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minor's blog

A Short Story from the Family Days Video Booth!

In this clip from the Family Days Video booth a budding writer (and upbeat dancer) reads her short story for our camera!

 

 

Got something to perform for us? Ready to write, read and be active? Curious about TIME TRAVEL? Then join us at our upcoming Family Days event this very Saturday, December 7th at the University Poetry Center from 10am-1pm where we expect to greet visitors from the deep past, far future, as well as those from yesterday with a variety of Time Travel themed activities! We'll see you then!

 

 

Kate Bernheimer Matinee: A lesson in the poetry of Loneliness

"Lonely is like reading on your own."

"Lonely is like singing the Dia de los Muertos song."

 

Two weeks ago, Borton Magnet School had a special visit from author Kate Bernheimer as part of the Poetry Center’s Matinee series that brings local writers into area schools. The students had been waiting for her visit, prepping by reading and writing poetry based on Bernheimer’s books for the past month. The students came with a list of questions for Bernheimer including “Where do you write?” “Do you make the pictures?” “Where do you get your ideas?” “Who is Xia?” Bernheimer answered their questions and read to them from a class favorite, The Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair. Together, the Aloha and Earth rooms discussed the process of making the story with its author, who told them that she had gotten to read their class poems before coming to visit.

 

 

Kate Bernheimer Residency: A Lesson in Nested Miniatures

         

 

What happened to the pint-sized pig who ran across a sleeping cat?

How does a baby t-rex feel about his condensed version of Alice in Wonderland?

What does a mini panda bear scaling a California orange have to do with poetry?

 

 

This week, as part of the Poetry Center’s Matinee series that brings writers to local schools, I had the opportunity to visit Borton Elementary, (thanks to teachers Kathleen Edgars and Caroline Castrillo Pinto who hosted the residency), where the tiny characters pictured above got to mingle with a group of first grade students who jumped head first into writing activities inspired by the work of Kate Bernheimer.  

The tiny creatures here were part of a lesson plan that I developed with the help of my colleagues at the Poetry Center. The lesson was one focused on entering into the perspective of something minuscule through writing. One that mirrored some of the motifs found in Bernheimer's children's stories.

 

From the Family Days Video Booth

This past Saturday, the Poetry Center opened its doors to a hoard of young time travelers taking poetry into their own hands at our first Family Days event of the fall themed "Prehistoric."

Our visitors spent their afternoons tapping poetry on vintage typewriters, molding ancient fossil impressions, making early paper out of iron age materials, jamming at a stone age dance party, and adding their voices to live song and storytelling group. They re-energized with snacks and dove right back in to our dress-up boxes, our bucket of leaves and petals, and our stacks of poetry.

We caught a few of these rare adventurers on camera as they passed through a curtain of vines and entered our video booth staffed by UA Honors students enrolled in a service learning course in partnership with the Poetry Center. Take a peek at one of the videos from our past Family Days! We'll be sure to post more of these videos, as we gear up for our next Family Days on Saturday, October 26th!

 

 

Looking to time travel at the Poetry Center? Join us at the next Family Days for "Ancient Civilizations" coming up on October 26th!!  

Thematic Reading List: Poetic Perspectives—Understanding Others

I teach ekphrastic writing for a lot of reasons—I work ekphastically myself, I think images are a quick entry point for those new to written words, and that visuals hold flexible attention spans longer. I also think that there’s something about ekphrastic writing that flexes new parts of the brain in considering multiple stimuli, and that ekphrasis is an exercise in fostering empathy.

I came to this thinking while researching the work of teaching artist Tony Blackhawk, who uses abstract art like that of Cy Twombly to lead his students in loose ekphrastic writing exercises. In “Third Mind,” Blackhawk quotes Nancy Gorrell, who used Ekphrastic writing to help students learn about history by “entering” into another perspective. In my own practice, I’ve asked students to write from the perspective of an object in a painting, or from the position of the artist creating it. I’ve found that this practice in “entering” from a different angle seems to offer students an open-mindedness and explorative quality in a creative space that then leaks into the larger world.

This reading list is about entering that very practice—one of stepping into another perspective, and inhabiting the life of an “other” by peeking into their daily life, and seeing where you relate. I’m of the opinion that empathy is one of the most important skills an artist can develop—it’s useful across genres and mediums—and that it’s also a significant life skill. Oftentimes, it’s through the eyes of others—a flowerpot, a three-legged dog, the kid with roller skates—that we first begin to understand the world, and more fully engage with it ourselves.

Crazy to be Alive in such a strange World: Poems About People 

selected by Nancy Larrick

 

This is a collection celebrating the details of individual, unique personalities. The collection’s titles reflect the variety of voices contained in one small volume (“Hey, this little kid gets roller skates.” “Well son, I’ll tell you.”), and its accompanying photographs provide the poetic portraits with a visual accompaniment of faces across generations and cultural backgrounds.

Micro-Book Review: Flotsam

Flotsam
Illustrated by David Wiesner
Clarion Books, 2006
36 Pages
 

The summer I turned seven, Flotsam would have been the book for me.

I spent that summer outrunning sunburns at a Carolina beach. My sister and I dug for crabs, gathered shipwrecked slivers and the pinkest shells from dunes. At night, my dad told us stories in the light of hurricane lamps because at seven, though I loved words, I still couldn’t read.

My parents tried everything--fairy books, a private tutor (those of you from the 80’s remember "Hooked on Phonics?") but after kindergarten, words were still loose packages of sound and rhythm for me. I couldn’t focus them onto pages where lettering slipped like black eels. To compensate, I “read” to my parents from stories I had memorized, embellishing here, skipping words there. I turned salty pages myself, marking the storyline in pictures. Then, I started to care about the order of my words, about how each picture came into play. Eventually, I noticed that there were fewer black squiggles below than I had imagined, and in trying to match my rhythms to theirs, the sound-image connection happened. The eels floated up and into focus         one         at           a         time.

Poetry Riddles: An Ekphrastic Writing Prompt

 

Fourth grade is an era of lip gloss and neon shoelaces, 

the year when two high fives finally signify your age, a time of social reorganization, of jostling for individuality. During my teaching residency at Corbett Elementary last Spring, I was looking for a way to funnel my fourth grade students’ intense thirst for knowledge and competitive spirits into creative energy on the page.  So I started hiding my lessons in guessing games. My writing groups turned into “teams.”  Presentations of creative work happened during “finals.” This ekphrastic poetry lesson came from that time when I finally learned to use my students' need to engage with each other as a constructive structure for writing.

I called the lesson Poetry Riddles, and began it with a short discussion of rhyme in poetry. I asked the class to think of places in the world where they could find poetry outside of books. To their ideas, I added hip hop and riddles, which can both involve rhyme, but don’t do so as a rule (I generally veer away from teaching rhyme since I think it can constrict younger writers and leave their work feeling more basic and sing-songy than intended). I then asked the students if they wanted to play a riddle game, to which they responded with emphatic affirmatives.

Arizona Board of Regents