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by Julie Swarstad
Founded in 2000, the University of Arizona Bilingual High School Corrido Contest celebrates the corrido--a musico-poetic form unique to the U.S.-Mexico border region--by asking high school students to write their own corridos. Three winners are chosen each year by a distinguished judge, and music is written by a professional musician to accompany the corrido. The Poetry Center celebrates the first ten years of the contest by publishing Ten Years of Young Corridistas in September 2010.
The Poetry Center will hold a panel discussion by corrido experts on Saturday, September 24 at the Poetry Center. A benefit performance for the Corrido Program, featuring many of Tucson's top Mariachi musicians takes place Saturday, October 2.
The University of Arizona Poetry Center's Bilingual High School Corrido Contest is truly unique in what it celebrates. For the past eleven years, the contest has challenged high school students to learn about the corrido form and its deep connection to the U.S.-Mexico border region while demonstrating this knowledge by writing a corrido of their own. Edited and published by the UA Poetry Center, the winning entries presented in Ten Years of Young Corridistas cover an incredible range of topics and demonstrate remarkable emotional depth. They speak to community concerns, personal hopes, and cultural values, presenting the voices of Arizona's high school students at their finest.
By Nina Vega-Westhoff
A classmate one day brought in to Laynie Browne's course "At the Intersection of Writing and Teaching" the Michael Stillman poem "In Memoriam John Coltrane." The poem was exciting, an immediate encounter with repetition, rhythm, and word play. As a class, we seemed to have a collective a ha! moment with the poem--I personally felt I should have discovered this poem long before--and so it seemed an ideal literary model around which to structure a lesson. But I wasn't sure how to do so--there were so many possibilities immediately suggested and yet I wasn't sure where I wanted to go with it.
by Laynie Browne & Benjamin and Jacob Davidson
Laynie Browne is the author of eight collections of poetry, most recently The Desires of Letters (Counterpath Press, 2010). She is Elementary Education Coordinator for the Poetry Center and is currently developing an interdisciplinary outreach program to connect scientists and writers at University of Arizona and in the greater Tucson community.
Benjamin Davidson just finished 5th grade. His hobbies include writing, fossil hunting and spending time with his pet rabbit, Bunny Bunkins.
Jacob Davidson just finished 3rd grade. He loves math, bionicles, mechanical pencils, drawing and writing adventure and science fiction stories and comics. He also likes to take apart machines.
By Wendy Burk
Wendy is the Poetry Center's Library Specialist, who works with Rodney Phillips to maintain the library and assist patrons in accessing the collection. She is a poet with an MFA from The University of Arizona, and is also a translator of Spanish.
During this past academic year, 1,100 people visited the Poetry Center for field trips and tours. Students of all ages, from preschool to university, come to the Poetry Center and it is our job to make poetry come alive for them with time to read, write, and explore the Helen S. Schaefer Building.
Molly Reed's first- and second-grade class from Borton Magnet Primary School was the first student group to try out a new curriculum designed and led by Poetry Center docent Sandy Szelag. Inspired by a visit to the Desert Museum and poet Pablo Neruda's "Odes to Common Things," Sandy developed a field trip that introduces the Ode/Praise Poem form to elementary school students with the help of a Pack Rat puppet named Pablo Neruda. A week after the Borton class visit, Rosalie Perales's first- and second-grade students from Miles Exploratory Learning Center experienced the same curriculum.
Interview by Sol Davis
Sol: As a child at a recent birthday party asked after being released from the coils of your tale spinning: "How do you remember the stories?" In other words, what is your process for storytelling?
Jordan: My process is pretty straightforward--I read or hear a story, and then I try to tell it to someone (anyone!). If it's written, I might read it again, but the best way for me to remember it is simply to tell it, as much as possible. I have a pretty good memory, so that helps. But more importantly is the fact that remembering stories is NOT the same as memorizing, as people often think. Rather, it is more akin to remembering life experiences. For the most part, people don't have to work to remember remarkable things that have happened to them in their life (or their day yesterday)--it simply happens, and when someone asks, "How was your day?" you don't think twice before telling the story of whatever happened. In the same way, if one imagines a story vividly enough (whether through hearing it, reading it, or seeing it performed), then it almost becomes like one's own memories, and simply telling the story becomes as natural as telling a friend what happened to you the other day.
by Ann Dernier
Asked to lead a Kore Press Grrls Literary Activism Workshop, I saw myself as "activator" charged with bringing poetry to and coaxing it out of the lives of teen girls ages 14-19 while guiding them on their own path to activism in a public setting. But mainly and not so secretly, I began every workshop with poetry while on our journey to the center of our social justice issues.
We started by "waxing poetic"--a printing process using wax paper and newsprint. The girls chose random words or phrases from the newspaper, (or even with an eye for random invention), and rubbed them onto the wax paper, and then "reprinted" by rubbing them in the same or new order onto white paper. You couldn't rub them the wrong way! In the end, the girls had "found" poems with unexpected, activated language such as "A day ripe for Cadillac opportunity."
Colleen Burns is a volunteer and avid supporter of the Poetry Center. She and her granddaughter Anika are Poetry Joeys regulars and they spend quite a bit of time writing together.
About writing with Anika, Collen says:
Children Anika's age (3-7) have rich imaginations and large vocabularies that can construct sophisticated stories if the physical act of writing doesn't get in the way. When children are asked to 'write' a story using an unwieldy pencil and unruly paper, this sheer physical act of writing slows down and sometimes can stop a story altogether.