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How to Master "Overall Performance": Don't

The Poetry Out Loud Semi-Finals are just around the corner this Saturday, March 2nd at 1 p.m. at the Poetry Center. The event is free and open to the public. In anticipation of the big event, Poetry Center intern and Poetry Out Loud coach, Hilary Gan, shares her insight about how students can prep for performance.

On the Poetry Out Loud evaluation scorecard, there is this very nebulous category called “Overall Performance.”  This is further elaborated in their tips section as: “the degree to which the performance becomes more than the sum of its parts.”  As a Poetry Out Loud coach, I didn’t even touch this category until recently—until after the school competitions, as the two students from each school prepare for semifinals.  And suddenly, when the most talented performers at each school realize that they are up against the most talented performers from each school, it becomes the most important.  What I think “overall performance” truly boils down to is the performer’s emotional connection with the poem, that je ne sais quoi  that is the artist’s love for the art.

So how do you bring it out?

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Book Review: The Phantom Tollbooth

Family Days is this Saturday, February 16th from 10 a.m.-1p.m at the Poetry Center. And this Saturday's Family Day's book club feature is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Students do not need to read the book prior to the book club to participate, but if you'd like a preview, check out Wordplay blog volunteer Jeannie Wood's book review of the classic children's tale. Enjoy!

While The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster is full of basic ideas of appreciating one’s surroundings and people, the book is written in such a fun and pun-ful way that it can make anyone re-think the words used in daily speech.

When Milo comes home from another boring day at boring school, he finds a box in the middle of his room: “FOR MILO, WHO HAS PLENTY OF TIME,” it reads. Milo is a very bored boy who doesn’t take interest or meaning in much of anything. This strange box begins Milo’s adventure. Literally, by way of the tollbooth, he drives right on through in his toy car, after paying his fee (of course). Milo enters a new world where people grow down, and not up; people buy letters for words at the market instead of food or trinkets; they mine for numbers which are more valuable than rubies.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Rhyme rode the bike

Poetry can be found in the most mundane, every day objects: a water bottle, a post-it note, an envelope. If we look deep enough, peaking into nooks and crannies, we can find beauty in everything. The following poems are a testament to this point. Check out these poems from youth at Family Days, and then try writing one yourself at our next Family Days this Saturday, February 16th from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. In addition to fun writing activities, we'll have a art activities, yoga, dance, typewriters, storytelling, games, and a Book Club featuring The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. See you there!

The Bike

The bike traveled to Texas
and then it saw the sea
and it reminded it of San Diego
The Rope tied around the bike
and at the top, there was a machine
that pulled up anything.
There was a person named Rhyme
who rode on the bike.
Rhyme rode the bike all the
way back to Tucson.


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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Simmons Buntin Recommends

Simmons BuntinYou might think that, as a father of two teenagers, I’d have a good handle on the books that have influenced these vibrant young women, and I could simply list those here. They are both voracious readers, after all, and my wife and I read aloud to them nightly for years. But making any kind of assumptions about teenagers can be tricky, alas, and so (with one or two exceptions) the books I list below are instead the ones that most influenced me as a young adult, predominantly in high school and college.

Early on, two books helped define what I call my environmental ethic: the sense of who I am in the context of landscape, and the passionate pursuit of preserving natural places (and, subsequently, building responsibly in places). The first was assigned the summer before I attended college by an honors biology professor, the second in my first college course on wildlife biology:

Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, by Edward Abbey

No other single book of prose or poetry has activated my passion for saving wilderness, not to mention my devious inner nature, as desert curmudgeon Edward Abbey’s 1966 memoir about spending a year at Utah’s Arches National Monument. I return to this book regularly, much to my wife’s chagrin, as it makes me want to head off to the Canyonlands, call with the coyotes, share ghost stories with a night circle of lizards.

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Miniatures at Family Days!

Last Saturday, the Poetry Center, the Tucson Museum of Art, and the Mini-Time Machine Museum of Miniatures teamed up in a big way. We kicked off our first Family Days of the Spring 2013 season with a miniature themed extravaganza! Using paint, mini canvass boards, and Q-tips, Stefani Hewitt, Tucson Museum of Art intern, led the students in creating mini pointillist paintings:


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Friday, February 1, 2013

Finding Family in Voca

Family: tender and terrorizing. Love. They are everything; they are shaping; they are absent. The most interesting collection of humans at our fingertips, fascinating, beautiful, curious, mysterious (how do we stay together?). I've always found fine boundaries when writing about family; how much is our own story, and how much is theirs? So, in search of an answer, I roamed voca and encountered a collection of nonfiction and poetry handling family; some biological, some full of hindsight, some full of desire for their own to-be-developed family, and some dreaming of a kinglier reality.

Roger Bonair-Agard -- "A Time of Polio" describes walking trips the narrator takes to his Uncle's home to drop off meals and how he picks up a drink on the way home. It's a poem of another time, and it explores what this time of polio means. (I think I've funneled you to Roger's work before, but this one is good and shouldn't be passed up.) http://voca.arizona.edu/index/php?reading_id=454

Beth Alvarado -- Check out any of her "Parts" series from her memoir, Anthropologies. I particularly liked "Part Two: 18" about a "very old, very tired 18" with a wall.

Rusty Morrison -- "Please advise stop..." An elegic collection of her father's death, and more. Her whole reading deals with her parents and husband, and she speaks often of form.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Family Days writing

Our next Family Days is just around the corner on Saturday, January 26th from 10:00-1:00 p.m. Family Days is a Saturday open-house for youth of all ages and their families featuring Poetry Joey’s workshops for infants through ten year olds. Once a month, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the stacks of the center will be open to youth writing, games, storytelling, creative movement activities, and other poem happenings designed to inspire youth and their families to explore the world around them with language. For more information on Family Days, please check out our website.

Below are some poems written by youth at last Fall's Family Days. Check out how the students write fresh poems, based off of the first lines from famous and familiar poems. Enjoy!

Once upon a midnight dreary

Once upon a midnight dreary
I was in the snow and you
were right beside me.
We were having a lot of fun.
It was a midnight dreary.


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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book Review: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

At our next Family Days on Saturday, January 26th, our Book Club for 11 + feature will be The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. Book Club participants need not read the book in order to participate, but for those who are interested, the book is currently for sale at the Poetry Center, and will also be on sale the day of the event. Check out our website for more information.

The scenario is familiar and simple: a toy rabbit gets lost. It's a plot that reminds me of some of my favorite Pixar movies, like Toy Story and Finding Nemo. And of course it's reminsicent, too, of The Velveteen Rabbit. But what Kate DiCamillo writes in The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane digs deeper, tugs harder, and gets darker. With amazing imagery, strong characterization, emotional honesty, and instructive morals, DiCamillo creates a world that's not so different from our own: beautiful and harsh, but ultimately one in which hope wins out in the end.

Edward Tulane isn't your typical toy rabbit. He's not some warm, velvety creature stuffed with love, but is instead "almost entirely made of china," except for his ears and tail, which are made of real rabbit fur. And he isn't personified as some lovable little guy, at least not at first. Instead he's kind of snotty: he "felt himself to be an exceptional specimen." Initially, he's not dressed in cute, laidback overalls, but instead in "handmade silk suits, custom shoes fashioned from the finest leather...and has a gold pocket watch." And it's no wonder, as he comes from a very wealthy family. His owner is the sweet Abilene Tulane, who "thought almost as highly of Edward as Edward thought of himself." But the problem with their relationship is that Edward doesn't reciprocate this love. He's not a good listener: "in truth, he was not very interested in what people had to say."

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Interview with Poetry Out Loud State Champion: Joshua Furtado

Joshua FurtadoJoshua Furtado, a recent Tucson High graduate, made it all the way to the National Poetry Out Loud finals in Washington D.C. this past May, where he represented the state of Arizona. Poetry Out Loud is a contest that encourages the nation's youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage. Josh graciously agreed to an interview with Wordplay to discuss his Poetry Out Loud experience.

When/how did you first hear about the Poetry Out Loud program? Who were your teachers that got you involved in POL?

The first time I was exposed to Poetry Out Loud was during my sophomore year. I competed in Kurt Garbe's class (the POL program director at Tucson High School), but didn't make it past the class level. Then, senior year, I had Merle McPheeters for English, who pushed me through to the school-wide competition.

Do you have a history/background with performance? Does performance come naturally to you?

I'd always wanted to be a performer, but didn't get over my stage fright until the summer before my freshman year. I've been pursuing acting very seriously ever since, performing on stage and in student films. Thankfully, performing comes naturally to me now.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Guest Blogger: Amy Briseño

Amy BrisenoNew Year's resolutions are something I never really resolved to make. Considering my "New Year" is a different time of year than it is for everyone else, I never really considered December 31st such a big deal. The only thing that always catches my attention, besides the obvious hard to miss fireworks, giant disco balls, etc., is everyone else's resolve to do a 180 for the year ahead. But if every year we all do a 180, we'd all be doing 360's every other year and never really change anything. Looking forward to the big picture is always admirable, but I like to think that it's just as important if not more so to also be able to look back. If we can see where we got lost along the way, it only helps our resolve to change directions in our lives with purpose. Which, personally, I think beats going in circles.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013
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