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You 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.
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:
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.
Joshua 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.
New 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.
This is a list of my favorite series for older children and younger adults in the realm of magic, other realities, and the richly imagined. All of these books are fantastic, many are deeply poetic, and I recommend them for all ages — I can re-read them anytime, always with wonder and fascination.
The Sea of Trolls trilogy, Nancy Farmer, 2004-2009. Along with The Land of the Silver Apples and The Islands of the Blessed, this is a brilliant quest adventure of Norsemen and berserkers, slaves, gods and ogres — an exciting, exquisitely detailed world half legend and half fantasy, complete with humor and longing and even philosophy, that should be high up in the canon of children’s and young adult literature. (Note for locals: Farmer is an Arizona native who lives in the Chiricahua Mountains. She’s won plenty of awards, but still deserves to be far, far more widely read.)
The Worlds of Chrestomanci, Diana Wynne Jones, 1977-2006. A seven-book series about a multiverse peopled by a charming cast of relatable, endearing magical characters. Written by one of the world’s all-time finest fantasy writers, the British Wynne Jones, who wrote dozens of wonderful novels and short-story collections — of which I’ve devoured almost all — before she died just a couple of years ago. Wynne Jones’ books sparkle with vigor and wit.
His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman, 1995-2000. This excellent fantasy trilogy for young adults, beginning with The Golden Compass, is in fact, like most of the books on this list, for all ages. Gorgeous and almost infinitely memorable, it’ll stay with you for the rest of your life, I predict, once you fall in love. There’s also a movie.
The Poetry Center’s Matinee program now brings poetry readings to schools. Local poets and authors, in addition to poets who have traveled to Tucson to participate in the Poetry Center’s Reading Series, are available to read and discuss their writing with middle and high school students. More than 1000 writers have read or lectured in the series, including most major contemporary U.S. poets, significant international visitors, and emerging artists. The following poets are available for upcoming visits.
Spring 2013 semester: Rebecca Seiferle, Tucson Poet Laureate, author of four books of poetry, and translator of Cesar Vallejo. Read her work here and here.
Fall 2013 semester: Eduardo C. Corral, author of Slow Lightning, winner of the Yale Younger Series Poets Prize. Read his work here.
To reserve a matinee performance by one of the poets above, contact Renee Angle at email@example.com. Please include the name of the poet you are interested in hosting, your school name and grade, and subject you teach. Interested teachers and schools are served on a first come, first serve basis. Each poet will make one visit to one school. Most poet visits are ideal for middle and high school groups. For more infomation, please visit our Matinee page.
With winter upon us, what better way to celebrate the chilly weather than with some snow poems? Check out these wonderful poems about snow, written by students at past Family Days events at the Poetry Center. Snuggle up, get some hot cocoa, and enjoy!
Snow, Snow Wonderful Snow
Snow, snow wonderful
snow. Listen to the silence,
of the wonderful snow
falling over the town,
over the icy pond, on the
mountains over the valley.
Between midnight and
daylight. Little tiny icy gems
Glitter falling from the sky.
Today, we're featuring the writing of our guest blogger, Eleanor Allen-Henderson. Eleanor was a volunteer this past summer at the Poetry Center's annual Creative Writing Camp. She has graciously agreed to share her writing with us. Below is one of her stories.
Ice Cream Dreams
This bite is about dreams
Reba Trimbolli knew from a young age that she was an ice cream girl. She lived in Tucson all her life and the many years she had suffered under the scorching heat has given her true appreciation for the cold treat. In fact, to this day, she remembers the moment she fell in love. The pavement was hot and the sunset maintained a look that was both beautiful and passive aggressive, threatening the smoldering descent of sun and expansiveness of sky. She had gotten a cone from a little shack, and the operator turned to her, said not a word, turned back and returned with what appeared to be some kind of chocolate. He explained it was a homemade creation of chocolate, three types of nuts, and the slightest hint of cherry. As she bit into the cold, she was overcome with the joy of chocolate. And that was it. Love.
Maybe it’s the cliché poet soul-disturbance, but I could hardly find a happy winter poem. One, called “Winterpig” by Denise Levertov, is the only celebratory poem of winter, or the holidays, or the cold, that I discovered. Most are ominous, like John Haines’ immensely deep voice, making the cold months of December and January feel daunting -- not like the Tucson 70 degree days we seem to enjoy in Southern Arizona.
In spirit of the gratefulness and compassion we share in the holidays, I will now share with you poems that have nothing to do with those emotions. Most of these works are extremely short, making me think that perhaps all these poets just want winter to be over -- I can’t blame them, it’s difficult to write with chilled fingers..
I guess I need a little help this month, what are some fun winter poems you have found on Voca?
Most of his poems from Winter News do, indeed, deal with winter. The wild, cold, natural winter. Cozy up to a real wood fire, a quilt, and indulge your ears in this disturbingly low, smooth, voice.