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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.
Interview by Sol Davis
Sol: As a child at a recent birthday party asked after being released from the coils of your tale spinning: "How do you remember the stories?" In other words, what is your process for storytelling?
Jordan: My process is pretty straightforward--I read or hear a story, and then I try to tell it to someone (anyone!). If it's written, I might read it again, but the best way for me to remember it is simply to tell it, as much as possible. I have a pretty good memory, so that helps. But more importantly is the fact that remembering stories is NOT the same as memorizing, as people often think. Rather, it is more akin to remembering life experiences. For the most part, people don't have to work to remember remarkable things that have happened to them in their life (or their day yesterday)--it simply happens, and when someone asks, "How was your day?" you don't think twice before telling the story of whatever happened. In the same way, if one imagines a story vividly enough (whether through hearing it, reading it, or seeing it performed), then it almost becomes like one's own memories, and simply telling the story becomes as natural as telling a friend what happened to you the other day.
Colleen Burns is a volunteer and avid supporter of the Poetry Center. She and her granddaughter Anika are Poetry Joeys regulars and they spend quite a bit of time writing together.
About writing with Anika, Collen says:
Children Anika's age (3-7) have rich imaginations and large vocabularies that can construct sophisticated stories if the physical act of writing doesn't get in the way. When children are asked to 'write' a story using an unwieldy pencil and unruly paper, this sheer physical act of writing slows down and sometimes can stop a story altogether.