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Review by Elizabeth Maria Falcón
Christopher Nelson is a master's candidate and Jacob Javits Fellow at the University of Arizona. In 2009 his chapbook Blue House, selected by Mary Jo Bang for the New American Poets Series, was published by the Poetry Society of America. You can purchase a copy of Blue House at http://nelsonpoetry.blogspot.com. He is also a teacher of composition, creative writing, and literature. Click here to read Chris Nelson's recent interview with WordPlay on teaching.
Familial "troubles" are tricky to render. If the poems are too personal, they run the risk of being sentimental, melodramatic, and could easily alienate the reader. If they are too aloof or impersonal, they risk of being insensitive, not genuine, and leaving the reader wondering why s/he should care. However, Blue House is neither confessional nor distant. Nelson has crafted a meditative speaker who, even while employing the third person as a distancing tactic, manages to sustain an intense closeness to the subject--familial devastation--and a direct connection with the reader, and manages to leave the reader devastated.
Interview by Elizabeth Maria Falcón
Christopher Nelson is a master's candidate and Jacob Javits Fellow at the University of Arizona. In 2009 his chapbook Blue House, selected by Mary Jo Bang for the New American Poets Series, was published by the Poetry Society of America. He has taught composition, creative writing, and literature for several years at Catalina Foothills High School and, most recently, at the University of Arizona. His interviews with poets can be read at http://nelsonpoetry.blogspot.com.
Elizabeth: What inspired you to teach to the Poetry Center's Reading & Lecture series?
Chris: There's a history to that inspiration that goes back ten years, which is how long I've been enjoying the Poetry Center's offerings. Actually, it goes back further than that, in a round-about way: as an undergraduate at Southern Utah University I had the privilege of being in a small writing program (directed by poet David Lee) that was visited by several talented poets: Samuel Green, Joy Harjo, Robert Hass, and Leslie Norris, to name a few. During these visits I remember feeling something new to me: poetry as a living thing, as something that would inhabit the room and pass among us. These moments with living language were catalytic and quickening in a way that time alone with my favorite books was not. I remember hearing Joy Harjo sing her poems, and now when I read them, I can hear her vocal inflections and sense a poem's lilt and pulse. I remember Robert Hass's fascinating introductions to his poems; there was such seamlessness between the man and the poet that he was often well into reading a poem before I realized that he was no longer introducing it. I would draw inspiration for weeks from one such visit. So, you see, I'd caught the bug, the poetry virus.
by Elizabeth Maria Falcón
Teaching 5th grade this spring at Corbett, I had a tendency to over-pack my lesson plans. There were so many activities, poems, discussion topics, and other exciting things I wanted to share that it was often a challenge to finish the lessons in the sixty minute class period. So one day, I decided to simplify. I created a lesson plan that involved only reading and discussing one poem, individual writing time, and sharing time.
We started out by reading William Carlos Williams' poem, "This Is Just to Say." I asked a volunteer to read the poem aloud, then I read it aloud, then we talked about the speaker and the intended audience, the motivation behind writing the poem and the tone of the poem.
My students needed no prompting to know that this "apology" note was no apology--they loved how the last stanza of the poem rubbed in the crime:
A review by Elizabeth Falcón
Elizabeth is the Poetry Center's Education Intern. She is also a poet, MFA student, teaching artist, and a mother of two.
I recently sat down with my kids (ages 2 and 4) to watch the HBO Classical Baby's The Poetry Show, not really knowing what to expect. What we found was a half-hour introduction to the essence of poetry, hosted by young children, who, in addition to introducing poems from William Shakespeare to Robert Frost, also explicate the poems with accessible, insightful observations.
Matt Cotten has been working as a painter, performer, and teacher in Tucson since 1994. He taught in the College of Fine Art at the University of Arizona for fifteen years, and is well known in the arts community as an organizer of Tucson's annual All Souls Procession. His work as director of Tucson Puppet Works has ushered in an emergence of puppetry theater to the Tucson area. Matt's paintings are currently on display in the Poetry Center through May 26.