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Teaching Artist

Animated GIFs at the Poetry Center

Check out these animated GIFs, made by Leon De La Rosa. Leon will be teaching youth how to make animated GIFs, like the ones you see below, at Family Days this Saturday, September 22nd from 11:30am-1:00pm at the Poetry Center. Be sure to stop on by!

A quick Animated GIF’s how-to to be used as part of the University of Arizona Poetry Center’s Family Days.

This is an Animated GIF
 

It is a sequence of still images that played in rapid succession, will give the illusion of movement. This particular Animated GIF consists of 21 still images, which we can appreciate better at a slower frame rate.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

To Document and Enjoy

Ben Wallace is a creative writing major at the University of Arizona. He's also a teaching artist at Sam Hughes Elementary.

Before class, one of the students calls me over and says, "Mr. Ben, I wrote a poem all by myself this morning."

"Awesome," I say. "What was it about?"

The girl smiles at me with her two front teeth missing, giggles, and says, "The Toothfairy!" I was so proud to hear that. I was able to see in her poems that she saw writing not as schoolwork, but as a way to document and enjoy life.

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Owl & Panther Speaking Peace

Marge PellegrionOn September 17, at 11:30 a.m., participants from the Hopi Foundation's Owl and Panther Project recite original work on themes of war and peace in response to Speak Peace: American Voices Respond to Vietnamese Children's Paintings, on display at the Poetry Center from August 29 to September 23. Join us!

The Hopi Foundation's Owl & Panther project will take part in the Speak Peace exhibit on display at the University of Arizona Poetry Center, even knowing that we walk a fine line when we ask those whose lives have been damaged by war to speak back, speak out, speak peace to images depicting that very aggression.

Our participants are as young as five and a few grandfathers are as old as sixty. They come from Congo, Guatemala, Mali, El Salvador, Chile, Iraq, Nepal, Bhutan, Ethiopia and Somalia. Each carries private memories of the brutality of war, some the scarcity of camps. Others still witness a family member's ongoing battle with PTSD's haunting night visitors.

When introducing Speak Peace, one woman balked. She wouldn't write about war. Done, flat out refusal. She didn't want to look at the images projected at the Poetry Center the night we introduced the project. But the images weren't all bombs and mayhem. And she will be invited to choose one with a band aid on the world, or an image where peace is already peeking out from the scarred earth. And if that proves difficult at all, she'll be asked to paint her own soothing image from which to speak peace.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Authenticity: Writing about War and Peace

Christopher McIlroySpeak Peace: American Voices Respond to Vietnamese Children is an international, collaborative traveling art exhibit out of Kent State featuring paintings by Vietnamese children and American responses in the form of poetry. The Poetry Center invites you to visit this exhibit from now through September 23, 2011. On Saturday, September 17, from 11:30 - 12:30 participants in the Hopi Foundation's Owl & Panther Project will give a reading of their responses to the paintings in this exhibit. Join us.

I have no specific qualifications to address authenticity in writing as it relates to war, so let's get that out of the way. Assisting with Marge Pellegrino in the Speak Peace project has been my first experience of the kind. My students in the Tohono O'odham and Yaqui communities live with hardship, pain, and grief to a degree I scarcely can imagine, and produce writing of a rare eloquence and authenticity from that background, but I realize it isn't the same.

I even find it hard to define the slippery "authentic." We can't even say that "we know it when we see it."  We may not agree upon what strikes that note in us when we read, view, or hear what we believe to be authentic. Sincerity seems a necessary component but not a sufficient one. Rarely do we hear the response, "I admire the authenticity of the piece, but unfortunately it's terrible." The authentic must capture a truth, as well, and probably artfully.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Creating Sam: A Collaborative Furniture Project

by Elizabeth Falcón

SamAs we were planning out our week-long middle school summer camp, "What's in the Box: Creative Writing in 3D", at the Poetry Center, my co-teacher Erin and I were trying to anticipate what we would do during the first half hour of every morning. We didn't want to start a lesson while waiting for the campers who might be straggling in late, but we didn't want our campers just sitting around waiting to start.

I remembered reading somewhere (I think it might have been in David Morice's The Adventures of Dr. Alphabet) about some kind of collaborative furniture project, where students were allowed to write poems on a chair.  And it gave me an idea.  What if we had a week-long collaborative project we were working on every morning before camp?  

We looked for a piece of furniture and, as luck would have it, a friend was giving away a nice old cabinet with drawers and doors and nice little nooks and crannies.  We decided that during a lesson on character creation the first day, the class, as an example, would create a collaborative character first, who would become the basis for the collaborative cabinet project during the week.  (Erin and I prematurely called the cabinet "Sam.")

We planned out short activities day by day that the students could do to elaborate on Sam, such as cover a drawer with the place(s) Sam lives, fill a drawer with objects from Sam's pockets, write a secret Sam has and fold it so no one can see it. We even had an exquisite corpse activity where students would take turns writing on the cabinet one line at a time to create a story about Sam.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

More than Slam Poetry on the Page: Patricia Smith

Patricia Smith, Blood DazzlerPatricia Smith is a poet, performance artist, author, and teacher.  She has published five books of poetry including Close to Death (1993), Teahouse of the Almighty (2006), and Blood Dazzler (2008) which was a finalist for the National Book Award.  The winner of a Pushcart Prize, Smith is a four-time individual National Poetry Slam champion.

While Patricia Smith got her start in poetry as a slam poet, her most recent collection of poetry speaks to her ability to perform on the page as well with all the force, vibrancy, and conviction that she demonstrates at the microphone.  Blood Dazzler is a sequence that explores the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, specifically focusing on the tremendous destruction and loss of life caused in New Orleans.  Natural disasters and political turmoil can be difficult subjects to write about convincingly, but Smith uses the full power of direct language to engage with her reader.

The easiest way to describe Blood Dazzler is to say that it is like a slap in the face; Smith never sidesteps the fear, death, and loss that her subject is fraught with.  And although she always confronts the issues head on, the most powerful weapon at work in Smith's writing is her sense of rhythm and sound that clearly come from her slam background.   She describes "the slow wilting jazz of their legs / razored by the murk" and the battered people who struggle with "that first blessing--forward, forward, / not getting the joke of their paper shoes, / not knowing the sidewalks are gone."  Again and again she forces us to confront the suffering of the residents of New Orleans by grabbing our attention with driving rhythms.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

World of Words: A homophonic poetry activity for all ages

Jillian AndrewsIf you enjoyed the activities at our Young at Art Festival, or if you weren't able to make it, below are the directions to one of the poem-making activities led by UA student and teaching artist Jillian Andrews. Enjoy!

Materials

  • Blank paper
  • Markers
  • Scissors
  • Poems in various languages
  • English translation of each poem

Preparation

  • Print 4-5 poems in various languages.  Unfamiliar languages are best, in order to make sure the translation is completely based on sound, and not on previous knowledge of the language
  • Set out the materials and an example of your own "postcard poem"
  • You can choose to print world maps to have the kids guess where in the world their poem was written.
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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Japan Poem

The power plants are breaking
its thorns are breaking
its leaves are breaking
the plates go up and down

one plate goes on the other
one plate turns on another
(that makes an earthquake)
the salamis are going up and down

this is the ocean I'm drawing
an island that only has salt water
salt water  salt water
maybe I could visit Japan    

if I don't die

--Willow Falcón, age 4

Photo Credit: Cybele Knowles

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Summer Camp: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

by Erin Armstrong

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brain Selznick is a book that I picked up last year, and I have not been able to put down. Recommended by a friend, I spent an afternoon devouring Selznick's creative narrative and exquisite drawings, and I try to pass on this beautiful book to as many readers as I can. I believe that this is one of the most innovative novels in children's literature to date. This book is told in both illustrations and words, and this combination of art forms allows for a sensory experience like never before. Follow Hugo through the streets of Paris as he discovers more about his father's old obsession with automatons, meets a young girl, Isabelle, and works for a grumpy old man in a toy booth who has secrets of his own. Once you delve into the world of Hugo Cabret, you'll find yourself enamored not only with Hugo but the drawings themselves. Selnick brings his obsession with the cinema to life and in his words, "the book itself is filled with silent movies."

This summer the Poetry Center will be exploring Hugo and his world as we do a week-long immersive camp. Students will do writing activities based on the book, which will involve stretching their imaginations and giving their creative sides a chance to soar. If Hugo and his world interest you, come explore it with us!

For more information on the book, please check out this website: http://www.theinventionofhugocabret.com.

For more information on the Hugo Cabret and other Poetry Center summer camps, visit poetry.arizona.edu/k12/summercamp.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Inspired to Teach: Writing with second graders

Jillian AndrewsWhen 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.

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Monday, March 28, 2011
Arizona Board of Regents