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You would think that "starving, hysterical, naked," the most iconic phrase of Allen Ginsberg's poem "HOWL" and perhaps even of the Beat Generation, would come to describe the film built to represent it. Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's film, however, is a nontraditional docudrama soaring through windows of courtrooms, coffeehouses, and Ginsberg's immaculate apartment, searching for cohesion with audience in tow. At first it seems that Epstein and Friedman may have missed the mark with adorable Franco, his trendily decorated apartment, smoothed-over CGI (computer-generated imagery) sequences, and such a higher-ed slant on obscenity trials that university affiliates whooped during the screening. But then you realize what happened: The writer/directors hit their mark just fine, missing Ginsberg's by - dare I say a generation? - without so much as a nod to the distinction.
These are responses from our Poetry Out Loud professional development discussion on what makes a good poetry recitation. Please comment with your own ideas!
by Julie Swarstad
Born in 1941, Billy Collins was Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001-2003. He has published eight collections of poetry, including Sailing Alone Around the Room (Random House 2001), The Trouble with Poetry (Random House 2005), and most recently Ballistics (Random House 2008). Collins is the recipient of numerous awards including Poetry's 1994 Poet of the Year Award and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. He is currently a Distinguished Professor at Lehman College at the City University of New York.
Collins will be reading for the UA Poetry Center's 50th Anniversary Celebration at Centennial Hall on the University of Arizona campus on Sunday, November 7th at 3 p.m. Tickets are available through UA Presents.
Billy Collins has been called "America's Most Popular Poet" by Time Magazine, reflecting the enormous appeal his work has for a variety of audiences. Ballistics, his latest collection, is a great choice for introducing students to this former Poet Laureate's work.
by Elizabeth Maria Falcón
I taught a Halloween lesson at Apollo Middle School last fall that centered around mood and tone. I began by reading the opening of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book:
There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.
The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade
finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you might
not even know you had been cut, not immediately.
Review by Julie Swarstad
Natalie Merchant is an American singer-songwriter who has been actively releasing records since 1982. Merchant was originally a member of the alternative-rock band 10,000 Maniacs until she began a career as a solo musician in 1993. Her most critically-acclaimed albums include Tigerlily (1995) and Ophelia (1998). Leave Your Sleep (2010) is her first album since 2003's The House Carpenter's Daughter. Visit her official website at: http://www.nataliemerchant.com/.
Leave Your Sleep marks Natalie Merchant's first foray into the world of poetry. "I'm a late arrival to the party," Merchant said in an interview about the album as she discussed her connection to poetry. Despite her late introduction to the genre, Merchant's latest album--a two disc collection of children's poetry set to music--is a testament to the power of language and story in children's lives. The collection includes children's poetry from well-known poets Edward Lear, Jack Prelutsky, e.e. cummings, Ogden Nash, Robert Lewis Stevenson, and Gerard Manley Hopkins, along with a host of nursery rhymes and nonsense songs from more obscure writers.
by Timothy Dyke
Timothy Dyke is a first year Masters student at the University of Arizona in creative writing. From 1992 to the spring of 2010, he lived in Honolulu, Hawaii and taught English to high school students at Punahou school. He serves as an Education Intern at the Poetry Center.
Visual art can be a safe and engaging entry point into poetry for young learners. Students who become confused when asked to say what a poem means can feel a sense of relief and eagerness if asked to choose a crayon that matches the "color" of a poem, or when invited to draw a picture inspired by words on a page. Poets and visual artists have collaborated for centuries, and some of the best examples of these multimedia explorations can motivate young people to look at the written word through a visual lens.
Review by Julie Swarstad
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.
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.
by Joni Wallace
Joni Wallace's poetry collection Blinking Ephemeral Valentine was selected by Mary Jo Bang for the 2009 Levis Prize and is forthcoming from Four Way Books (March, 2011). Her poems have been published in Boston Review, Barrow Street, Blue Mesa Review, Conduit, Cutbank, Forklift, Ohio, Laurel Review and have been featured in Connotations Press, An Online Artifact. She holds an MFA from the University of Montana. Joni is also a musician and co-founder, with poet Ann Dernier, of Poets' Studio.
"These are the poetry birds, Mom," says my beaming five-year-old, presenting me with her drawing. "And...they are famous." For the last two years these birds have graced the wall in the room where I write. If they had a song, it would be "attention, pay attention." And they remind of something Dean Young wrote of poets: we are trying to make birds, not birdhouses. This same "birdness" is what Richard Shelton calls "claritas:" those moments of clairvoyant transcendence that come through poems when poems work.
by Sarah Kortemeier
Sarah Kortemeier is a teaching artist and is completing her MFA at the University of Arizona. She also teaches undergraduate poetry and composition courses at the U of A.
The Poetry Center's first fall Poetry Joeys is happening this Saturday, Sept. 25th at 10:00 a.m.
When I taught Poetry Joeys for the 7-9 age group this spring at the Poetry Center, I had the pleasure of working with a class of very energetic and intellectually curious children. During our first lesson, one boy asked me if I knew what a chimera was: clearly, this was a group of kids who loved words. I saw immediately that many of the students were deeply attracted to learning the sense of new words; by the acquisition and use of complex vocabulary, they were attempting to achieve a more diverse, complicated, and sophisticated view of the world.
Needless to say, this class was a blast to teach.
Review by Julie Swarstad
Sherwin Bitsui is a Dine poet originally from White Cone, Arizona. He received an AFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts Creative Writing Program and has been awarded numerous grants and fellowships, including the prestigious Whiting Writers' Award, along with publications in American Poet and The Iowa Review. Currently residing in Tucson, Arizona, Bistui is the author of two collections: Shapeshift (University of Arizona Press 2003) and Flood Song (Copper Canyon Press 2009). Bitsui is a frequent guest in classrooms as a visiting poet through the ArtsReach program.
Bitsui will read at the UA Poetry Center on Friday, September 10th at 8 p.m. along with Ofelia Zepeda and Alberto Rios.
In Flood Song, Sherwin Bitsui explores "the dimming atlases of our lungs," atlases which are infused with his Dine background and a distinct sense of place that is both rural and urban with a hint of apocalypse. This sense of place is rendered in a stream of surrealistic images that rush and brim with an energetic, almost wild, power.