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Hilary Gan is an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Arizona, an Education Intern at The University of Arizona Poetry Center, and writer-in-residence at Hollinger Elementary.
I was lucky enough to be present for the Poetry Out Loud Southern Arizona Semi-finals competition--I even scored a seat by the outdoor propane heater for the last half. I am a fiction writer who knows very little about poetry and who tends to favor the out-of-vogue and terribly inappropriate narrative poetic stylings of Charles Bukowski. I like it when ugly language is repurposed into something beautiful, and I like finding beauty in grittiness.
My mother is an English teacher and says that the best poems for high schoolers are the old, tried-and-true sentimental poems: 'O Captain, My Captain!" and so forth. Sentimental rhymers were the poems most of the students chose to perform.
Robert Oliphant argues in his article "Speech, Hearing, and America's 100 Most Memorable Children's Poems" that the memorization of poetry helps children develop phonemic awareness, learn multiple connotations for words, and become "civilizationally literate." He goes on to explain that rhymes allow children to practice distinguishing between consonants, while literary devices use words in different contexts and allow students to expand their understanding of meaning, as well as expanding their vocabulary to include words that are uncommon in their neck of the woods.
Rita Oldham is a senior at the University of Arizona, majoring in Education.
My mom was a teacher, and she would often come home from school with stories to tell. Listening to her made me feel as if I was watching a TV series. I grew to love the unique characters that filled her classroom, and I felt that I knew each one as if they were my closest friend. Yet, I rarely met them. They were simply a figure of my imagination, an idea of what I hoped them to be. Each student was different in their own way, and had their own struggles and triumphs, yet each touched my mom's heart. Somehow, despite the craziness of each day, my mom would come home inspired and reassured that she was in the right place in her life. I was in awe.
Years later, I was interning at an elementary school and I was...in agony. I wasn't sure where my mom's angel of inspiration had come from, but it was definitely not with me. Kids were flying from wall to wall. I had to jump from desk to desk, dodging the bullets of pens and pencils. I was anything but inspired. I came home exasperated, distressed, and plagued with emotional and mental fatigue. I whimpered to my mom, "I thought you said teaching was rewarding, invigorating, and life-changing. You never told me it was a fight for survival...literally!" My mom smiled at my statement, oblivious to my serious undertone. She only replied, "Stop looking for a moment of reward. The prize comes when you least expect it." And, as always, my mom was right.
Christy Delahanty is a former Poetry Center intern, and recent graduate in Creative Writing and Linguistics from The University of Arizona.
It takes a certain attuned perspective to see "a strange maroon pelt" where a "vinyl coat in the car door" really is. Or "red math" for a digital clock. It is this propensity for the eerie everyday that lends Paul Guest's poetry a special slant. His most recent collection of poetry, My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge, offers a dark look at everything from coupons and monsters to the etymology of galoshes.
Though most of what you'll find written about Guest and his poetry pushes the sad fact of his permanent childhood paralysis as a sort of map key to his writing, such singular pointing misses a wealth of nuance. Namely, it misses Guest's ability to take imaginative jaunts to a refreshing - if absurd - extreme, which cannot be narrowly attributed to what the book jacket calls "a life forever altered."Neither can the specific but applicable shards of historical knowledge be named symptoms of tragedy; lines like "better to cover you / beside the eastern sea / with lapidary jade / fat emperors ate hoping not to die" pile in like trivia into a treasure box.
On Saturday, I came to work an hour late. My manager asked me why I was so late, and I said, "I'm sorry, I was volunteering at the Poetry Center." His response was, "There's a center for poetry?" This had not been the first time I had received that response, and it probably won't be the last. As an English major, I have read many different poets, but most people hardly ever focus on poetry. Some even go as far as saying poetry is a dead art, but what I saw at the Poetry Center today proved that poetry is still alive, and will continue to grow for future generations. There are people out there who still see the importance of poetry, and they want to spread their vision to the next generation. The biggest problem with poetry is that most people are ill-informed on the subject. Most people hear the word poetry, and think of rhyming and exalted speech, but poetry is so much more than this, and it is through events, like Family Days at the Poetry Center, that teach the public about poetry.
Sarah Minor is an MFA candidate in non-fiction at the University of Arizona, and writer-in-residence at Corbett Elementary.
On a warm Saturday morning this September I headed to the Poetry Center to lead my first Family Day activity. The event fell during the Poetry Center's Speak Peace exhibit and we had planned peace themed activities combining visual art and writing for the families to participate in. Having only worked with high school and college-aged students before I was, of course, terrified of young children. Not young children exactly, but the idea of inspiring young children to sit down and write, to come up with a message about peace--a topic adults have a hard time discussing--all while overcoming the limits of spelling and handwriting. What if the activity was too simple? What if they grew bored quickly or couldn't sit still? And how old were third graders again?
Lisa Levine is an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Arizona, and writer-in-residence at Sam Hughes Elementary School.
In a Difference and Equality brown bag this fall, two writers brought up the issue of silence. One of the writers described an entire undergraduate class in which the students analyzed a novel (whose title I have forgotten, I'm sorry to admit) known for being, among other things, about the themes of race and identity. The students, she said, got through a full hour of discussion in which no one ever mentioned the subject. In an era where the classroom is a relatively safe place to study the murky waters of race and identity, why aren't students willing to drink?
Erin Liskiewicz is the marketing and publicity intern at the UA Poetry Center, and a creative writing senior at the University of Arizona, specializing in nonfiction. She will be graduating this spring.
Marie Howe is an American poet and professor at Sarah Lawrence College and New York University. Howe was a fellow at the Buntin Institute at Radcliffe College, and also received the National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship in 1992 and the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1998. Her works have been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, Agni, Ploughshares, The Harvard Review, and The Partisan Review. She will be reading at the UA Poetry Center on Thursday, February 16.
Howe's latest book, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, merges the metaphysical onto everyday life and examines the presence of the sacred in "ordinary time," where "One loaf = one loaf. One fish = one fish." By doing this, Howe reshapes the way we look at the biblical ideas that are common to many of us. She re-illustrates the idea of unconditional love in "How You Can't Move Moonlight" and portrays a more tangible faith in "The Snow Storm." Ultimately The Kingdom of Ordinary Time asks, where is the kingdom of God on earth? What is holy? And who is a part of God's kingdom?
must be careful
when he looks
at a book.
-Porter, 5 1/2
Blue is the sound of rain. Ag is
the sound of a tired rock. My
favorite sound is Zoom and
the ocean's favorite music
is rock 'n' roll.
Jeffrey Yang is a poet and editor at New Directions Publishing. He received the 2009 PEN/Osterweil Award for his poetry collection, An Aquarium, and will be reading at the Poetry Center on Thursday, February 2.
Jeffrey Yang's An Aquarium makes us of facts, etymologies, and politics from around the globe to create a farily realistic two-dimensional version of the book's namesake. Using an alphabetical list of fish and characters such as Aristotle, Google, and the United States, Yang structures a criticism of the worst parts of human nature on a global scale. In the context of the idea of an aquarium, the metaphor of that policy as an aquarium's acquisition of foreign and endangered species for academic benefit is not lost, and is at its clearest the final poem, "Zooxanthellae," where Yang describes the atomic tests done in Bikin Atoll in the 1940s by the United States, and the subsequent studies done on those exposed to the radiation:
"In the following years, doctors from Brookhaven National Laboratory, run by the U.S. department of energy, carefully documented the 'most ecological radiation study on human beings...'"
Hilary Gan is an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Arizona, and writer-in-residence at Hollinger Elementary.
Before I started my MFA in creative writing at the University of Arizona, I worked for two years in science outreach through the Arizona Science Center. I traveled around the state, visiting schools, clubs, and libraries with our portable science kits and demonstrations, trying to spark the public's interest in science and its many applications. I learned a number of crucial lessons, including not to chew gum when handling liquid nitrogen, but one of the more frustrating ones was how difficult it is to change the public perception of science as a field which requires a great deal of education to understand. The students were a little more pliable when it came to convincing them that they were already scientists; it was the adults that were brick walls. I can't tell you how many times an instructor or somebody's mom would come up to me after a program and say, "That was so much fun; I wish I could do more of that with my kids, but I'm so bad at science." If I tried to point out that they had just easily understood the basics of electron motion through copper wire or the basic functions of the digestive system, they demurred and shut down. "I just don't get science," is the common refrain of most teachers with no formal training, and it is, quite simply, not true. You do get it--you just don't know it yet.