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Interview by Elizabeth Maria Falcón
Richard Shelton is the author of numerous books of poetry and nonfiction, including Crossing the Yard: Thirty Years as a Prison Volunteer (2007), and The Last Person to Hear Your Voice (2007). In 1974 Shelton founded the Creative Writing Workshops at the Arizona State Prison, which is still serving prisoners and which has since served as the model for many other prison writing programs. He is an emeritus Regents' Professor of English at the University of Arizona and has been associated with the Poetry Center since its founding. Richard Shelton will give a poetry reading at the Poetry Center on Thursday, September 2, at 8:00 p.m.
Elizabeth: So before we start talking about your work in the prisons, what brought you into the profession of teaching?
Richard: I guess I always wanted to be a teacher. I think I always knew.
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 Laynie Browne & Benjamin and Jacob Davidson
Laynie Browne is the author of eight collections of poetry, most recently The Desires of Letters (Counterpath Press, 2010). She is Elementary Education Coordinator for the Poetry Center and is currently developing an interdisciplinary outreach program to connect scientists and writers at University of Arizona and in the greater Tucson community.
Benjamin Davidson just finished 5th grade. His hobbies include writing, fossil hunting and spending time with his pet rabbit, Bunny Bunkins.
Jacob Davidson just finished 3rd grade. He loves math, bionicles, mechanical pencils, drawing and writing adventure and science fiction stories and comics. He also likes to take apart machines.
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.