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Poetry Out Loud Intern

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

How to Bring the Funny and Then Stop

Hilary Gan is an MFA candidate in Fiction at the University of Arizona, and the Field Trip Intern for the UofA Poetry Center. This is her first major foray into performance.

I chose my poem because it was funny—funny in the way that I liked: ironic and absurd and not immediately obvious as funny.  Good poetry evokes feelings, and I certainly consider “amused” to be a highly desirable feeling to evoke.  But funny in poetry is not enough, and my poem, “After working sixty hours again for what reason,” by Bob Hicok, really brings it home in the last line, when the brother who has been taking lessons from the speaker in how to get paid to do nothing, gets up and shaves, “as if the lack of hair on his face has anything to do with the appearance of food on an empty table.”

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

How Am I Not Myself? The Problem of Characterization in Performance

Laura MillerWhen I started working with “Backdrop Addresses Cowboy” nearly two months ago, I thought I had cultivated the necessary persona. I knew that I was speaking from nature’s perspective (the backdrop), and I even knew my audience (star-spangled cowboy). From my understanding of her in the poem, nature needed to be detached, yet quietly seething. She neither fears nor despises the cowboy, neither adores nor disregards him. The relationship is complex.

I took for granted that all of this could be conveyed through tone. I would simply inflect here and pause there and voila: an incredibly dynamic relationship between two imaginary people would magically materialize. What I discovered was that despite all the personality changes I imagined myself to be making, I still sounded a heck of a lot like myself. Therein lies the problem with performance. How do I become not myself?

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Deep Summer

Blake Whalen-Encalarde is completing his MFA in Poetry this Fall at the University of Arizona. He's also a poet-in-residence for the Poetry Out Loud Program.

Deep Summer. An empty campus, a silent Poetry Center. I think: that cameraman, what does he take out of taping teachers as they attempt to recite poems? Of all things he thinks: poems. If this was my poem, I would say that he closes the tripod, packs the camera in his case, and leaves with a faint aftertaste of the poems hovering in his brain somewhere between lunch and editing.

Or if this is a ruse, I am nervous. If this were my poem, I would be the ham that I pretend to be, the one calm on the dais, the one perpetually smooth in the spot light. (I have held the stage plenty; I still cannot hold my hands perfectly steady.) If this were my poem, I would always embody the words, not speak them, that meter would subliminal flow from my mouth, that meaning would shine out from my eyes. (O on a good day!)

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012
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