prize Anthology.  She teaches writing at Pima Community College and fiction classes at the Poetry Center.

Frankie will be reading at the University of Arizona Poetry Center on Thursday, July 21, 2011 @ 7:00 p.m. along with the Poetry Center's summer resident, Mary Jones.

One of the things I am always trying to teach my students is that the most important tools for being a writer are already inside of each writer.  That's why she writes and what she seeks to understand and the shape of her voice resides, already, always, within her.

One of the ways I emphasize this is through my writer's five-brain theory. Just as a cow has four stomachs, each to do a different kind of digesting, I propose that there are several levels that function in a writer's brain.  Which brain we tend to operate from defines our writing style and choices about textual content.  In the infinity of books on the shelves of the world, you will find styles driven by each of these brains, and combinations of these brains.  There is no best choice for all writers.  Each brain is valid.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Reflections on Summer Camp

Wordplay blogger, Adam DeLuca, observed an afternoon of "Creative Writing in 3-D" for middle school students earlier in June and shares these thoughts.

Today was my first day observing creative writing in 3D Summer Camp for middle school students here at the Poetry Center. I'll start off by saying that even though I have only seen a portion of the camp, it is easy to see what a great time the kids are having. The camp is run in a way so that the counselor's get the campers to be active and involved no matter what the activity is, if it is discussion, presentation or an art project. Collaboration between the campers is also a key part of the camp. Not only do the exciting projects get the kids working, but they get them working together. In the camp today they were discussing symbols in our world, such as symbols in books they have read or even pictures of graffiti in our cities. They considered how these symbols can be used as metaphors or be seen in many different ways. They discussed a picture of a peace sign spray painted over a one way road sign and threw out ideas about what it might stand for. Some said that it may mean that peace shouldn't be a one way street, where as others took it as peace is the only way to go. Later one camper drew a symbol on a white board and then everyone else came and added something to the symbol. The symbol grew and grew with each addition and ended up being a hilarious picture of some creature with pony tails. They then were able to talk about how the drawing was affected by new additions. The constant interaction between the kids and the counselors kept the brainstorming going and really sparked the creativity in the kids. At one point the kids were given envelopes with symbols in them and the object was to write down as many things in one minute that were the opposite of what that symbol may stand for. These types of activities cause the campers to think out of the box and spark creativity with their work while still being able to have a good time.

--Adam DeLuca

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011
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