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Poetry Made by All

Inspiration for Creative Writing Clubs Everywhere

Christy Delahanty"I see your spider legs and raise you an octopus tentacle."

The only legible phrase on our recently-decorated banner is also - though it does loosely correspond with the crayoned-in contents of the bubble letters - nonsensical. This doesn't matter.

The English and Creative Writing Club is among hundreds of recognized organizations on the University of Arizona campus and at least a handful of special interest - that is, non-exclusive - clubs. When I was became vice president my sophomore year, I wasn't worried; I knew the drill. Mostly due to low membership, the activities had dwindled to the bare bones of annual projects - chapbook, outreach, outreach - and the weekly meetings revolved around these bones.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Day I Knew Performance Poetry Worked in Schools: From Beating the Bell to the Tucson Youth Poetry Slam

Logan Phillipsby Logan Phillips

Logan Phillips is a bilingual writer, performer and transdisciplinary artist from the Arizona / Mexico borderlands. Born in Tombstone, AZ in 1983 to a family of Irish-Slavic decent, he holds a B.A. in Spanish from Northern Arizona University. Phillips was a professor of Hispanic American Literature and translation at Universidad Internacional in Cuernavaca, Mexico before dedicating himself full-time to artistic endeavors. As a performer and poet, Phillips has toured throughout the US, Mexico and as far afield as Vancouver, Paris, Bogota, and Penzance, England. He also works as a freelance journalist and is author of five poetry chapbooks including Arroyo Ink, published in 2009.

In 2007 Phillips co-founded the binational multimedia performance group Verbo•bala Spoken Video, which was described by national Mexican newspaper La Reforma as "going for a poetry written without letters." When not touring, Phillips splits his time between Arizona and Mexico City. More can be found at dirtyverbs.com. Author Photo by Elena Zinchenko.

A Moment Out of Time
It was a Friday afternoon in 2008 when my fellow performance poets Jasmine Cuffee, Carlos Contreras and I were performing for a crowd of over 700 students at Buena High School in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Human Side of the Issue: Ann Cummins' Yellowcake

With Yellowcake, Ann Cummins walks a dangerously thin line.  Her story is one of disease, radiation, and cultural struggle, all issues that many of us might find difficult to write about without ending up on a figurative soapbox.  Cummins, however, never makes that error; she approaches her story from an angle that is utterly human in perspective.   Cummins walks the line between political activism and the minutiae of daily life with such grace that the reader doesn't notice the balancing act and can simply engage with her fully realized, realistically flawed characters.

Yellowcake reads like a collection of several distinct stories woven together with the common threads of family, old friendships, and long exposure to radiation through yellowcake in the uranium mills of Colorado and New Mexico.   Ryland Mahoney, Sam Behan, and Woody Atcitty are the three men whose history as workers in a uranium mill near Shiprock, New Mexico drive the story forward; Ryland, an Anglo, and Woody, a Navajo, are slowly dying from radiation-caused illnesses, and their families and friends must struggle with the guilt, fear, and loss tangled up in their sickness.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Confronting the Darkness with David Wojahn

by Julie SwarstadInterrogation Palace by David Wohahn

David Wojahn is the author of eight books of poetry, among them World Tree (2011), Interrogation Palace: New and Selected Poems 1982-2006 (2006), The Falling Hour (1997) and Icehouse Lights (1982). He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and The National Endowment for the Arts.  Interrogation Palace was a named finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and winner of the O.B. Hardison Award.  An alumnus of the University of Arizona Creative Writing MFA Progra m, Wojahn is a professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University.

David Wojahn will read at the UA Poetry Center on Thursday, January 20 at 8 p.m. along with fellow UA alum Ann Cummins.

While David Wojahn is often noted as being "a poet of witness" to political injustice and other violence, in the poems collected into Interrogation Palace, he also acts as a witness to the struggles within individual lives.  His writing is filled with moments of personal struggle and pain: the loss of his wife Lynda, of unborn children, of friends, along with all the simple, small losses we go through each day.  Wojahn writes from a place of trouble and pain, but while his topics are weighty, he charges us to look them full in the face.  "How can you turn away?" he asks in one poem.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

2010-2011 Bilingual Corrido Contest Results

CorridoWe are pleased to announce the 2010-2011 Corrido Contest results. The University of Arizona Poetry Center received entries from across the state representing three counties, eleven schools, and over 250 individual entries by high school students sponsored by sixteen teachers. Congratulations to all who participated! It is heartening to see such motivated, curious, and thoughtful young people contributing to the cultural vibrancy of our community.

This year's selections were made by Dean of the College of Science at the University of Arizona, Joaquin Ruiz. Fifty semi-finalists from nine schools were selected by Poetry Center staff and will be acknowledged by a special semi-finalist ribbon and certificate to be sent directly to teachers. All participants, semi-finalists, and winners are invited to attend the 2010-2011 Corrido Awards Concert on April 16th, 2011 at 4 p.m. at the Poetry Center. The event is free and open to the public and this year's winning corridos will be performed.  For more information about the Corrido Contest, including how you and your students can become involved, please visit: http://poetry.arizona.edu/k-12/corrido-poetry-center

2010-2011 Winners

1st place, Sylvana Acuña from Cholla High School sponsored by Russ Healy for "El corrido de Heriberto Acuña."

2nd place, Jesus Hurtado from Sunnyside High School sponsored by Zelika Araiza for her corrido "Padre Querido."

3rd place, Valerie Leon from Marana High School sponsored by Yvonne Segawa Gonzales for "El corrido del Colimocho."

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Coming Soon

The WordPlay blog is on winter holiday. Please check back in January 2011 for more great interviews and articles about bringing creative writing into your classroom, home, and community. In the meantime, here's what's upcoming for youth at the UA Poetry Center in the Spring. Mark your calendars.

Poetry Joeys: January 29, February 26, March 19.

Poetry Out Loud Regional Finals: March 3 at 8 p.m.

Bilingual Corrido Contest Concert featuring 2011 winners: April 16

Young at Art Fest: April 30

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chew On This: Nonsense Stories from Poetry Joeys

Poetry Joeys at the Poetry Center

A few collaborative stories written by Poetry Joeys participants ages 4-6 on December 4th. Children were encouraged to make up their own words and create movements for them. Our next Poetry Joeys will be January 29th at 10 a.m. Hope to see you there!

Once upon a time there was a snoofjay.  He had curly horns and a zebra face, feathers on his head, a lizard chameleon body, and yellow beak.  The snoofjay nacks and snoofs.  At night he dumbers to his snookie.  In the morning he goes to bed.  He has to watch out for the Rhino and the maneless lion.  When the Snoofjay sees people, he says "Zucker.  Zacky."  Then he blows bees and grooks out of his nose.

A long time ago in Neek, eufs and geeks were having a battle.  The eufs wanted freedom, and the geeks wanted juice.  All day long the eufs snooked and all night the geeks fracked.  One day Fweak, the prince of mashed potatoes came riding on his Queaky.  When Fweak arrived he shlushed and he slooped.  The eufs gacked and gracked while the geeks boofed and ookied.  Fweak jumped off his Queaky, raised up his snond, and said, "Quackakeeky!"  The eufs choofed to the city.  The geeks went to San Diego.  And the Prince of Mashed Potatoes wackanacked home. 

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sarah Kortemeier on Poetry Performance

Two factors contribute to the quality of your student performance:

#1: Energy - your voice energy should be coming from your gut and be physically pushed out to the audience.

#2: Close attention to the text - You have to listen to the text as you speak it. 

When you listen to the text, you are in the moment.  Do NOT ask your students to memorize the delivery of the performance; it won't be honest or believable. The performance shouldn't be exactly the same each time. Rather, by listening to themselves in the moment, they will respond organically and discover the poem anew each time.

When you are doing a close reading with the text, make sure you don't ask them to generalize the mood of the poem.  A generalized mood will make for a generalized performance. Instead, take the poem line by line, figure out what the most important words are in each sentence and how they should be spoken.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Big Sky Lessons

by Elizabeth Maria FalcónCotton

Kimi Eisele's blog, "Big Sky Lessons: Reflections from a traveling teaching artist in rural Arizona" is a fantastic site for teaching inspiration. A recent blog post, "Lessons in Softness" reflects on a teaching experience she had near Safford on the San Carlos Apache reservation. Students had been asked to write an animal fable in one week, and Kimi was there to guide them through the writing process. She discusses the struggle she experienced between getting students to write and allowing students to discover what they have to say through creative movement and play.

Here is an excerpt from her blog post from one of the class periods where they explored animals through creative movement:

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Joshua Marie Wilkinson's Exploratory Imagery

by Julie SwSelenography by Joshua Marie Wilkinsonarstad

Joshua Marie Wilkinson is the author of five books of poetry, including Lug Your Careless Body out of the Careful Dusk (2005) which won the Iowa Poetry Prize, and Selenography (2010).  He has edited two anthologies for University of Iowa Press, including Poets on Teaching (2010), and his first feature-length film--a tour documentary about the band Califone--has just been completed.  Wilkinson is an alumnus of the University of Arizona Creative Writing MFA Program.  He lives in Chicago where he is an assistant professor at Loyola University.

Joshua Marie Wilkinson will read at the UA Poetry Center on Friday, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. along with fellow UA alumna Kate Bernheimer.

Wilkinson will also be teaching an afternoon seminar on ancient images and threads at the Poetry Center on Saturday, Dec. 4th from 1-3 p.m.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010
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