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poetry

Thematic Reading List: Monsters!

Jabberwocky
Written by Lewis Carroll
Illustrated by Graeme Base
Harry N. Abrams, 1989
32 pages

Graeme Base's take on this classic poem is eye-poppingly good. His pop-up book rendition of Jabberwocky fire-breathes new life into the old tale. The paper cut-out are layered three times, each time with new imagery and scene. This triple-imagery creates not only more complex imagery, but also more layering to the poem, as it were. Base's vision of the Jabberwocky seems more absurd than scary, but, seeing as this is a children's book, that's probably a good idea. That said, with bulging eyes and a huge orange beak, with sharp white fangs and repitalian claws, Base does in fact create a monster. But alas: we forgot the language! I forgot how lively and interesting, how sound based and folly based is his language. It's a treat for the ears:

 

 

 

'Twas briilig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were teh borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The fruminous Bandersnatch!"

 

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Kate Bernheimer Residency: A Lesson in Nested Miniatures

         

 

What happened to the pint-sized pig who ran across a sleeping cat?

How does a baby t-rex feel about his condensed version of Alice in Wonderland?

What does a mini panda bear scaling a California orange have to do with poetry?

 

 

This week, as part of the Poetry Center’s Matinee series that brings writers to local schools, I had the opportunity to visit Borton Elementary, (thanks to teachers Kathleen Edgars and Caroline Castrillo Pinto who hosted the residency), where the tiny characters pictured above got to mingle with a group of first grade students who jumped head first into writing activities inspired by the work of Kate Bernheimer.  

The tiny creatures here were part of a lesson plan that I developed with the help of my colleagues at the Poetry Center. The lesson was one focused on entering into the perspective of something minuscule through writing. One that mirrored some of the motifs found in Bernheimer's children's stories.

 

From the Family Days Video Booth: Part 2

On September 28th, the Poetry Center opened its doors to celebrate the first Family Days of the Fall 2013 season.

For this "Pre-historic" themed Family Days, we welcomed a hoard of young time travelers, who took poetry into their own hands with a variety of fun and exciting activities: they  tapped out poetry on vintage typewriters, molded ancient fossil impressions, made early paper out of iron age materials, jammed at a stone age dance party, and added their voices to live songs and storytelling groups. They re-energized with snacks and dove right back in to our dress-up boxes, our bucket of leaves and petals, and our stacks of poetry.

We caught a few of these rare adventurers on camera as they passed through a curtain of vines and entered our video booth staffed by UA Honors students enrolled in a service learning course in partnership with the Poetry Center. Take a peek at one of the videos from our past Family Days! We'll be sure to post more of these videos, as we gear up for our next Family Days on Saturday, October 26th!

Looking to time travel at the Poetry Center? Join us at the next Family Days for "Ancient Civilizations" coming up on October 26th!!

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Micro-Book Review: Skippyjon Jones

Skippyjon Jones
Judy Schachner
Dulton Children’s Books, 2003
32 pages

Judy Schachner’s Skippyjon Jones might be one of the most delightful children’s stories I’ve read in the past year. The story cinematically comes to life on the page. The narrative surprises you, takes you on Skippy’s make-believe adventures, which are wildly playful and push the boundaries of play and imagination. With Skippyjon, there’s no telling just how crazy and fun the journey might be.

What’s most notable about this story is the attention to language, particularly in the form of its bilingual narrative. When Skippyjon jumps into his closet, he jumps into another world. In this story, it’s Mexico. And in this story, he is a Siamese cat, but by the power of his imagination, he transforms into a Chihuahua! When he travels down a long, dusty road in Mexico, he comes across a "mysterioso band of Chihuahuas” called the Chimichangos. Skippyjon renames himself El Skippito, and when he approaches the pack of dogs, they ask him:

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

From the Family Days Video Booth

This past Saturday, the Poetry Center opened its doors to a hoard of young time travelers taking poetry into their own hands at our first Family Days event of the fall themed "Prehistoric."

Our visitors spent their afternoons tapping poetry on vintage typewriters, molding ancient fossil impressions, making early paper out of iron age materials, jamming at a stone age dance party, and adding their voices to live song and storytelling group. They re-energized with snacks and dove right back in to our dress-up boxes, our bucket of leaves and petals, and our stacks of poetry.

We caught a few of these rare adventurers on camera as they passed through a curtain of vines and entered our video booth staffed by UA Honors students enrolled in a service learning course in partnership with the Poetry Center. Take a peek at one of the videos from our past Family Days! We'll be sure to post more of these videos, as we gear up for our next Family Days on Saturday, October 26th!

 

 

Looking to time travel at the Poetry Center? Join us at the next Family Days for "Ancient Civilizations" coming up on October 26th!!  

Thematic Reading List: Lil' Critters

Crickwing
Written and Illustrated by Janell Cannon
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2005
48 pages

What happens when a crooked-winged cockroach, who moonlights as a skilled sculptor, gets bullied? Anything. Written by popular children’s author and illustrator, Janell Cannon, who’s famous for her book Stellaluna, Crickwing follows the journey of a little cockroach-fellow by the same name, who finds himself getting bullied by animals larger than him. In his angst, he starts to pick on animals—a colony of leaf-cutter ants, to be exact—who are smaller than him. This is a great book to read when discussing themes like bullying and friendship with youth. In addition to a strong and captivating story, Cannon’s artwork is absolutely breathtaking. She creates such tactile images in her art—the monkey's fur actually seems soft to the touch; the green tree leaves look like they’re covered with a mossy fuzz. Youth and adults alike will be charmed by this story and its incredible illustrations.

 

 

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

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

Micro-Book Review: Baya, Baya, Lulla-by-a

Baya, Baya, Lulla-by-a
By Megan McDonald
Illustrated by Vera Rosenberry
Atheneum, 2003
32 pages

Set in India, amidst the monsoon rains, not so unlike Tucson, Baya, Baya, Lulla-by-a is a beautifully poetic and rhythmic lullaby. The language is meant to be sung, to lull youngins to bed. I couldn’t help thinking, in a sentimental way, that this is the kind of story that I’d love to read to my own kids one day. The story is full of onomatopoeia, with the sounds of a wise man saying, “pani, pani,” the sounds of the sun-yellow baby bird singing, “Chiri-ya! Chiri-ya!” and the sounds of a mother rocking her choti ladki to sleep with “Baya, baby, lulla-by-a.” The story is also filled with great similes and metaphors: “She sings to you morning after morning, like a sleepy cricket. Kira, kira. Your heart answers, a small drum. Dholak, dholak.” One page dazzles in alliteration: “Baya bird flits, flutters, flies among leafy shadows. Collects green grasses, weaves a nest swishhh swishhh, strand by strand by willowy strand.”

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Micro-Book Review: Button Up!

Button Up!
by Alice Schertle
Illustrated by Petra Mathers
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2009
40 pages

Button Up! opens with a question on the inside flap of the book jacket cover: “Do the clothes in your closet have a life all their own?” Through poetry, this book aims to answer those questions. Each piece of clothing, each shoe, each pair of underwear is linked to one child, usually in some alliterative sense:

--Bertie’s Shoelaces
--Violet’s Hiking Hat
--The Song of Harvey’s Galoshes
--Emily’s Undies
--Bob’s Bicycle Helmet

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thematic Reading List: Poetic Perspectives—Understanding Others

I teach ekphrastic writing for a lot of reasons—I work ekphastically myself, I think images are a quick entry point for those new to written words, and that visuals hold flexible attention spans longer. I also think that there’s something about ekphrastic writing that flexes new parts of the brain in considering multiple stimuli, and that ekphrasis is an exercise in fostering empathy.

I came to this thinking while researching the work of teaching artist Tony Blackhawk, who uses abstract art like that of Cy Twombly to lead his students in loose ekphrastic writing exercises. In “Third Mind,” Blackhawk quotes Nancy Gorrell, who used Ekphrastic writing to help students learn about history by “entering” into another perspective. In my own practice, I’ve asked students to write from the perspective of an object in a painting, or from the position of the artist creating it. I’ve found that this practice in “entering” from a different angle seems to offer students an open-mindedness and explorative quality in a creative space that then leaks into the larger world.

This reading list is about entering that very practice—one of stepping into another perspective, and inhabiting the life of an “other” by peeking into their daily life, and seeing where you relate. I’m of the opinion that empathy is one of the most important skills an artist can develop—it’s useful across genres and mediums—and that it’s also a significant life skill. Oftentimes, it’s through the eyes of others—a flowerpot, a three-legged dog, the kid with roller skates—that we first begin to understand the world, and more fully engage with it ourselves.

Crazy to be Alive in such a strange World: Poems About People 

selected by Nancy Larrick

 

This is a collection celebrating the details of individual, unique personalities. The collection’s titles reflect the variety of voices contained in one small volume (“Hey, this little kid gets roller skates.” “Well son, I’ll tell you.”), and its accompanying photographs provide the poetic portraits with a visual accompaniment of faces across generations and cultural backgrounds.

Arizona Board of Regents