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Hilary Gan

How to Bring the Funny and Then Stop

Hilary Gan is an MFA candidate in Fiction at the University of Arizona, and the Field Trip Intern for the UofA Poetry Center. This is her first major foray into performance.

I chose my poem because it was funny—funny in the way that I liked: ironic and absurd and not immediately obvious as funny.  Good poetry evokes feelings, and I certainly consider “amused” to be a highly desirable feeling to evoke.  But funny in poetry is not enough, and my poem, “After working sixty hours again for what reason,” by Bob Hicok, really brings it home in the last line, when the brother who has been taking lessons from the speaker in how to get paid to do nothing, gets up and shaves, “as if the lack of hair on his face has anything to do with the appearance of food on an empty table.”

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Teaching "IHope" Poems

Hilary GanHilary Gan is a teaching artist at Hollinger Elementary, an Education Intern at the Poetry Center, and an MFA candidate in Fiction at The University of Arizona.

I wrote with 17 first and second-graders on Friday afternoons. It was consistently the best part of my week. Not only were the kids able to relax and take a break from normal school work; I was, too. My favorite lesson caught me by surprise--I had learned that this class had never read any of Shel Silverstein, so I picked up my favorite Silverstein poem, "Whatif," which talks about the whatifs which crawl inside your ears at night and whisper things that could go wrong the next day. I had my students read it to me, and then draw pictures of what they thought a whatif looked like; finally, I had them write poems of Ihopes, which crawl into your ears and tell you about possibilities. When Katie came up to read her poem at the end of the class, my eyes went a little leaky. Her poem was so full of the juxtaposition of small, childhood things, and the big hopes that everybody has, even adults, and she said it all so baldly and without hedging that I was very touched.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

This Fortnight in Poetry Education: National Library Week

Hilary GanHilary Gan is an Education Intern, and an MFA candidate in Fiction at the University of Arizona.

First things first:  April is National Poetry Month, and this week is National Library Week!  It's like a Turducken for poetry lovers.  Our own Alison Hawthorne Deming and Norman Dubie are two of poets.org's featured poets, along with UA-alumnus-turned-ASU-faculty Alberto Rios.

Teachers can find National Poetry Month tips for incorporating poetry into the classroom here; feel free to check out the Poetry Center's lesson plan library here.

Brad Meltzer's article on the unsung heroics of school librarians at The Huffington Post is making the rounds, and you have until April 11 to participate in the six-word story contest hosted by atyourlibrary.org.

Gerry LaFemina claims that poetry in American is experiencing another Golden Age.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

This Fortnight In Poetry Education: Poetry Out Loud, Video Performances, and Teaching Opportunities

Hilary GanHilary Gan is an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Arizona, an Education Intern at The University of Arizona Poetry Center, and writer-in-residence at Hollinger Elementary.

I was lucky enough to be present for the Poetry Out Loud Southern Arizona Semi-finals competition--I even scored a seat by the outdoor propane heater for the last half. I am a fiction writer who knows very little about poetry and who tends to favor the out-of-vogue and terribly inappropriate narrative poetic stylings of Charles Bukowski. I like it when ugly language is repurposed into something beautiful, and I like finding beauty in grittiness.

My mother is an English teacher and says that the best poems for high schoolers are the old, tried-and-true sentimental poems: 'O Captain, My Captain!" and so forth. Sentimental rhymers were the poems most of the students chose to perform.

Robert Oliphant argues in his article "Speech, Hearing, and America's 100 Most Memorable Children's Poems" that the memorization of poetry helps children develop phonemic awareness, learn multiple connotations for words, and become "civilizationally literate."  He goes on to explain that rhymes allow children to practice distinguishing between consonants, while literary devices use words in different contexts and allow students to expand their understanding of meaning, as well as expanding their vocabulary to include words that are uncommon in their neck of the woods.

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Tuesday, March 27, 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

Literature as Hypothesis

Hilary Gan is an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Arizona, and writer-in-residence at Hollinger Elementary.

Before I started my MFA in creative writing at the University of Arizona, I worked for two years in science outreach through the Arizona Science Center.   I traveled around the state, visiting schools, clubs, and libraries with our portable science kits and demonstrations, trying to spark the public's interest in science and its many applications.  I learned a number of crucial lessons, including not to chew gum when handling liquid nitrogen, but one of the more frustrating ones was how difficult it is to change the public perception of science as a field which requires a great deal of education to understand. The students were a little more pliable when it came to convincing them that they were already scientists; it was the adults that were brick walls.  I can't tell you how many times an instructor or somebody's mom would come up to me after a program and say, "That was so much fun; I wish I could do more of that with my kids, but I'm so bad at science."  If I tried to point out that they had just easily understood the basics of electron motion through copper wire or the basic functions of the digestive system, they demurred and shut down. "I just don't get science," is the common refrain of most teachers with no formal training, and it is, quite simply, not true.  You do get it--you just don't know it yet.

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Monday, January 30, 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
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