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Coming Soon

The WordPlay blog is on winter holiday. Please check back in January 2011 for more great interviews and articles about bringing creative writing into your classroom, home, and community. In the meantime, here's what's upcoming for youth at the UA Poetry Center in the Spring. Mark your calendars.

Poetry Joeys: January 29, February 26, March 19.

Poetry Out Loud Regional Finals: March 3 at 8 p.m.

Bilingual Corrido Contest Concert featuring 2011 winners: April 16

Young at Art Fest: April 30

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Language and Representation of the Holocaust

by Bryan Davis

Holocaust Education Teacher InserviceBryan Davis is the Director of Holocaust Education at the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona.

What words did victims of the Holocaust use to attempt to represent their experiences during the war?  They were faced with the unthinkable challenge of realizing (depending on when they wrote) that what they wrote would be used as a marker of their place individually, and the Jewish place collectively, in history, as they were being systematically annihilated and that at the same time, words were inadequate for representing the horrors they experienced.

Hélène Berr was a twenty-one year old student in the English Studies Department at the Sorbonne when, in 1942, she began keeping a diary in her home in avenue Elisee-Reclus in German occupied Paris.  Hélène came from an affluent family, she was well read in British literature, especially the Romantic poets, and she was a gifted amateur violinist.  Hélène's diary served shifting and overlapping purposes for her during the time she kept it from April 1942-February 1944.  At times Hélène hoped the diary would provide a message to her fiancé Jean who had fled France to join the resistance, while increasingly, as the persecutions around her grew closer and more brutal, she hoped to use the diary to "tell the story."  On October 10, 1943 she wrote:

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gary Snyder: Writing from Personal Conviction

Review by Julie Swarstad
Danger On Peaks by Gary Snyder
Born in 1930, Gary Snyder has published sixteen collections of poetry and prose including Turtle Island (New Directions 1969), Mountains and Rivers Without End (Counterpoint 1996), and most recently Danger on Peaks (Shoemaker Hoard 2004)Snyder is the recipient of numerous awards including the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Turtle Island,  the 1997 Bolligen Prize for Poetry, the 1997 John Hay Award for Nature Writing, and the 2008 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.  Snyder is a professor of English at the University of California, Davis.

Snyder will read at the University of Arizona Poetry Center on Thursday, October 7 at 8 p.m.  There will also be a Shop Talk on his work on Monday, October 4 at 6 p.m.

Although he is often associated with specific movements or beliefs, Gary Snyder above all else is a poet who speaks for what he believes in.  Snyder's writing is often firmly labeled Beat poetry or nature writing, and while both of these things do accurately describe his work, his writing never fits as neatly within these categories as one might expect.  Rather than pigeonholing Snyder within any one of these categories then, it might be fruitful instead to teach him as a poet who speaks boldly from within his own beliefs and his own ideas.

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Alberto Ríos and the Power of Story

by Julie SwarstadThe Dangerous Shirt by Alberto Rios

A two-time graduate from the University of Arizona, Alberto Ríos is a writer whose stories show us the overlooked magic of the world.   Born in 1952 in Nogales, Arizona, Ríos is the author of six full-length collections of poetry, including The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body, which was nominated for the National Book Award in 2002.  His publications also include several volumes of short stories and a memoir.  Six Pushcart Prizes, the Arizona Governor's Arts Award, and the Walt Whitman Award are just a sampling of the honors received by Ríos.  Ríos is currently a Regent's Professor of English at Arizona State University.

Alberto Ríos will be reading at the UA Poetry Center on Friday, September 10th at 8 p.m. along with Ofelia Zepeda and Sherwin Bitsui.

Alberto Ríos writes, "Science may be our best way of understanding the world, / But it may not be our best way of living in it."  The Dangerous Shirt, his latest collection of poetry, provides an answer to the question this statement makes, affirming that story is perhaps our best way of living in the world.  Ríos' poetry is story woven into verse, and his writing can be an exciting entryway into storytelling through poetry in the classroom.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Discovering "Worlds of Words" at UA's College of Education

When I set out to find the Worlds of Words collection, I knew little beyond that it was located in the basement of the Education Building.  After a few unsuccessful attempts in various stairwells, I opened a door and knew I had found the right place.  The walls of the stairwell were covered in posters promoting literacy with bright, colorful illustrations all pulling me forward into an incredible collection of children's books.

The most immediately striking thing about WOW is the sheer number of books they house.  There are books everywhere, filling shelves in four rooms, covering tables, sometimes even stacked on top of each other on the shelves in sections where there wasn't quite enough space.  This impressive collection is housed in a series of interconnected classrooms which have been converted into a library space with tables and chairs scattered throughout.  The lighting is slightly dim and the atmosphere cool and quiet, a perfect respite from the world above.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

If the Mango Tree Could Speak: Inviting Collaboration

Collaborative Poetry can push an experience and build group cohesiveness, validate feelings and foster confidence with words. My first experience facilitating a collaborative poem remains a model for my other forays into group writing.

In 2000, I was working with an inter-generational group of refugees from Central America in the Owl and Panther Program, a partnership of The Hopi Foundation and the Pima County Public Library. We started the workshop by viewing the poignant film If the Mango Tree Could Speak. The film documented youth who couldn't flee the violence in Guatemala and El Salvador as the families in this workshop had. We watched and listened as the youth in the film shared what they experienced and witnessed.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fried Water, Putty Fours: A double review of Marjorie Winslow's "A Cookbook for Dolls"

Baby Doll with ButtonsPart I: A review of Marjorie Winslow's Mudpies and Other Recipes: A Cookbook for Dolls
by Emberly Davis

This book has been rated nine stars out of ten.

Emberly Davis is a 4th grader at Drachman Elementary and enjoys cooking, writing, reading, acting, swimming, and building parachutes for eggs.

If you like dolls and like feeding your dolls and if you like cooking, baking, or boiling you would like this book. There are so many recipes. My favorites are: Fried Water, Mock Mud Puddle Soup, and Pencil Sharpener Pudding. I like this book because it is very imaginative and very nice--not violent at all. What you'll need to read this book: a good imagination, stuffed animals or dolls, some sand, some water, pebbles, leaves, and other little trinkets. Possibly a tea set for dolls. So when you read this book, I think you'll like it. If you like dolls.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Arizona Board of Regents