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Poetry Out Loud

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

Rocking the Mic: Logan Phillips

In case you missed the Poetry Out Loud Semi-finals at the Poetry Center earlier this month, one of the afternoon's highlights was from guest poet Logan Phillips. Check out his awesome performance here on Voca. During intermission at the Semi-Finals on March 2nd, Logan performed some of his poems, including, "So Many Names Inside This One," "Iced Love in Tucson," and "El Chupacabras Crosses Highway 86 on the Tohono O'odham Nation." From a love connection between Eegees and raspados to a tale of el chupacabras, his bilingual performances were both energizing and poignant, dynamic and daring. Enjoy!

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Friday, March 29, 2013

2013 Poetry Out Loud Southern Regional Finals Recap

The 2013 Arizona Poetry Out Loud State Finals were last night Wednesday, March 20th, 2013 from 7-9 p.m. in Phoenix. Cassandra brought the house down last night with her rendition of “As Kingfishers Catch Fire” by Gerard Manley Hopkins as she competed with nine other students throughout the state of Arizona for the championship title. Jessica Gonzales from Nogales High School and Mark Anthony Niadas from St. Augustine Catholic High School gave strong, thoughtful performances and were real contenders throughout the competition. Congratulations Cassandra! Congratulations Jessica and Mark! We are so proud of you and all the Southern Arizona performers who participated this year from the semi-finalists to the many school participants. This marks the fifth year in a row that a student from Southern Arizona has won the state title. Cassandra is now headed to Washington D.C. to compete in the national competition April 28th to 30th.

In honor of their achievements, and to recap the 2013 Poetry Out Loud Southern Regional Semi-finals, here are some of our favorite moments from the Southern Arizona Semi-Final competition, which took place on Saturday, March 2nd, 2013 at the University of Arizona Poetry Center. (Photo Credit: Jeff Smith)

2013 Poetry Out Loud winners (from Left to Right):

First place: Mark Niadas, St. Augustine Catholic High School

Second place: Jessica Gonzalez, Nogales High School

Third place: Cassandra Valadez, Sunnyside High School

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

On Tucson, Poetry Out Loud, & Class Scheduling

The Poetry Out Loud Semi-Finals are almost here: Saturday, March 2nd at 1 p.m. at the Poetry Center. The event is free and open to the public. Poetry Center intern and Poetry Out Loud coach, Laura I. Miller, reflects on what she learned from coaching students for the Semi-Finals this year.

When I first moved to Tucson in June of last year, I didn’t find much to celebrate. Coming from Dallas, I missed the culture, the food, the dedication to the arts, and even the shopping. Tucson felt claustrophobic, underfunded, and—above all—unbearably hot. I still have scars on my chest where my jewelry, exposed briefly to desert sun, burned crescent moons into my skin. 

Poetry Out Loud has steadily chipped away at my curmudgeonly attitude and opened my eyes to all the wonderful people and organizations in this desert town. It’s still true that Tucson is claustrophobic, underfunded, and hot, but the people here don’t give a damn. They’re fighters, they’re lovers, and they’re devoted to making Tucson a place where artists feel comfortable living and thriving.

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Thursday, February 28, 2013

How to Master "Overall Performance": Don't

The Poetry Out Loud Semi-Finals are just around the corner this Saturday, March 2nd at 1 p.m. at the Poetry Center. The event is free and open to the public. In anticipation of the big event, Poetry Center intern and Poetry Out Loud coach, Hilary Gan, shares her insight about how students can prep for performance.

On the Poetry Out Loud evaluation scorecard, there is this very nebulous category called “Overall Performance.”  This is further elaborated in their tips section as: “the degree to which the performance becomes more than the sum of its parts.”  As a Poetry Out Loud coach, I didn’t even touch this category until recently—until after the school competitions, as the two students from each school prepare for semifinals.  And suddenly, when the most talented performers at each school realize that they are up against the most talented performers from each school, it becomes the most important.  What I think “overall performance” truly boils down to is the performer’s emotional connection with the poem, that je ne sais quoi  that is the artist’s love for the art.

So how do you bring it out?

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Tuesday, February 26, 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

Spring 2013 Education Preview!

Matinee Poetry Readings

The Poetry Center’s Matinee program now brings poetry readings to schools. Local poets and authors, in addition to poets who have traveled to Tucson to participate in the Poetry Center’s Reading Series, are available to read and discuss their writing with middle and high school students. More than 1000 writers have read or lectured in the series, including most major contemporary U.S. poets, significant international visitors, and emerging artists. The following poets are available for upcoming visits.
Spring 2013 semester: Rebecca Seiferle, Tucson Poet Laureate, author of four books of poetry, and translator of Cesar Vallejo. Read her work here and here.
Fall 2013 semester: Eduardo C. Corral, author of Slow Lightning, winner of the Yale Younger Series Poets Prize. Read his work here.
To reserve a matinee performance by one of the poets above, contact Renee Angle at angler@email.arizona.edu. Please include the name of the poet you are interested in hosting, your school name and grade, and subject you teach. Interested teachers and schools are served on a first come, first serve basis. Each poet will make one visit to one school.  Most poet visits are ideal for middle and high school groups. For more infomation, please visit our Matinee page.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

No Teacher, No Student is an Island

Blake Whalen-EncalardeThis post is one of a series where Poetry Out Loud coaches reflect on the summer professional development session focused on enhancing poetry performance skills hosted at the Poetry Center.

To have an opportunity to gather with other educators is, for educators, par for the course. My experience teaching, particularly in my first year, was an experience of collaboration. Among the greatest advice I received that year (with apologies to both T.S. Elliot and Pablo Picasso): Immature teachers borrow, mature teachers steal.

No teacher is an island, and just as we wish our students a supportive, constructive atmosphere, working diligently to make that wish come true, when we come together as a profession, we create that atmosphere for ourselves.

When we came together this summer for a Poetry Out Loud professional development workshop, I was, despite my lofty rhetoric in the preceding paragraph, not looking forward to it. True, I was teaching no classes over the summer, and needed desperately to get out of the house, but come on, hours of non-poets discussing poetry performance. Ouch.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

How to Make the Body Breathe

Laura I. MillerThis post is one of a series where Poetry Out Loud coaches reflect on the summer professional development session focused on enhancing poetry performance skills hosted at the Poetry Center.

A friend of mine has a tattoo on each of her wrists. They read breathe in flowing script. I used to think was entirely unnecessary, after all, isn’t breathing involuntary? Oh the body is a strange and terrible thing, capable of ignoring the most basic instincts, like the intake of oxygen, when greater dangers emerge—such as whether or not you’re fooling yourself in front of a captive audience, all eyes focused on you. Towards the end of the Poetry Out Loud professional development session, I learned that it’s sometimes necessary to trick the body into behaving as a normal human body does.

The first thing you learn in yoga is breath control. You learn to breath from the base of your stomach, to imagine your lungs filling up like balloons, and to release the breath slowly, pushing out every last molecule of carbon dioxide. A study conducted in 2005, “Yoga for Depression: the research evidence,” found that rhythmic breathing and relaxation significantly reduced depression in female university students. Some cultures believe that rhythmic breathing aligns a person with the cosmic energy that created the universe, and thereby promotes enlightenment.

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Thursday, November 1, 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
Arizona Board of Regents