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When I signed up for Laynie Browne's "At the Intersection of Teaching and Writing" course at the University of Arizona, I didn't expect to fall in love with teaching. I thought I would get a fun elective credit toward my Creative Writing degree and get to work with cute kids in the process. The course has forced me to reevaluate this notion of teaching poetry as a fun pastime, and to consider teaching as a career. I have never been so taken aback by my reaction to a college course, and I have never felt so passionately about an assignment. Working towards a residency has been extremely fulfilling, and interacting with a classroom of second graders has been nothing short of world changing. As a writer, it is so easy to forget why I do what I do. Aren't I just trying to get a degree? But, as it turns out, I am after so much more, and it took the talents of seven year old children to remind me of that.
Every time I visited Ms. Dunn's second grade classroom, I remembered why I fell in love with writing in the first place, and why it's not just work, but art that has the power to change the world, or at least my small part in it. I was astounded by the raw artistic talent that second graders possess, and the absolute confidence with which they put forth this talent into writing that is shockingly beautiful. They don't have the same inhibitions that adults have, and their writing is full of vulnerability, but also an incredible assuredness. They know their imaginations to be the truth, and I have yet to witness one of Ms. Dunn's writers second guess themselves after putting pencil to paper. What they produce is full of personality and life, a part of their limitless inner self set to words. Their confidence inspired me to find my own, and their pure delight at creating poetry helped me recreate my own love for something that was rapidly becoming just a major, a subject that I took classes in so I could earn a diploma. Because of this, I am tremendously excited to work with second graders next semester as I begin teaching, and my only worry is that I won't be able to give them as much as they will teach me.
Congratulations to the Southern Arizona Poetry Out Loud Semi-Finalists: Steffi McNerney of St. Gregory College Preparatory School, Naomi Blackwell of Tucson High Magnet School, and Samantha Neville of Tucson High Magnet School!
Steffi, Naomi, and Samantha competed with 10 other high school students at the Poetry Center on March 3rd to secure their semi-finalist standing. All three ladies now move on to the State Finals Competition on Wednesday, March 16th from 7-9 p.m. in Phoenix, AZ. For more details about this performance visit www.azarts.gov/pol.
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.
"Let all birds feast upon the poets' bones, then sing!" - 1981 inscription by William Pitt Root on the Poets Cottage at the original UA Poetry Center
Born in Maine the daughter of a mill worker, Louise Bogan was the fourth Poet Laureate of the United States and one of the most notable female American poets of the twentieth century. She was poetry editor for The New Yorker from 1931-1969,and she published six collections of poetry during her lifetime. After her first marriage, Bogan began her career as a writer in New York City where she would remain for the rest of her life. Bogan is noted for her formal style and opposition to the confessional poetry that was popular during her lifetime. While few details of Bogan's personal life are public knowledge, her work continues to speak for itself today. Bogan read at the UA Poetry Center on February 15, 1967.
by Daniela Ugaz
Daniela moved to Tucson about a year and a half ago to start her MFA. Since then she's been spending some of her time writing, some of it teaching, some of it reading, organizing, scrounging up money and, without which none of the other things would be possible, napping! Life is good.
I started working with kids when I was twenty. That was four years ago. Now that I think about it, actually, I babysat a couple times when I was in my early teens. It was a little boy. I don't remember his name anymore. I didn't like babysitting very much, I remember that. And the boy's mother stopped calling after I lied a few times, saying I couldn't, saying I had a swim meet or play practice. The next time I worked with kids I was a teaching assistant for a summer journalism workshop for "at risk" middle schoolers. Those kids were hard on me, or maybe I took it that way mistakenly. I'll never be president, one of the boys once said to me. The teacher had just said something like you can be anything you want to be, as long as you set your mind to it. I didn't know what to say to him. I liked the idea of that job more than the job itself.
by Julie Swarstad
Rusty Morrison is a poet and co-founder of Omnidawn Publishing. She is the author of two volumes of poetry: Whethering (2005) which won the Colorado Prize for Poetry and the true keeps calm biding its story (2008) which won the 2008 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. Her poetry, essays, and reviews have been published in Boston Review, Chicago Review, and New American Writing, among others. She is a contributing editor for Poetry Flash.
Fred Moten lives in Durham, North Carolina, where he teaches in the Duke University Department of English. He is author of Arkansas (2000), In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (2003), I ran from it but was still in it. (2007), Hughson's Tavern (2008) and B Jenkins (2010).
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. Rusty Morrison and Fred Moten will read at the UA Poetry Center on Thursday, February 10 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.
by Logan Phillips
Logan Phillips is a bilingual writer, performer and transdisciplinary artist from the Arizona / Mexico borderlands. Born in Tombstone, AZ in 1983 to a family of Irish-Slavic decent, he holds a B.A. in Spanish from Northern Arizona University. Phillips was a professor of Hispanic American Literature and translation at Universidad Internacional in Cuernavaca, Mexico before dedicating himself full-time to artistic endeavors. As a performer and poet, Phillips has toured throughout the US, Mexico and as far afield as Vancouver, Paris, Bogota, and Penzance, England. He also works as a freelance journalist and is author of five poetry chapbooks including Arroyo Ink, published in 2009.
In 2007 Phillips co-founded the binational multimedia performance group Verbo•bala Spoken Video, which was described by national Mexican newspaper La Reforma as "going for a poetry written without letters." When not touring, Phillips splits his time between Arizona and Mexico City. More can be found at dirtyverbs.com. Author Photo by Elena Zinchenko.
A Moment Out of Time
It was a Friday afternoon in 2008 when my fellow performance poets Jasmine Cuffee, Carlos Contreras and I were performing for a crowd of over 700 students at Buena High School in Sierra Vista, Arizona.
by Julie Swarstad
David Wojahn is the author of eight books of poetry, among them World Tree (2011), Interrogation Palace: New and Selected Poems 1982-2006 (2006), The Falling Hour (1997) and Icehouse Lights (1982). He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and The National Endowment for the Arts. Interrogation Palace was a named finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and winner of the O.B. Hardison Award. An alumnus of the University of Arizona Creative Writing MFA Progra m, Wojahn is a professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University.
While David Wojahn is often noted as being "a poet of witness" to political injustice and other violence, in the poems collected into Interrogation Palace, he also acts as a witness to the struggles within individual lives. His writing is filled with moments of personal struggle and pain: the loss of his wife Lynda, of unborn children, of friends, along with all the simple, small losses we go through each day. Wojahn writes from a place of trouble and pain, but while his topics are weighty, he charges us to look them full in the face. "How can you turn away?" he asks in one poem.