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#ROW80, Poetry Center Events

February 15, 2015 5 Comments



I have achieved one of the  goals I stated in my first post here. I have been to the U of A Poetry Center this week. The free reading on Thursday evening was part of series on the poetics  and politics of water.  Sherwin Bitsui, a Navajo poet, read from his works.  The were haunting and evocative of desert landscapes.  He was generous in his explanation of the background and muse for the works he presented to us.  This gave us both biographical information about him, and a sense of how long he worked on the books he had published.  Mr Bitsui is now a professor of creative writing in San Diego, but he comes form the Navajo reservation.  In his introduction he was recognized for his support of other Native American poets.  He mentored and helped a number of people during his time at the University of Arizona who have gone on to publish books of poetry.  I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him read.  Ideas from the reading have been resonating and reverberating in my mind…a good sign that those poems hit home in ways I have yet to understand.

Yesterday, for Valentine’s Day the Poetry Center docents presented a reading at the Tucson Botanical Gardens.  Poetry in the Garden is a regular series open to the public held in the natural setting of the gardens.  Our broad subject this month was birds as symbols of love.  These readings are enjoyable for all ages and stages of poetic interest.  The docents compile a packet of poems and read from the collection.  The audience is invited to read too, and discussion takes place after each reading.  The docents encourage the audience to express thoughts and feelings about the meaning or the sounds in the readings.  The discussion is broad and not academic.  The programs are very well prepared and produced, this one being no exception.  We heard from e.e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, some other well known writers, and less famous poets with all kinds of styles.  The setting and weather were ideal as we were visited by singing birds before and after the session.  They seemed to be voicing approval or applause.

Both of these very well produced events are an example of the very good luck it is to live near the Poetry Center.  Having access to these high quality readings is a gift.  Some of the attendees at the evening readings are enrolled in a University of Arizona seminar on the poetics and politics of water.  They spend class time with these visiting poets as well as the public reading time.  There will be 3 more in this series.  I plan to go to all of them because they touch a very serious subject for us in Arizona…water.  The fact that they are all Native American is meaningful.  In history tribes respected natural resources while the invaders worked to deplete them. Our situation today is precarious.  We have less security about water every minute.  The scientists involved in this seminar agree that poets bring something to the study that pure science can not.

I am still writing, listening and learning about the lives of poets in my own practice.  I have expanded my subject matter a little, but nothing too impressive.  The best thing I discovered through listening at these readings is that you can write poetry any way you want.  There are no forms that are rejected.  Free verse is square, some poems are drawings of shapes with the lines, some use sound with mysterious meaning, still others rhyme and are held together in quartrians.  It is all good.  I still notice my preference to hear the sound rather than see it written on the page.  The garden readings are particularly pleasurable for me because I am sitting in a favorite spot with someone reading stories to me.  It is a big luxury to glance around the gardens and take in the poems. It is like having a limousine instead of driving yourself.   Do you like to listen to spoken word, gentle reader, or do you like to read it in print?  My dad used to read to me, and he did recite a few poems, so I think this reminds me of my childhood in a good way.


Meeting Expectations

January 8, 2015 8 Comments

cocktail that wants to be a poem

cocktail that wants to be a poem

People walk through the doors of your expectations.  This has been my belief for most of my life, and has proven to be a valid one.  I have high standards, but notice how I am much more likely to apply them to others than to myself.  I do set goals and make commitments, but not usually in a public way.  This is why the #ROW80 challenge is perfect for me.  I have set myself an expectation of working more creatively and do a daily bit to achieve that goal.  I want to practice being more poetic in all aspects of life, so the drawing, photography and poetry are intended to build on themselves .  I expect to become more observant in all aspects of my habitual life. There are already a few good results:

  • I have kept my dream diary daily, concentrating on the words I associate with my dreams
  • My daily drawing practice (digitally assisted) is enjoyable. I warm up for the day by making visual art
  • I have written short poems to go with the art, inspired by the experience of creating it
  • My attention has expanded to include all kinds of subjects for poetry that I had not considered

The addition of the art has made this exercise natural and easy for me. I have written poetry before, and even looked for art to use as inspiration.  Making the art myself  is a new and interesting way to tie my attention to a written project.  Usually I write the prose, then add the visuals.  Starting with color and form is a good way for me to see action and hue within the emotional tone I want to set.  I have not attempted to draw anything realistic.   My best work is not representational, but based on geometry and color.  I am not afraid to try, and am considering going to the botanical garden and trying to do a depiction of the cactus section.  Words to go with the cactus poem have been rattling around in my brain as a think about the idea.  Although I do publish my work, the purpose of this venture outside my normal writing style is completely personal.  I am not seeking adulation or followers.  I am curious to see if my writing practice can expand and include more comedy, enlightenment, and beauty.   So far, so good!! Now, for the poetry of others:

  • I adore Dorothy Parker, and would love to emulate her style of poetry
  • The U of A Poetry Center is holding a reading tomorrow night, and I may attend
  • I discovered I like reading the Kindle on the exercise bike, so I plan to collect poets to read while I ride
  • I will shop Amazon to discover the work of poets I do not know, and make a stop at the library

In general the poetic life is off to a fine start here.  I have also started a food preparation calendar, which I think of as an extension of poetic thinking. I want my home life, my cuisine, and my fitness regime to reflect creativity and artful planning.   The food preparation trip is actually a very good foundation because it concentrates kitchen time and frees me to wander off into the world of visual art and poetry.  I have had some funny thoughts about food and drink poems I want to write.  I think a cocktail series could be pretty funny.  Asking “What would Dorothy Parker say?” is a fabulous prompt I am using. In my heart of hearts I want the ROW80 to turn me into a glib, sophisticated observer of the details of living.  I don’t think that is too much to expect in 80 days.

cornbread that wants to be a poem

cornbread that wants to be a poem

Poetry at the Gardens

March 29, 2014 1 Comment

Today at the Tucson Botanical Gardens docents from the U of A Poetry Center offered a reading and workshop in Ekphrastic Poetry. This style of poem is a response to a piece of art, the Ek being from Greek and referring to echo. The group attending was a mixture of students, visual artists, and poets.  By far the most emotional poem of the day was read by a Nam Vet who sat behind me. He chose to read War Photograph by Kate Daniels.  His choked up emotions brought tears to his eyes which brought tears to the eyes of the audience.  The other poems were discussed and analyzed but we were all very touched and had nothing more to say after he read.  At the end of the session participants wrote poems about the photos in the gallery.  All were striking.  I apologize, gentle reader, for cutting off the very beginning of some of these gentle readings.  It was a well produced and very well appreciated poetry experience, and we all have beautiful handouts to finish at home.  There is one more session this spring of Poetry in the Gardens, Native poetry on April 26, 2014.  These programs are included with garden admission.  It is SUCH A DEAL!!



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