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My goal today, is to make you smile, like the fellow in this painting:
For whatever reason, I was curious what Wikipedia had to say about “humor.” I found this painting, with the caption, “smiling can imply a sense of humour and a state of amusement, as in this painting of Falstaff by Eduard von Grutzner." Inexplicably, my funny bone was struck, perhaps, because wiki tried to explain humor through a goofy painting?
It seems humor is difficult to traditionally define; we are able only by describing its reactions: smiling, laughing, amusement. It’s hard to say what we each find funny. I know my sense of humor is far different from some of my friends, but my sister and I are spot on. We learn our sense of humor from others, and then, simultaneously, we are amused by something no one else understands. This is intimidating for writers, because, what’s funny then? I figure, we just write what amuses us and write it well. If there is one rule for writers, it’s to own your work, something that seems especially necessary in humorous writing.
Sarah Minor is a teaching artist at Corbett Elementary, and is pursuing her MFA in Nonfiction at The University of Arizona.
It seemed like I had just stepped into my classroom for that full first hour, my heart still aflutter, consistently surprised to look out and find 22 pairs of fourth grade eyes on me at all times. We had reached the heart of our first lesson, the crucial moment in which I transitioned from a partner activity to individual writing. If the students felt unprepared or uninspired at this point, I might find myself still the focal point of all those eyes rather than focusing their energy on the empty blue lines below their chins. “Okay class,” I said, “now you get to turn back to your own desks and write your own story about an imaginary city by yourselves!” To my left, David Jurkowitz’s eyes grew wide. He locked his elbows and raised his small fists in to the air and shouted, “THIS IS MY DREAM!!” And promptly fell over in his chair, having been balanced on two chair legs during my announcement. This, I thought, could be a good residency. Throughout our semester together, Ms. Pierson’s 4th grade class impressed me with their grasp of unique voices, their deep, dark tales and creatures, and the sharp honesty of their first nonfiction stories. They really were my dream, too.
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.
Beth 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.
On September 17, at 11:30 a.m., participants from the Hopi Foundation's Owl and Panther Project recite original work on themes of war and peace in response to Speak Peace: American Voices Respond to Vietnamese Children's Paintings, on display at the Poetry Center from August 29 to September 23. Join us!
The Hopi Foundation's Owl & Panther project will take part in the Speak Peace exhibit on display at the University of Arizona Poetry Center, even knowing that we walk a fine line when we ask those whose lives have been damaged by war to speak back, speak out, speak peace to images depicting that very aggression.
Our participants are as young as five and a few grandfathers are as old as sixty. They come from Congo, Guatemala, Mali, El Salvador, Chile, Iraq, Nepal, Bhutan, Ethiopia and Somalia. Each carries private memories of the brutality of war, some the scarcity of camps. Others still witness a family member's ongoing battle with PTSD's haunting night visitors.
When introducing Speak Peace, one woman balked. She wouldn't write about war. Done, flat out refusal. She didn't want to look at the images projected at the Poetry Center the night we introduced the project. But the images weren't all bombs and mayhem. And she will be invited to choose one with a band aid on the world, or an image where peace is already peeking out from the scarred earth. And if that proves difficult at all, she'll be asked to paint her own soothing image from which to speak peace.
Speak Peace: American Voices Respond to Vietnamese Children is an international, collaborative traveling art exhibit out of Kent State featuring paintings by Vietnamese children and American responses in the form of poetry. The Poetry Center invites you to visit this exhibit from now through September 23, 2011. On Saturday, September 17, from 11:30 - 12:30 participants in the Hopi Foundation's Owl & Panther Project will give a reading of their responses to the paintings in this exhibit. Join us.
I have no specific qualifications to address authenticity in writing as it relates to war, so let's get that out of the way. Assisting with Marge Pellegrino in the Speak Peace project has been my first experience of the kind. My students in the Tohono O'odham and Yaqui communities live with hardship, pain, and grief to a degree I scarcely can imagine, and produce writing of a rare eloquence and authenticity from that background, but I realize it isn't the same.
I even find it hard to define the slippery "authentic." We can't even say that "we know it when we see it." We may not agree upon what strikes that note in us when we read, view, or hear what we believe to be authentic. Sincerity seems a necessary component but not a sufficient one. Rarely do we hear the response, "I admire the authenticity of the piece, but unfortunately it's terrible." The authentic must capture a truth, as well, and probably artfully.
Attention Middle School Students! This summer, come to the Poetry Center for a week-long camp that explores creative writing from a different dimension. Three different dimensions, to be exact.
What in the world is creative writing in 3D?
Creative writing in 3D is when your words leave the traditional "page" and mix with the physical objects or world around you.
Why 3D? Simply put, it's more fun. But it also brings words to life in a more interactive way. The words take on more meaning, become deeper symbols. Associations deepen, visual intuition takes over.
We live in a visual culture. There's no reason our writing can't be visual as well.
For an idea of real life 3D creative writing projects, check out Heather Green and Katherine Larson's Ghost Net Project. Or these other WordPlay blog posts: Ann Dernier's Body Mapping, Joni Wallace's Poetry Birds and Tim Dyke's Interacting With Natasha Tretheway's Native Guard. For even more ideas, visit these writers recently published on the Trick House website: Pamela Moore, Susan Sanford, and Emily Harrison.
University of Arizona's Poetry Center rises up from the ground in clean, straight lines and sharp angles, all steel and glass. It is legendary within the English Department for being home to the extensive poetry library and for the authors who come to do readings. I've been at the U of A for three years and have had the Poetry Center extolled to me in numerous classes, but never knew where it was.
It's a Saturday morning in October and I'm on my way to assist with a session of Poetry Joeys. I'm a little nervous as I walk up--for a writer, I am considered annoyingly gregarious, but in truth I am an introvert with somewhat severe social anxiety. There have been many Christmas parties and other social functions which I have bailed out on at the last minute due to impending panic. This game of 'social activity roulette' adds a sense of uncertainty to every occasion.
by Julie Swarstad
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.
"I see your spider legs and raise you an octopus tentacle."
The only legible phrase on our recently-decorated banner is also - though it does loosely correspond with the crayoned-in contents of the bubble letters - nonsensical. This doesn't matter.
The English and Creative Writing Club is among hundreds of recognized organizations on the University of Arizona campus and at least a handful of special interest - that is, non-exclusive - clubs. When I was became vice president my sophomore year, I wasn't worried; I knew the drill. Mostly due to low membership, the activities had dwindled to the bare bones of annual projects - chapbook, outreach, outreach - and the weekly meetings revolved around these bones.