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My Name Is...

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," Juliet famously asks in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. And yet, we have these names. We're branded with names. Names we keep. Names we shift into nicknames. Names we discard. Names that we re-name, giving ourselves new names. Names are kind of funny, when you think about it. They're kind of serious when you think about it, too.

My full, complete, legal name is Allison Marie Leach. My parents named me Allison because they wanted to give me a name similar to my paternal grandmother's, which is Aldora. Her name was formed in a combination of her parents' names. Her Dad's name was "Al" and her Mom's name was "Dora."                   Al + Dora = Aldora. My wonderful grandmother. I love this story.

Aldora's nickname, dubbed by my older sister, Mary, is Gong-Gong Strawberry. She was given this moniker because she and my Grandpa grew strawberries in their green backyard in Missouri. And Gong-Gong? Who can explain. I don't even think Mary can recall. It was a name that she invented when she was a toddler; it was a name that was easier to say than "Grandma," or perhaps she just thought it more interesting and original. I tend to think the latter.

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Homage to my Hips

The poet Lucille Clifton prefaces one of her poems during a reading at the Poetry Center in 1975 with this: “I have days when I want to stay in the house all day because the world shouldn’t have to look at me.” She’s joking, of course, but her sentiment is one that I’m sure many people can identify with. Even now, as I type up this review, I’m thinking, “Jesus, I have some stocky, cottage cheese thighs.” It’s an ever circling conversation, argument that many people have with themselves. I can remember in high school and even now into my adulthood, hearing friends of mine blurt out the following about their bodies:

I hate my thin hair.

I hate my curly hair.

I hate my big thighs.

I hate my small boobs.

I hate my baby face.

I hate my hips.

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Home is Wherever I'm With You

Lately, I've been loving on Voca's search bar. If you haven't used it yet, do so now! When you type a word in, the Voca site searches for it in titles, names, and keywords -- basically anywhere you might find your chosen word. The word I chose was "home." I chose this word not really knowing what to expect because the word has such a broad meaning and a large span of images. But I was delighted by the new ways Voca and its poets encouraged me to think about “home," simply from the collection it pulled up under results.

A quick summary of what I found Voca to assign with "home": you can be home in your name, in a language, in body; you can find home in a writing form, in a dream house, in geography and the natural; home is food and sometimes the stars, often a title or just a word you’re trying to understand through a phone call to Mom.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Finding Family in Voca

Family: tender and terrorizing. Love. They are everything; they are shaping; they are absent. The most interesting collection of humans at our fingertips, fascinating, beautiful, curious, mysterious (how do we stay together?). I've always found fine boundaries when writing about family; how much is our own story, and how much is theirs? So, in search of an answer, I roamed voca and encountered a collection of nonfiction and poetry handling family; some biological, some full of hindsight, some full of desire for their own to-be-developed family, and some dreaming of a kinglier reality.

Roger Bonair-Agard -- "A Time of Polio" describes walking trips the narrator takes to his Uncle's home to drop off meals and how he picks up a drink on the way home. It's a poem of another time, and it explores what this time of polio means. (I think I've funneled you to Roger's work before, but this one is good and shouldn't be passed up.) http://voca.arizona.edu/index/php?reading_id=454

Beth Alvarado -- Check out any of her "Parts" series from her memoir, Anthropologies. I particularly liked "Part Two: 18" about a "very old, very tired 18" with a wall.
http://voca.arizona.edu/index/php?reading_id=485

Rusty Morrison -- "Please advise stop..." An elegic collection of her father's death, and more. Her whole reading deals with her parents and husband, and she speaks often of form.
http://voca.arizona.edu/index.php?reading_id=444

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Winter poetry on Voca

Maybe it’s the cliché poet soul-disturbance, but I could hardly find a happy winter poem. One, called “Winterpig” by Denise Levertov, is the only celebratory poem of winter, or the holidays, or the cold, that I discovered. Most are ominous, like John Haines’ immensely deep voice, making the cold months of December and January feel daunting -- not like the Tucson 70 degree days we seem to enjoy in Southern Arizona.

In spirit of the gratefulness and compassion we share in the holidays, I will now share with you poems that have nothing to do with those emotions. Most of these works are extremely short, making me think that perhaps all these poets just want winter to be over -- I can’t blame them, it’s difficult to write with chilled fingers..

I guess I need a little help this month, what are some fun winter poems you have found on Voca?

John Haines
http://voca.arizona.edu/index.php?reading_id=69
Most of his poems from Winter News do, indeed, deal with winter. The wild, cold, natural winter. Cozy up to a real wood fire, a quilt, and indulge your ears in this disturbingly low, smooth, voice.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Humor through Voca

My goal today, is to make you smile, like the fellow in this painting:

For whatever reason, I was curious what Wikipedia had to say about “humor.” I found this painting, with the caption, “smiling can imply a sense of humour and a state of amusement, as in this painting of Falstaff by Eduard von Grutzner." Inexplicably, my funny bone was struck, perhaps, because wiki tried to explain humor through a goofy painting?

It seems humor is difficult to traditionally define; we are able only by describing its reactions: smiling, laughing, amusement. It’s hard to say what we each find funny. I know my sense of humor is far different from some of my friends, but my sister and I are spot on. We learn our sense of humor from others, and then, simultaneously, we are amused by something no one else understands. This is intimidating for writers, because, what’s funny then? I figure, we just write what amuses us and write it well. If there is one rule for writers, it’s to own your work, something that seems especially necessary in humorous writing.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Blending Science into Poetry

Jeannie WoodJeannie Wood is a junior at the University of Arizona studying poetry, astronomy, and Latin. She’s from Northern Arizona and spends her time writing for the Daily Wildcat, playing rough with UA’s Derby Cats, and biking. She enjoys disappearing into different areas of the state, and parts of California, on weekends.

I often hear in the academic world that science and poetry no longer intertwine -- that we have split off into completely different disciplines and not many mix the line anymore. We all have a natural assumption that the Humanities hate the Sciences and vice versa. But already in my classes, I’ve studied just the opposite: it seems the language of science is making a comeback, if it hasn’t just always been lurking around.

Two science-poets that I’ve studied together are the wonderful Katherine Larson and Jeffrey Yang. What is neat about reading these two next to one another is how opposing they are. Sure, they both incorporate science in their writing, but they do it differently. Larson’s poems are emotional, warm (even when they’re devastating), and very human. Yang’s work is more detached, quick, and has sharp undertones; his work always remind me of  deep sea fish: small, odd, and effective.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Reading Series in the Classroom: C.D. Wright

CD WrightThis week, in continuation with our series, "The Reading Series in the Classroom," we here at Wordplay will introduce your students to the writing of C.D. Wright. Wright will read at the Poetry Center this Thursday, September 13th at 7:00 p.m. Wright's reading will be best suited for high school students, so we're including this Extra Credit Worksheet and this great interview with local poet and teacher, Christopher Nelson. (Teachers: feel free to download the worksheet and interview, which are both designed to help students reflect on our Poetry Readings and modify it as it suits your classroom needs.) Check out this introduction and short reading by C.D. Wright, part of the Poetry Foundation's "Poetry Everywhere" project. Check out her poem, Flame, which also appeals to a K-5 audience, then follow the prompts below.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Poetry, Performance, and the Poetry Center's Online Audio Video Library

Sarah KortemeierSarah Kortemeier has worked professionally as a poet, musician, and actor; she holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Arizona and has taught creative writing at the elementary, high school, and university levels. Sarah has published most recently in Ploughshares, Spiral Orb, Sliver of Stone, and Folio, and was a finalist in 2011’s Gulf Coast and Tennessee Williams Festival Poetry Contests. She serves as Senior Library Assistant at the University of Arizona Poetry Center.

What helps a poem to connect with an audience when it is spoken aloud? Each poet, and each listener, will answer this question differently, and there are few hard-and-fast rules that govern performance. However, many compelling performances of poetry do share a few characteristics, such as vocal energy, spontaneity, and rhythmic variation. Poems vary their textures and tempos on the page; their rhythms shift, dance, and play against one another, and effective performances usually acknowledge this, letting the text dictate the velocities and inflections of the reading.

Below is a listing of some performances from the Poetry Center's online Audio Video Library. Though each of these readers handles performance differently, all of these performances communicate both content and music.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Listening to Billy Collins on the Poetry Center's AVL

Adam DeLucaWhile perusing the Poetry Center's Audio Visual Library featuring poets who have read at the Center, I came across one poem titled "Litany" by Billy Collins. On the archives I was able to view this as a video and see him present the poem and how the audience reacted. Fortunately enough, Billy Collins has read at the Poetry Center a few times and I was able to see the reactions of two different audiences to this poem. In one of the videos, the audience was bawling in laughter after every line; however, in the other video you could hear a pin drop in the audience. So I guess this poem can be taken multiple ways depending on how you look at it.

Personally, if I had to choose I would have fit in with the laughing crowd. The poem "Litany" is a love poem, I guess. It starts out with a bunch of metaphors addressed to an other such as, "you are the bread and the knife, the crystal goblet and the wine." The metaphors are somewhat strange, which I guess is where the audience can perceive them as funny or not.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011
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