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Julie Swarstad

Celebrating the Desert with Byrd Baylor: A Retrospective

by Julie Swarstad

Byrd Baylor, When Clay SingsByrd Baylor is the author of more than twenty books of children's poetry.  Her writing primarily focuses on the places and people of the Southwestern United States.  Four of her books--When Clay Sings (1973), The Desert is Theirs (1976), Hawk, I'm Your Brother (1977), and The Way to Start a Day (1979)--have been recognized as Caldecott Honor Books.  Baylor is a resident of Arivaca.

Byrd Baylor will be signing books at the Poetry Center's Young at Art Festival on April 30th following a performance of Baylor's Desert Voices presented by University of Arizona's Stories on Stage.

Byrd Baylor is one of the most ubiquitous names in Southwestern children's literature.  Baylor's stories are told in free verse that moves quietly forward, celebrating the desert and calling for her readers to spend more time listening to and appreciating the world that surrounds them.  Baylor's publications span a period of over forty years, but the constant throughout her entire career is this sense of a deep and abiding connection to the desert.

Baylor's earliest available publication is Amigo (1963), a surprisingly sweet story of boy and prairie dog who befriend one another told in a sing-song rhyme.  Although Amigo is very different from Baylor's usual style, Baylor's story is simple and fun.  After Amigo, Baylor published several other books (Coyote Cry and Before You Came This Way) before publishing When Clay Sings with illustrations by Tom Bahti in 1972.  Baylor's text--now the free verse that she would continue to write in throughout her career--uses designs from native Southwestern pottery as a point of departure for imagined stories about the people who may have created the images.  Tom Bahti's illustrations were recognized with a Caldecott Honor Medal, but the book deals with the artwork at a very surface level, taking the figures as they are and weaving a little story out of them.  It's worth reading, but readers may find the work a bit dated in its approach.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Skirting the Issue: Indirection in Ali and Bozicevic

by Julie SwaBright  Felon by Kazim  Alirstad

Kazim Ali is a poet, novelist, essayist, and founding editor of Nightboat Books.  He is the author of three volumes of poetry and two novels, including The Far Mosque (2005), The Disappearance of Seth (2009), and Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities (2009).  Ali is an assistant creative writing professor at Oberlin College in addition to teaching for the Stonecoast MFA program.

Ana Božičević was born in Zagreb, Croatia in 1977. She emigrated to NYC in 1997. Her first book of poems is Stars of the Night Commute (2009), a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Her fifth chapbook, Depth Hoar, will be published by Cinematheque Press in 2010. With Amy King, Ana co-curates The Stain of Poetry reading series in Brooklyn. She works at the Center for the Humanities of The Graduate Center, CUNY.

The Next Word in Poetry program was initiated in 2003 to present emerging poets whose work heralds a dynamic new era in contemporary poetry.  In February 2011 the Poetry Center presents two pairs of New Word poets to read and engage in conversation with one another concerning their literary interests and influences.  Kazim Ali and Ana Božičević will read at the UA Poetry Center on Thursday, February 24 at 8 p.m.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Celebrating Dead Poets: Louise Bogan (1897-1970)

Louise Bogan"Let all birds feast upon the poets' bones, then sing!" - 1981 inscription by William Pitt Root on the Poets Cottage at the original UA Poetry Center

Born in Maine the daughter of a mill worker, Louise Bogan was the fourth Poet Laureate of the United States and one of the most notable female American poets of the twentieth century.  She was poetry editor for The New Yorker from 1931-1969,and she published six collections of poetry during her lifetime.  After her first marriage, Bogan began her career as a writer in New York City where she would remain for the rest of her life.  Bogan is noted for her formal style and opposition to the confessional poetry that was popular during her lifetime.  While few details of Bogan's personal life are public knowledge, her work continues to speak for itself today.  Bogan read at the UA Poetry Center on February 15, 1967.

Much of Bogan's poetry is available online through the Poetry Foundation website, including "A Tale" and "Medusa."

Several audio recordings of Bogan reading her poetry are also available from the Poetry Foundation and the Academy of American Poets, including  "The Dragonfly" and "Statue and Birds."

--Julie Swarstad

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Out of Breath: Dissociation in Morrison and Moten

by Julie SwarstaRusty Morrison Bookd

Rusty Morrison is a poet and co-founder of Omnidawn Publishing.  She is the author of two volumes of poetry: Whethering (2005) which won the Colorado Prize for Poetry and the true keeps calm biding its story (2008) which won the 2008 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets.  Her poetry, essays, and reviews have been published in Boston Review, Chicago Review, and New American Writing, among others.  She is a contributing editor for Poetry Flash.

Fred Moten lives in Durham, North Carolina, where he teaches in the Duke University Department of English. He is author of Arkansas (2000), In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (2003), I ran from it but was still in it. (2007), Hughson's Tavern (2008) and B Jenkins (2010).

The Next Word in Poetry program was initiated in 2003 to present emerging poets whose work heralds a dynamic new era in contemporary poetry.  In February 2011 the Poetry Center presents two pairs of New Word poets to read and engage in conversation with one another concerning their literary interests and influences.  Rusty Morrison and Fred Moten will read at the UA Poetry Center on Thursday, February 10 at 8 p.m.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Human Side of the Issue: Ann Cummins' Yellowcake

With Yellowcake, Ann Cummins walks a dangerously thin line.  Her story is one of disease, radiation, and cultural struggle, all issues that many of us might find difficult to write about without ending up on a figurative soapbox.  Cummins, however, never makes that error; she approaches her story from an angle that is utterly human in perspective.   Cummins walks the line between political activism and the minutiae of daily life with such grace that the reader doesn't notice the balancing act and can simply engage with her fully realized, realistically flawed characters.

Yellowcake reads like a collection of several distinct stories woven together with the common threads of family, old friendships, and long exposure to radiation through yellowcake in the uranium mills of Colorado and New Mexico.   Ryland Mahoney, Sam Behan, and Woody Atcitty are the three men whose history as workers in a uranium mill near Shiprock, New Mexico drive the story forward; Ryland, an Anglo, and Woody, a Navajo, are slowly dying from radiation-caused illnesses, and their families and friends must struggle with the guilt, fear, and loss tangled up in their sickness.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Confronting the Darkness with David Wojahn

by Julie SwarstadInterrogation Palace by David Wohahn

David Wojahn is the author of eight books of poetry, among them World Tree (2011), Interrogation Palace: New and Selected Poems 1982-2006 (2006), The Falling Hour (1997) and Icehouse Lights (1982). He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and The National Endowment for the Arts.  Interrogation Palace was a named finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and winner of the O.B. Hardison Award.  An alumnus of the University of Arizona Creative Writing MFA Progra m, Wojahn is a professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University.

David Wojahn will read at the UA Poetry Center on Thursday, January 20 at 8 p.m. along with fellow UA alum Ann Cummins.

While David Wojahn is often noted as being "a poet of witness" to political injustice and other violence, in the poems collected into Interrogation Palace, he also acts as a witness to the struggles within individual lives.  His writing is filled with moments of personal struggle and pain: the loss of his wife Lynda, of unborn children, of friends, along with all the simple, small losses we go through each day.  Wojahn writes from a place of trouble and pain, but while his topics are weighty, he charges us to look them full in the face.  "How can you turn away?" he asks in one poem.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Joshua Marie Wilkinson's Exploratory Imagery

by Julie SwSelenography by Joshua Marie Wilkinsonarstad

Joshua Marie Wilkinson is the author of five books of poetry, including Lug Your Careless Body out of the Careful Dusk (2005) which won the Iowa Poetry Prize, and Selenography (2010).  He has edited two anthologies for University of Iowa Press, including Poets on Teaching (2010), and his first feature-length film--a tour documentary about the band Califone--has just been completed.  Wilkinson is an alumnus of the University of Arizona Creative Writing MFA Program.  He lives in Chicago where he is an assistant professor at Loyola University.

Joshua Marie Wilkinson will read at the UA Poetry Center on Friday, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. along with fellow UA alumna Kate Bernheimer.

Wilkinson will also be teaching an afternoon seminar on ancient images and threads at the Poetry Center on Saturday, Dec. 4th from 1-3 p.m.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Re-Appropriated Text: Kate Bernheimer and the Potential of Fairy Tales

Kate Bernheimerby Julie Swarstad

Kate Bernheimer is the author of two novels, The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold (2001) and The Complete Tales of Merry Gold (2006), as well a short story collection titled Horse, Flower, Bird (2010).  She has also edited several fairy-tale anthologies, including My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales (2010). Bernheimer is an alumna of the University of Arizona Creative Writing MFA Program.  She founded and edits the journal Fairy Tale Review and is Writer in Residence at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette each spring. She spends the rest of the year in Tucson.

A reading and discussion of "The Contemporary Fairy Tale" will take place at the UA Poetry Center on Wednesday, December 1, at 8:00 p.m.

Kate Bernheimer will read at the UA Poetry Center on Friday, December 3 at 8 p.m. along with fellow UA alum Joshua Marie Wilkinson.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ballistics and Other Resources for Bringing Billy Collins to Students

by Julie SwarstadBallistics by Billy Collins

Born in 1941, Billy Collins was Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001-2003.  He has published eight collections of poetry, including Sailing Alone Around the Room (Random House 2001), The Trouble with Poetry (Random House 2005), and most recently Ballistics (Random House 2008).  Collins is the recipient of numerous awards including Poetry's 1994 Poet of the Year Award and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts.  He is currently a Distinguished Professor at Lehman College at the City University of New York.

Collins will be reading for the UA Poetry Center's 50th Anniversary Celebration at Centennial Hall on the University of Arizona campus on Sunday, November 7th at 3 p.m.  Tickets are available through UA Presents.

Billy Collins has been called "America's Most Popular Poet" by Time Magazine, reflecting the enormous appeal his work has for a variety of audiences.  Ballistics, his latest collection, is a great choice for introducing students to this former Poet Laureate's work. 

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Natalie Merchant Sets Children's Poetry to Song

Review by Julie Swarstad
Leave Your  Sleep by Natalie Merchant
Natalie Merchant is an American singer-songwriter who has been actively releasing records since 1982.  Merchant was originally a member of the alternative-rock band 10,000 Maniacs until she began a career as a solo musician in 1993.  Her most critically-acclaimed albums include Tigerlily (1995) and Ophelia (1998).  Leave Your Sleep (2010) is her first album since 2003's The House Carpenter's Daughter.  Visit her official website at: http://www.nataliemerchant.com/.

Leave Your Sleep marks Natalie Merchant's first foray into the world of poetry.  "I'm a late arrival to the party," Merchant said in an interview about the album as she discussed her connection to poetry.  Despite her late introduction to the genre, Merchant's latest album--a two disc collection of children's poetry set to music--is a testament to the power of language and story in children's lives.  The collection includes children's poetry from well-known poets Edward Lear, Jack Prelutsky, e.e. cummings, Ogden Nash, Robert Lewis Stevenson, and Gerard Manley Hopkins, along with a host of nursery rhymes and nonsense songs from more obscure writers.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010
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