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Book Review

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

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

Marge Pellegrino recommends...

Marge PellegrinoMarge Pellegrino recommends...

Poetry books for children make wonderful springboards to writing. Anyone who's been to a Family Days' event at the Poetry Center has witnessed the excitement that can ensue when the just-right poem inspires original words.

Since I've only got room for ten, I'll include books I've used more than a few times because they work with students and intergenerational groups in school, library and community settings:

For eight to twelve year olds:

  • Love That Dog by Sharon Creech is a dare book. I dare you to read it and not write a poem in response. This novel in verse begins with Jack writing an assigned poem: "I don't want to/because boys/don't write poetry." Seven poems from the likes of William Carlos Williams, William Blake and Robert Frost inspire some of Jack's poetry. The result is a heart-tugging narrative with a sampling of a variety of poetry styles.
  • Farm Kid by Sherryl Clark kicks off with a list poem “Farm” and finishes up with a poignant “Moving Day.” In between, Zack introduces us to the place he loves, all the more dear for the drought that will ultimately drive him away; “I can’t look/hard enough/ can’t see all the things I need to remember….” What would you want to remember if you needed to leave the place you loved?
  • A Light in the Attic, poems and drawings by Shel Silverstein, is a classic, but viewed through the lens of recent creativity research, the poems feel fresh. Most children I know are most creative when adults don’t reign those “what if” wanderings. Conversations spun from poems like “HOW TO MAKE A SWING/WITH NO ROPE/ OR BOARD OR NAILS” is just the ticket to get anyone of any age thinking in ways that can nurture their own fun word adventures.
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Joni Wallace Recommends...

Joni WallaceJoni Wallace recommends…

1.  Alphabet Poem, Nonsense Alphabet, Edward Lear, The complete Verse and Other Nonsense, Penguin Books, 2002.

Lear’s abecedarians slyly introduce symbol, i.e. letter as sound, stage, scaffold, prop and actor in a kind of Jack and Jill tumbler. Kindergarten.

2, 3. Snow Piece and Drinking Piece for Orchestra, Yoko Ono, Grapefruit: A Book of Instructions and Drawings, Simon and Schuster (2000).

Ono shows – never tells – how to hear with the acutest ear, how to see with that same eye, how to be listener, artist, poet. Each piece is an irresistible invitation to imagine. Get the book. You’ll fall in love. Kindergarten and up.

4. Maggie and Milly and Molly and Mae, e.e. cummings, The Complete Poems: 1904-1962, Liverwright Publishing Corporation, 1991.

“All that we call the world is the shadow of that substance which you are,” wrote Emerson. Each of four girls finds self-reflection in the sea. Grades 3 – 5, particularly girls.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Review of Paul Guest's My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge

Christy DelehantyChristy Delahanty is a former Poetry Center intern, and recent graduate in Creative Writing and Linguistics from The University of Arizona.

It takes a certain attuned perspective to see "a strange maroon pelt" where a "vinyl coat in the car door" really is. Or "red math" for a digital clock. It is this propensity for the eerie everyday that lends Paul Guest's poetry a special slant. His most recent collection of poetry, My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge, offers a dark look at everything from coupons and monsters to the etymology of galoshes.

Though most of what you'll find written about Guest and his poetry pushes the sad fact of his permanent childhood paralysis as a sort of map key to his writing, such singular pointing misses a wealth of nuance. Namely, it misses Guest's ability to take imaginative jaunts to a refreshing - if absurd - extreme, which cannot be narrowly attributed to what the book jacket calls "a life forever altered."Neither can the specific but applicable shards of historical knowledge be named symptoms of tragedy; lines like "better to cover you / beside the eastern sea / with lapidary jade / fat emperors ate hoping not to die" pile in like trivia into a treasure box.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Review of The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe

Erin LiskiewiczErin Liskiewicz is the marketing and publicity intern at the UA Poetry Center, and a creative writing senior at the University of Arizona, specializing in nonfiction. She will be graduating this spring.

Marie Howe is an American poet and professor at Sarah Lawrence College and New York University. Howe was a fellow at the Buntin Institute at Radcliffe College, and also received the National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship in 1992 and the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1998. Her works have been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, Agni, Ploughshares, The Harvard Review, and The Partisan Review. She will be reading at the UA Poetry Center on Thursday, February 16.

Howe's latest book, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, merges the metaphysical onto everyday life and examines the presence of the sacred in "ordinary time," where "One loaf = one loaf. One fish = one fish." By doing this, Howe reshapes the way we look at the biblical ideas that are common to many of us. She re-illustrates the idea of unconditional love in "How You Can't Move Moonlight" and portrays a more tangible faith in "The Snow Storm." Ultimately The Kingdom of Ordinary Time asks, where is the kingdom of God on earth? What is holy? And who is a part of God's kingdom?

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Jeffrey Yang: Global Juxtaposition

An AquariumJeffrey Yang is a poet and editor at New Directions Publishing. He received the 2009 PEN/Osterweil Award for his poetry collection, An Aquarium, and will be reading at the Poetry Center on Thursday, February 2.

Jeffrey Yang's An Aquarium makes us of facts, etymologies, and politics from around the globe to create a farily realistic two-dimensional version of the book's namesake. Using an alphabetical list of fish and characters such as Aristotle, Google, and the United States, Yang structures a criticism of the worst parts of human nature on a global scale. In the context of the idea of an aquarium, the metaphor of that policy as an aquarium's acquisition of foreign and endangered species for academic benefit is not lost, and is at its clearest the final poem, "Zooxanthellae," where Yang describes the atomic tests done in Bikin Atoll in the 1940s by the United States, and the subsequent studies done on those exposed to the radiation:

"In the following years, doctors from Brookhaven National Laboratory, run by the U.S. department of energy, carefully documented the 'most ecological radiation study on human beings...'"

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Review of Practical Gods by Carl Dennis

Hilary GanHilary Gan is an Education Intern at the University of Arizona Poetry Center, and is pursuing her MFA in Fiction at The University of Arizona.

Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Dennis is noted for his use of the everyday and the everyman in his poetry. He is the author many collections of poetry, including House of My Own (1974). Carl Dennis has received many awards for poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize for Practical Gods, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEA Fellowship, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize (2000). He is currently an artist-in-residence at SUNY Buffalo in New York.

Carl Dennis will be reading at the University of Arizona Poetry Center on November 3, 2011 at 7 p.m. The reading is free and open to the public.

Carl Dennis' Pulitzer Prize-winning collection Practical Gods (2001) is a treatise on solace. He uses biblical symbolism and Roman mythology to illustrate the post-broken moment, when you have swept up the shattered glass and now your floor is slightly cleaner but you are short one tumbler in the set.  Dennis uses everyday imagery to cement the normalcy of convalescence, but the subject matter suggests a more spiritual crisis from which his poems are recovering.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Breathless Intimacy: A Review of Philip Schultz' Failure

Christy DelehantyChristy Delahanty is a former Poetry Center intern, and recent graduate in Creative Writing and Linguistics from The University of Arizona.

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Philip Schultz is the author of several collections of poetry, including The God of Loneliness: New and Selected Poems (2010), Failure (2007), Living in the Past (2004), and The Holy Worm of Praise (2002), all from Harcourt. In addition to the Pulitzer for Failure, his many awards include Fulbright, Guggenheim, and NEA fellowships. He is the founder/director of The Writers Studio, a private school for fiction and poetry writing based in New York City with branches in Tucson, San Francisco, and Amsterdam.

Philip Schultz will be reading at the University of Arizona Poetry Center on October 20th, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. The reading is free and open to the public. Join us!

The effect of Philip Schultz's 2007 collection, Failure, is an overpowering sense of fine craftsmanship and candid ambiance. With a voice plain, sure, and wholly unpretentious, he recounts smoldering moments past and present, which serve to illuminate the anxieties of family life in its varied stages. Though the title seems an epithet for "father" (both his own and the one he has become), Schultz ventures also into slices of marriage, mourns for kindred spirits of no relation, recounts the warm lamplight of one-time tenement-mates, and sings the extensive praises of canine love. In a sustained breathless intimacy, failure spans decades and coastlines ― with the New York's '70s and 2001 most heavily represented ― and oscillates between emotional insufficiency and utter wonder.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Light Does Not Warm: A Review of Joni Wallace's Blinking Ephemeral Valentine

Elizabeth FalconElizabeth Falcón is an MFA poetry student at the University of Arizona. She is also the Education Intern at the UA Poetry Center and maintains the Poetry Center's education blog, WordPlay. She is a TPAC rostered teaching artist and has taught several residencies at Corbett Elementary School in Tucson. In addition to pursuing her own writing, she aspires to help children fall in love with poetry as a teaching artist in the schools.

Mary Jo Bang will be reading with Joni Wallace at the Poetry Center on October 6, 2011 at 7 p.m. at the University of Arizona Poetry Center.  Joni Wallace will be leading a shop talk on Mary Jo Bang's work on October 4 at 6 p.m. prior to the Oct 6. reading. Both events are free and open to the public. Join us! To read an interview between Mary Jo Bang and Joni Wallace, click here.

Joni Wallace's debut poetry collection, Blinking Ephemeral Valentine (Four Way Books, 2011), was selected by Mary Jo Bang for the 2009 Levis Prize. Joni grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and earned her MFA from the University of Montana. She lives in Tucson and is currently working on a series of poems tracking the migration paths of mule deer.

Joni Wallace's Blinking Ephemeral Valentine is one of those rare books that haunts the reader afterwards with its language, mood, and images. The poems are assemblages of lists, sounds, objects and they feel conscious of their craftedness, their objectification, artifacts for a reader to examine and dissect. Flashes of landscapes with odd collections of things from modern life--sequins, red cups, Lite Brite, boulevards, pigeons. Love blinking on and off in the cold slush of winter. Just enough narrative to grasp the moment. Anaphoric echoes. Eerie pulses of quiet and disquiet.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011
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