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The power plants are breaking
its thorns are breaking
its leaves are breaking
the plates go up and down
one plate goes on the other
one plate turns on another
(that makes an earthquake)
the salamis are going up and down
this is the ocean I'm drawing
an island that only has salt water
salt water salt water
maybe I could visit Japan
if I don't die
--Willow Falcón, age 4
by Logan Phillips
We always suspected that it would be a success, but we had no idea just how successful it would be. This year, the Tucson Youth Poetry Slam (TYPS) went from non-existence to a monthly attendance of over 115 people. In total, over 50 poets from 10 different high schools have participated.
But more important than the numbers--either these statistics or the scores given by the judges during the slam--is the fact that for the first time a city-wide community has formed of youth interested in poetry and spoken word. During the last two slams of the season, we noticed that participants began to care a lot less about what school they were representing and a lot more about the TYPS both as an event and as a movement. The poets show a genuine will to improve not only their performance skills but also the breadth of their poetic abilities.
Here is a poem from April's winner, Enrique Garcia, 15.
by Erin Armstrong
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brain Selznick is a book that I picked up last year, and I have not been able to put down. Recommended by a friend, I spent an afternoon devouring Selznick's creative narrative and exquisite drawings, and I try to pass on this beautiful book to as many readers as I can. I believe that this is one of the most innovative novels in children's literature to date. This book is told in both illustrations and words, and this combination of art forms allows for a sensory experience like never before. Follow Hugo through the streets of Paris as he discovers more about his father's old obsession with automatons, meets a young girl, Isabelle, and works for a grumpy old man in a toy booth who has secrets of his own. Once you delve into the world of Hugo Cabret, you'll find yourself enamored not only with Hugo but the drawings themselves. Selnick brings his obsession with the cinema to life and in his words, "the book itself is filled with silent movies."
This summer the Poetry Center will be exploring Hugo and his world as we do a week-long immersive camp. Students will do writing activities based on the book, which will involve stretching their imaginations and giving their creative sides a chance to soar. If Hugo and his world interest you, come explore it with us!
For more information on the book, please check out this website: http://www.theinventionofhugocabret.com.
For more information on the Hugo Cabret and other Poetry Center summer camps, visit poetry.arizona.edu/k12/summercamp.
by Julie Swarstad
Byrd Baylor is the author of more than twenty books of children's poetry. Her writing primarily focuses on the places and people of the Southwestern United States. Four of her books--When Clay Sings (1973), The Desert is Theirs (1976), Hawk, I'm Your Brother (1977), and The Way to Start a Day (1979)--have been recognized as Caldecott Honor Books. Baylor is a resident of Arivaca.
Byrd Baylor will be signing books at the Poetry Center's Young at Art Festival on April 30th following a performance of Baylor's Desert Voices presented by University of Arizona's Stories on Stage.
Byrd Baylor is one of the most ubiquitous names in Southwestern children's literature. Baylor's stories are told in free verse that moves quietly forward, celebrating the desert and calling for her readers to spend more time listening to and appreciating the world that surrounds them. Baylor's publications span a period of over forty years, but the constant throughout her entire career is this sense of a deep and abiding connection to the desert.
Baylor's earliest available publication is Amigo (1963), a surprisingly sweet story of boy and prairie dog who befriend one another told in a sing-song rhyme. Although Amigo is very different from Baylor's usual style, Baylor's story is simple and fun. After Amigo, Baylor published several other books (Coyote Cry and Before You Came This Way) before publishing When Clay Sings with illustrations by Tom Bahti in 1972. Baylor's text--now the free verse that she would continue to write in throughout her career--uses designs from native Southwestern pottery as a point of departure for imagined stories about the people who may have created the images. Tom Bahti's illustrations were recognized with a Caldecott Honor Medal, but the book deals with the artwork at a very surface level, taking the figures as they are and weaving a little story out of them. It's worth reading, but readers may find the work a bit dated in its approach.
On April 30th the Poetry Center will host the Young at Art Festival, celebrating Tucson youth artists and local community organizations. There will be day long activities for all ages, including plays, readings, chalk artists, musicians, puppet shows, a variety of word inspired crafts and activities including bookmaking, a poetry slam, haiku improv, and food made by Blue Banjo Barbecue served all day long!
Puppets Amongus is one of many local arts organizations performing at the Young at Art Festival. Sarah and Matt Cotten of Puppets Amongus were recently featured on Arizona Illustrated. Watch their interview below!
Attention Middle School Students! This summer, come to the Poetry Center for a week-long camp that explores creative writing from a different dimension. Three different dimensions, to be exact.
What in the world is creative writing in 3D?
Creative writing in 3D is when your words leave the traditional "page" and mix with the physical objects or world around you.
Why 3D? Simply put, it's more fun. But it also brings words to life in a more interactive way. The words take on more meaning, become deeper symbols. Associations deepen, visual intuition takes over.
We live in a visual culture. There's no reason our writing can't be visual as well.
For an idea of real life 3D creative writing projects, check out Heather Green and Katherine Larson's Ghost Net Project. Or these other WordPlay blog posts: Ann Dernier's Body Mapping, Joni Wallace's Poetry Birds and Tim Dyke's Interacting With Natasha Tretheway's Native Guard. For even more ideas, visit these writers recently published on the Trick House website: Pamela Moore, Susan Sanford, and Emily Harrison.
When I signed up for Laynie Browne's "At the Intersection of Teaching and Writing" course at the University of Arizona, I didn't expect to fall in love with teaching. I thought I would get a fun elective credit toward my Creative Writing degree and get to work with cute kids in the process. The course has forced me to reevaluate this notion of teaching poetry as a fun pastime, and to consider teaching as a career. I have never been so taken aback by my reaction to a college course, and I have never felt so passionately about an assignment. Working towards a residency has been extremely fulfilling, and interacting with a classroom of second graders has been nothing short of world changing. As a writer, it is so easy to forget why I do what I do. Aren't I just trying to get a degree? But, as it turns out, I am after so much more, and it took the talents of seven year old children to remind me of that.
Every time I visited Ms. Dunn's second grade classroom, I remembered why I fell in love with writing in the first place, and why it's not just work, but art that has the power to change the world, or at least my small part in it. I was astounded by the raw artistic talent that second graders possess, and the absolute confidence with which they put forth this talent into writing that is shockingly beautiful. They don't have the same inhibitions that adults have, and their writing is full of vulnerability, but also an incredible assuredness. They know their imaginations to be the truth, and I have yet to witness one of Ms. Dunn's writers second guess themselves after putting pencil to paper. What they produce is full of personality and life, a part of their limitless inner self set to words. Their confidence inspired me to find my own, and their pure delight at creating poetry helped me recreate my own love for something that was rapidly becoming just a major, a subject that I took classes in so I could earn a diploma. Because of this, I am tremendously excited to work with second graders next semester as I begin teaching, and my only worry is that I won't be able to give them as much as they will teach me.
Congratulations to the Southern Arizona Poetry Out Loud Semi-Finalists: Steffi McNerney of St. Gregory College Preparatory School, Naomi Blackwell of Tucson High Magnet School, and Samantha Neville of Tucson High Magnet School!
Steffi, Naomi, and Samantha competed with 10 other high school students at the Poetry Center on March 3rd to secure their semi-finalist standing. All three ladies now move on to the State Finals Competition on Wednesday, March 16th from 7-9 p.m. in Phoenix, AZ. For more details about this performance visit www.azarts.gov/pol.
University of Arizona's Poetry Center rises up from the ground in clean, straight lines and sharp angles, all steel and glass. It is legendary within the English Department for being home to the extensive poetry library and for the authors who come to do readings. I've been at the U of A for three years and have had the Poetry Center extolled to me in numerous classes, but never knew where it was.
It's a Saturday morning in October and I'm on my way to assist with a session of Poetry Joeys. I'm a little nervous as I walk up--for a writer, I am considered annoyingly gregarious, but in truth I am an introvert with somewhat severe social anxiety. There have been many Christmas parties and other social functions which I have bailed out on at the last minute due to impending panic. This game of 'social activity roulette' adds a sense of uncertainty to every occasion.
by Julie Swarstad
Kazim Ali is a poet, novelist, essayist, and founding editor of Nightboat Books. He is the author of three volumes of poetry and two novels, including The Far Mosque (2005), The Disappearance of Seth (2009), and Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities (2009). Ali is an assistant creative writing professor at Oberlin College in addition to teaching for the Stonecoast MFA program.
Ana Božičević was born in Zagreb, Croatia in 1977. She emigrated to NYC in 1997. Her first book of poems is Stars of the Night Commute (2009), a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Her fifth chapbook, Depth Hoar, will be published by Cinematheque Press in 2010. With Amy King, Ana co-curates The Stain of Poetry reading series in Brooklyn. She works at the Center for the Humanities of The Graduate Center, CUNY.
The Next Word in Poetry program was initiated in 2003 to present emerging poets whose work heralds a dynamic new era in contemporary poetry. In February 2011 the Poetry Center presents two pairs of New Word poets to read and engage in conversation with one another concerning their literary interests and influences. Kazim Ali and Ana Božičević will read at the UA Poetry Center on Thursday, February 24 at 8 p.m.