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by Julie Swarstad
Byrd Baylor is the author of more than twenty books of children's poetry. Her writing primarily focuses on the places and people of the Southwestern United States. Four of her books--When Clay Sings (1973), The Desert is Theirs (1976), Hawk, I'm Your Brother (1977), and The Way to Start a Day (1979)--have been recognized as Caldecott Honor Books. Baylor is a resident of Arivaca.
Byrd Baylor will be signing books at the Poetry Center's Young at Art Festival on April 30th following a performance of Baylor's Desert Voices presented by University of Arizona's Stories on Stage.
Byrd Baylor is one of the most ubiquitous names in Southwestern children's literature. Baylor's stories are told in free verse that moves quietly forward, celebrating the desert and calling for her readers to spend more time listening to and appreciating the world that surrounds them. Baylor's publications span a period of over forty years, but the constant throughout her entire career is this sense of a deep and abiding connection to the desert.
Baylor's earliest available publication is Amigo (1963), a surprisingly sweet story of boy and prairie dog who befriend one another told in a sing-song rhyme. Although Amigo is very different from Baylor's usual style, Baylor's story is simple and fun. After Amigo, Baylor published several other books (Coyote Cry and Before You Came This Way) before publishing When Clay Sings with illustrations by Tom Bahti in 1972. Baylor's text--now the free verse that she would continue to write in throughout her career--uses designs from native Southwestern pottery as a point of departure for imagined stories about the people who may have created the images. Tom Bahti's illustrations were recognized with a Caldecott Honor Medal, but the book deals with the artwork at a very surface level, taking the figures as they are and weaving a little story out of them. It's worth reading, but readers may find the work a bit dated in its approach.
On April 30th the Poetry Center will host the Young at Art Festival, celebrating Tucson youth artists and local community organizations. There will be day long activities for all ages, including plays, readings, chalk artists, musicians, puppet shows, a variety of word inspired crafts and activities including bookmaking, a poetry slam, haiku improv, and food made by Blue Banjo Barbecue served all day long!
Puppets Amongus is one of many local arts organizations performing at the Young at Art Festival. Sarah and Matt Cotten of Puppets Amongus were recently featured on Arizona Illustrated. Watch their interview below!
Attention Middle School Students! This summer, come to the Poetry Center for a week-long camp that explores creative writing from a different dimension. Three different dimensions, to be exact.
What in the world is creative writing in 3D?
Creative writing in 3D is when your words leave the traditional "page" and mix with the physical objects or world around you.
Why 3D? Simply put, it's more fun. But it also brings words to life in a more interactive way. The words take on more meaning, become deeper symbols. Associations deepen, visual intuition takes over.
We live in a visual culture. There's no reason our writing can't be visual as well.
For an idea of real life 3D creative writing projects, check out Heather Green and Katherine Larson's Ghost Net Project. Or these other WordPlay blog posts: Ann Dernier's Body Mapping, Joni Wallace's Poetry Birds and Tim Dyke's Interacting With Natasha Tretheway's Native Guard. For even more ideas, visit these writers recently published on the Trick House website: Pamela Moore, Susan Sanford, and Emily Harrison.
When 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.
Congratulations to the Southern Arizona Poetry Out Loud Semi-Finalists: Steffi McNerney of St. Gregory College Preparatory School, Naomi Blackwell of Tucson High Magnet School, and Samantha Neville of Tucson High Magnet School!
Steffi, Naomi, and Samantha competed with 10 other high school students at the Poetry Center on March 3rd to secure their semi-finalist standing. All three ladies now move on to the State Finals Competition on Wednesday, March 16th from 7-9 p.m. in Phoenix, AZ. For more details about this performance visit www.azarts.gov/pol.
University of Arizona's Poetry Center rises up from the ground in clean, straight lines and sharp angles, all steel and glass. It is legendary within the English Department for being home to the extensive poetry library and for the authors who come to do readings. I've been at the U of A for three years and have had the Poetry Center extolled to me in numerous classes, but never knew where it was.
It's a Saturday morning in October and I'm on my way to assist with a session of Poetry Joeys. I'm a little nervous as I walk up--for a writer, I am considered annoyingly gregarious, but in truth I am an introvert with somewhat severe social anxiety. There have been many Christmas parties and other social functions which I have bailed out on at the last minute due to impending panic. This game of 'social activity roulette' adds a sense of uncertainty to every occasion.
by Julie Swarstad
Kazim Ali is a poet, novelist, essayist, and founding editor of Nightboat Books. He is the author of three volumes of poetry and two novels, including The Far Mosque (2005), The Disappearance of Seth (2009), and Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities (2009). Ali is an assistant creative writing professor at Oberlin College in addition to teaching for the Stonecoast MFA program.
Ana Božičević was born in Zagreb, Croatia in 1977. She emigrated to NYC in 1997. Her first book of poems is Stars of the Night Commute (2009), a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Her fifth chapbook, Depth Hoar, will be published by Cinematheque Press in 2010. With Amy King, Ana co-curates The Stain of Poetry reading series in Brooklyn. She works at the Center for the Humanities of The Graduate Center, CUNY.
The Next Word in Poetry program was initiated in 2003 to present emerging poets whose work heralds a dynamic new era in contemporary poetry. In February 2011 the Poetry Center presents two pairs of New Word poets to read and engage in conversation with one another concerning their literary interests and influences. Kazim Ali and Ana Božičević will read at the UA Poetry Center on Thursday, February 24 at 8 p.m.
"Let all birds feast upon the poets' bones, then sing!" - 1981 inscription by William Pitt Root on the Poets Cottage at the original UA Poetry Center
Born in Maine the daughter of a mill worker, Louise Bogan was the fourth Poet Laureate of the United States and one of the most notable female American poets of the twentieth century. She was poetry editor for The New Yorker from 1931-1969,and she published six collections of poetry during her lifetime. After her first marriage, Bogan began her career as a writer in New York City where she would remain for the rest of her life. Bogan is noted for her formal style and opposition to the confessional poetry that was popular during her lifetime. While few details of Bogan's personal life are public knowledge, her work continues to speak for itself today. Bogan read at the UA Poetry Center on February 15, 1967.
by Daniela Ugaz
Daniela moved to Tucson about a year and a half ago to start her MFA. Since then she's been spending some of her time writing, some of it teaching, some of it reading, organizing, scrounging up money and, without which none of the other things would be possible, napping! Life is good.
I started working with kids when I was twenty. That was four years ago. Now that I think about it, actually, I babysat a couple times when I was in my early teens. It was a little boy. I don't remember his name anymore. I didn't like babysitting very much, I remember that. And the boy's mother stopped calling after I lied a few times, saying I couldn't, saying I had a swim meet or play practice. The next time I worked with kids I was a teaching assistant for a summer journalism workshop for "at risk" middle schoolers. Those kids were hard on me, or maybe I took it that way mistakenly. I'll never be president, one of the boys once said to me. The teacher had just said something like you can be anything you want to be, as long as you set your mind to it. I didn't know what to say to him. I liked the idea of that job more than the job itself.
by Julie Swarstad
Rusty Morrison is a poet and co-founder of Omnidawn Publishing. She is the author of two volumes of poetry: Whethering (2005) which won the Colorado Prize for Poetry and the true keeps calm biding its story (2008) which won the 2008 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. Her poetry, essays, and reviews have been published in Boston Review, Chicago Review, and New American Writing, among others. She is a contributing editor for Poetry Flash.
Fred Moten lives in Durham, North Carolina, where he teaches in the Duke University Department of English. He is author of Arkansas (2000), In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (2003), I ran from it but was still in it. (2007), Hughson's Tavern (2008) and B Jenkins (2010).
The Next Word in Poetry program was initiated in 2003 to present emerging poets whose work heralds a dynamic new era in contemporary poetry. In February 2011 the Poetry Center presents two pairs of New Word poets to read and engage in conversation with one another concerning their literary interests and influences. Rusty Morrison and Fred Moten will read at the UA Poetry Center on Thursday, February 10 at 8 p.m.