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Q&A with 2013 Corrido Contest Third Place Winner: Iván J. Orellana

The Poetry Center recently sat down with Iván J. Orellana, third place winner of the 2013 Corrido Contest. Iván had great insight into the Corrido Contest process, from entering the contest, to practicing for the performance, to performing at the Concert and Awards Ceremony. Below is our Q&A with him. The deadline for this year's Corrido Contest is December 2nd at 5 p.m. For more details and to submit, please visit our website.

Q: In your wonderful corrido, "La Gloria," you write from the perspective of a man who leaves his pueblo, and his wife and children, in search of a better life in the United States. Can you talk more about how    you inhabited the voice of this narrator?

A: Well, first of all, I thank God I have not been through that experience in my life, but a person I admire, which is my father, did years ago. Although he did not leave a family behind, he made the dangerous journey, like many others. Another fact about this corrido is that I don't specify from which country the immigrant is coming from. I did this intentionally because the "immigrant" can be from any country, whether it's El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, and the list goes on and on. To inhabit the voice of the narrator, I had to take the responsibility of a father; I had to think like one and act like one. So I made a fusion of stories my father told me and the result was "La Gloria.”

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Interview with 2013 Poetry Out Loud State Champion: Cassandra Valadez

The Poetry Out Loud season is right around the corner! Poetry Out Loud is a national program for high school teachers and students, which seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry – recitation and performance. The deadline for teachers to register their schools is October 18, 2013. With this in mind, Wordplay asked Matthew J. Conley--poet and teacher--to interview last Spring's 2013 Arizona Poetry Out Loud State Champion. A recent graduate of Sunnyside High School, after winning state, Cassandra represented Arizona at the Poetry Out Loud National Competition in Washington, D.C. Matthew J. Conley worked closely with Cassandra, coaching her from the school competition all the way to Nationals. Check out Matthew’s inspiring interview with Cassandra below. Enjoy!

MC: What was it like representing the state of Arizona at a national poetry competition?

CV: It was a complete pleasure. On the bus headed to the auditorium, I kept thinking about all the Arizona competitors, the time that they spent and passion they gave, and it was so awesome to be representing them. In Washington D.C., I received many text messages from my family, as well as random texts from people who were watching back home. I had just seen the article in the Arizona Daily Star, and I felt VERY connected to everyone. It was an honor, but a bittersweet one too, now that I’m moving to Oregon to go to college. If I could have one more year in Arizona Poetry Out Loud, I’d take it!

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Interview with Poetry Out Loud State Champion: Joshua Furtado

Joshua FurtadoJoshua 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.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Interview with Jamie Navarette: 2012 Corrido Contest Third Place Winner

The Poetry Center's 13th annual Corrido Contest deadline is fast approaching this Friday, December 7th at 5 p.m. (this is a postmark deadline). All Arizona high school students (grades 9-12) are encouraged to apply by writing corridos in Spanish and/or English. For resources on teaching corrido in the classroom, visit our Teaching Corrido page. To enter this year's Corrido Contest, please click here.

With the Corrido contest deadline fast approaching, Wordplay had a chance to sit down with one of last year's Corrido winners--Jamie Navarrette--and ask her about her Corrido contest experience. Jamie was a freshman when she won third place in the Corrido contest last year. She is now a sophomore at Sunnyside High School. Check out our interview with her, as well as her winning corrido, below. 

WP: When did you first hear about the Corrido contest? Were you familiar with the corrido form prior to the contest?

JN: I heard about the Corrido Contest from my Spanish teacher; it was an assignment for class. I knew what a corrido was, but I didn't know there was a contest about it.

WP: Who/what inspired you to write your corrido titled, "Corrido Terminado?"

JN: My Mom helped me and encouraged me along the way. But I had gone through so many ideas, and none of them worked, so I decided to write about how I couldn't write a corrido.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Interview with R.J. Mendoza: 2012 Corrido Contest Second Place Winner

R.J. MendozaEvery year, the Poetry Center holds their annual Corrido Contest. The corrido is a musical ballad form developed in Mexico in the 1800s and originally sung throughout the country. Although still popular in Mexico, over time it became known as “musica de la frontera” (border music) because it was especially popular along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. This contest for high school students encourages historical and cultural awareness and provides students with a vehicle to express themselves. All Arizona high school students in grades 9-12 are encouraged to apply by writing corridos in Spanish and/or English.  For resources on teaching corrido in the classroom, visit our Teaching Corrido page. To enter in this year's corrido contest, please check out our website; the deadline for this year's contest is Friday, December 7th by 5 p.m.

With the Corrido contest deadline fast approaching, Wordplay had a chance to sit down with one of last year's Corrido winners--R.J. Mendoza--and ask him about his Corrido contest experience. Check out our interview with him below. 

WP: How did you (and your family) re-act when you found that, out over 400 submissions, your Corrido was award second place?

RM: We were really surprised. After I got the call saying that I had wond second place, I called up my parents and we started telling everyone.

WP: When did you first hear about the Corrido contest? Who encouraged you to enter?

RM: I head about the Corrido contest about a month or so before the due date. I was looking on the Phoenix Library College depot site and found it in their scholarship list. My parents saw the scholarship as well and encouraged me to enter, throwing ideas as to what I could write about.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Halloween Poems from Family Days

Photo Credit: Cybele KnowlesOur very own Family Days veteran, Danielle Wing, was recently featured on Arizona Public Media's "Arizona Spotlight" with Mark McLemore, reciting some Halloween poems from Family Days! Check out this link for more!

And since today is Halloween, we thought it'd be fitting to share with you some of our favorite Halloween poems on Wordplay. Each of these poems was written at our last Family Days on Saturday, October 13th. Enjoy, all ye ghouls and goblins!

Go Inside a Bat

Fuzzy felt and a flute
Tap music and a cold black
Night and an old oak tree
And Mars as bright
As the sun and a
Black light and a
Jet plane and a high
Pitch sound like a
Scream and a King
of hearts and a
Dust cloud and a key
hole and blue bells
Lightning was the bat's name
Died from a bug bite

--Danielle, 10

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Poetry Out Loud Interview: Amanda Bressler

Amanda BresslerThe deadline for teachers to register their schools in the Poetry Out Loud Competition is November 2nd. Click here to register. With this in mind, we here at Wordplay would like to introduce you to Amanda Bressler, one of the Semi-Finalists from last year's Poetry Out Loud Regional Semi-Final Competition. Amanda is a sophomore at University High School. In addition to poetry, Amanda enjoys playing the flute and acting.  She is an excellent student and is involved in the math club at her school. Amanda was kind enough to sit down with Wordplay and tell us about her experience with Poetry Out Loud, competitions, and more!

1) When/how did you first hear about the Poetry Out Loud program? Who were your teachers that got you involved in POL at University High?

I first heard about Poetry Out Loud in my English class at school. Everyone in the class was required to memorize and recite a poem in front of our class for a grade. We did not have to, but were given the option to be judged by our teacher to hopefully go on to the school competition. My English teacher was Mr. Herring, and I also spoke with Mrs. Balzer several times because she was in charge of the school competition and helped me with registering and preparing for the regional competition.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

An Interview with Beth Alvarado on "Emily's Exit"

Beth AlvaradoBeth Alvarado is the author of a memoir entitled Anthropologies (University of Iowa Press, 2011) and a collection of short stories titled Not a Matter of Love (New Rivers, 2006). She lives in Tucson where, with her husband Fernando, she raised two children. She teaches at the University of Arizona and is the fiction editor for Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts.

Beth Alvarado will be reading at the University of Arizona Poetry Center on Monday, December 5 at 7 p.m., along with Christopher Cokinos. The reading is free and open to the public.

PC: How or why did you begin writing "Emily's Exit?"

Alvarado: Several things had to come together for me to write this story. One semester I had a very religious student who would sit in my office for hours every week trying to convert me to her particular beliefs. Now I really liked this student and I knew she liked me because she was concerned about my soul. She was very smart and I found it interesting to talk to her about her beliefs but, after a while, I started wondering why she was so anxious to go to heaven. I mean, I've always wondered what could be better about heaven than earth because I find the earth so beautiful.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Conversation with Mary Jo Bang (September, 2011)

Joni WallaceInterview by Joni Wallace

Joni Wallace and Mary Jo Bang will read together at the University of Arizona Poetry Center on October 6, 2011, at 7 p.m.

Mary Jo Bang's books of poetry include Elegy (Graywolf Press, 2007), which received the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry and was listed as a New York Times 2008 Notable Book, and The Bride of E (Graywolf Press, 2009). She was the poetry co-editor at Boston Review from 1995-2005, and has been the recipient of the Alice Fay Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University. She is a professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis. Her translation of Dante's Inferno, with illustrations by Henrik Drescher, will be published by Graywolf Press in July, 2012.

Joni Wallace's poetry collection, Blinking Ephemeral Valentine (Four Way Books, 2011), was selected by Mary Jo Bang for the 2009 Levis Prize.

JW:   The character driven poems of Louise in Love, the ekphrastic poems of The Eye Like a Strange Balloon and the abcedarian poems of Bride of E strike me similarly as enactments of a disembodied consciousness: the workings of the mind set out for view on a series of revolving stages. Multiple interruptions take place - ticks and tocks, ringing phones (an effect I love), nursery rhyme chatter, trains, literary texts. Mickey, Minnie, Alice, Freud, Cher and others make appearances, influence poetic outcomes.  For me your poems function both as glittering spectacles and intimate conversations, all ultimately engaging the experience of what it means to be human now.  How do you see yourself, the poet, in relation to your work?  Conductor, actor, set designer, alchemist, beautiful fly on the velvet backdrop?     

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Big Sky Lessons

by Elizabeth Maria FalcónCotton

Kimi Eisele's blog, "Big Sky Lessons: Reflections from a traveling teaching artist in rural Arizona" is a fantastic site for teaching inspiration. A recent blog post, "Lessons in Softness" reflects on a teaching experience she had near Safford on the San Carlos Apache reservation. Students had been asked to write an animal fable in one week, and Kimi was there to guide them through the writing process. She discusses the struggle she experienced between getting students to write and allowing students to discover what they have to say through creative movement and play.

Here is an excerpt from her blog post from one of the class periods where they explored animals through creative movement:

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Monday, December 6, 2010
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