»

| Give a Gift |

  • Digital Edition

Readings & Workshops Blog

Recently, Poets & Writers awarded one poet and one fiction writer with a trip to New York to meet with editors, agents, and other literary professionals as part of the California Writers Exchange contest. The winning fiction writer, Laura Joyce Davis of Oakland, blogs about her experience from NYC. (Stay tuned for another post from poet Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo as well!)

Laura Joyce Davis, Deborah Garrison, Xochitl-Julisa BermejoI am living a writer’s dream.

We’ve only been in New York for a few days, but we’ve packed in weeks of writerly wisdom, months of ideas to contemplate. The agents, editors, and writers Xochitl and I have met have been generous, thoughtful, and helpful. Writers, there is hope as long as these good people are here!

On Monday we met with Deborah Garrison, an editor at both Pantheon and Knopf. She told us about her fifteen years at the New Yorker, where she personally read through the “slush pile” of submissions and always hoped to find a voice unlike any other. It’s the same perspective she brings to her work now, whether reading poetry, fiction, or non-fiction. She said that the most important thing for a writer is to be true to oneself, to write what you must—not the story you think will be marketable. She said that the best writers appreciate editing that makes them better, and that they know how to recognize good advice without getting defensive. This is the reason I’m not interested in self-publishing: I want to learn from someone like Garrison, to become a better writer because of the perspective she can show me. Julia Glass calls Garrison an “incredible editor,” and now I understand why.

When I met Tea Obreht (author of The Tiger’s Wife) last week at the AWP writer’s conference, she told me that her agent Seth Fishman was amazing—not just a great agent who works hard, but also a really nice guy. She was right. I met Fishman on Monday, and he immediately put me at ease, but also gave great advice. Keep publishing in literary journals, he said, because the people reading those journals are the same people who are going to buy your book. He also emphasized that authors should do everything they can to get the entire publishing staff excited about their books; editors sometimes move to other jobs, but your book will be okay if you have a team of people rooting for it. Fishman is a relatively young agent, but he’s made an impressive start to his career in a short time.

On Tuesday I met with Gail Hochman (agent for Michael Cunningham and Julia Glass). “I’ve been doing this for a hundred years,” she said. Looking at the towers of papers in her office and hearing about clients who have called her while she was in the airport or the maternity ward, I don’t doubt that she’s packed a hundred years of work into the thirty-plus years she’s been doing this. She talked about the challenges of selling books, about how a story and its characters have to grab the reader in the first few pages or it won’t sell. When I asked her what she wished every young writer knew, she said to remember that everyone reading your book (even your agent) is a real person; they have a full life beyond their work with you, so cut them some slack.

It’s been a true gift to meet with people like Garrison, Fishman, and Hochman. I hope I get to the opportunity to work with some of them. But even if I don’t, they’ve given me a little more faith in the world of writing, and on any day, that’s worth a lot.

Photo: (left to right) Laura Joyce Davis, Deborah Garrison, and Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo.

The California Writers Exchange contest is made possible by a generous grant from the James Irvine Foundation.

Recently, Poets & Writers awarded one poet and one fiction writer with a trip to New York to meet with editors, agents, and other literary professionals as part of the California Writers Exchange contest. The winning poet, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo of Los Angeles, blogs about her experience from NYC. (Stay tuned for a post from winning fiction writer Laura Joyce Davis as well!)

Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo with fellow writers.It is now 4:41 p.m., I’m sitting in my room on the seventh floor of the Gershwin Hotel in Midtown, and I have to be in the lobby ready to go to my first New York reading by 6 p.m. I got back to my room at 10:30 last night after a delicious Indian dinner with Yale Younger Poet Eduardo C. Corral, my fellow contest winner Laura Joyce Davis, and staff from Poets & Writers. Eduardo laughed at the lamb chops I ordered over dinner: “You know how to do it.”

But now I have only a little over an hour before I must make my way through the cold and ugly rain that has burst onto Manhattan Island today in order to get to the Center for Fiction for the reading. This is how the trip has been since we landed Sunday night: a whirlwind, a storm.

So what do I say? I can say that spending the last two days talking poetry and literature with fabulous people over fabulous food has been, well, fabulous. A definite highlight was sharing a glass of wine with Yusef Komunyakaa at a little corner café and as we talked about theatre, Son Jarocho, and poetry. But so much of this trip has been a highlight. Getting to sit in on a meeting with a real New York lit agent with a no-bull attitude, papers on her desk piled to her chin, was other-worldly. It has all felt unreal, and every once in awhile I have a little giggle to myself and think, I can’t believe this is happening. 

Eduardo C. Corral talks about running in the cotton fields around his home in Casa Grande, Arizona, as a child and imagining it was snow. He remembers shivering in the middle of August and even asking his mother for a coat. Matthea Harvey remembers chasing fairies in the hedges around her house, and fantasizing about glow-in-the-dark teddy bears that she wished were hers. Yusef Komunyakaa shares a story about watching an eighty-year-old woman dance Son Jarocho and believes it is the first time he has seen duende in the flesh. These are the memories I will take back to Los Angeles with me.

But then there is the quiet moment I enter my hotel room and throw off my coat. The moment I am alone, and my heart and eyes almost instantaneously swell. I breathe and really take in everything that has been going on around me. I’m truly lucky to have this moment and all the moments that brought me to this one. And I can’t stop feeling thankful. Thankful to Poets & Writers, thankful to my friends who keep texting me good luck for tonight, to the L.A. poets that always have my back, to my parents who have always encouraged me pursue my dreams. I feel like a silly little girl, but all I can really say right now is thank you.

And, just for something a little fun, here are two questions I’ve been asking everyone, along with their answers.

Q: As a reader, what is the first book you remember getting swept up in?

Deborah Garrison (literary editor at Knopf and Pantheon): It’s a little embarrassing, but The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilders. I’m rereading it right now with my youngest. I’ve read it at least eight times.

Eduardo C. Corral (poet): To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Gail Hochman (literary agent): Little Women by Luisa May Alcott. No question about it.

Matthea Harvey (poet and children’s book author): Fantastic Toys by Monika Bisner. I remember lying in bed and wondering if I could have one toy, which one would I choose?

Q: Besides reading and writing, what is an activity that is important to your writing?

Deborah Garrison: Commuting, walking. There are not a lot of places that I can be contemplative. Walking the dog; times when I am unplugged.

Yusef Komunyakaa (poet): Maybe shooting pool.

Eduardo C. Corral: For me, in New York City, walking around, listening, dragging your finger against a wall. Being in the city.

Matthea Harvey: Going to art museums and galleries. Walking around the city. Taking photographs of nothing particular.

Photo: From left: P&W staff member Jamie FitzGerald, Laura Joyce Davis, Yusef Komunyakaa, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, and P&W Staff member Cathy Linh Che.

The California Writers Exchange contest is made possible by a generous grant from the James Irvine Foundation. For more information on the contest, visit here.

P&W-funded Regie Cabico is the coeditor, with poet and novelist Brittany Fonte, of the recently published anthology of queer poetry and spoken word, Flicker and Spark (Lowbrow Press). His own work has appeared in over thirty anthologies, including Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, Spoken Word Revolution, and Chorus & The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. He received the 2006 Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers for his work teaching at-risk youth at Bellevue Hospital in New York. He is a former Artist in Residence at NYU's Asian Pacific American Studies Program and has served as faculty at Banff's Spoken Word Program. He resides in Washington, D.C.

I recently flew to Oakland to jump-start the debut of Cupid Ain’t @#$%!: An Anti-Valentine’s Day Poetry Movement. The series, started by J. Mase the III, has a strong, queer spoken-word bent, with poets of color and queer allies coming together to rail not just about love, but also about political identity through a humor and candor that you don’t get in a lot of poetry readings. In its fifth year, the series has gone to Philadelphia, New York, Washington, D.C., and Oakland. Having performed as a gay Filipino poet for the last twenty years, it occurred to me that the Cupid Movement is giving voice to a queer culture that embraces queer allies and also fosters an intergenerational queer positive environment.

I flew in from Washington, D.C., and into The Living Room Project, an Oakland-based organization devoted to healing, wellness, and serving the queer community. I rode the BART with poet Baruch Porras Hernandez, who curates the Queer Open Mic, the longest running series in the Bay. We were later joined by J. Mase, who flew in from Chicago, as well as trans comedian Natasha Muse. The Cupid show brought in an intimate crowd of a dozen or so: mainly queer folks who heard about the show from queer artists they had been following from New York. Deb Malkin, a college friend and her girlfriend, Cholla Soledad, showed up and made the reading a Valentine’s Day compromise—since Cholla is an anti-V-day cupid-downer. Deb is a Libra romantic. As a poet who performs constantly, you never know who will come or how many folks will show up.

Mase’s poem “Neighbor” was a big hit. The poem is about a homophobic neighbor who gives Mase nasty stares: “Queer people fuck better...and you know it because you live next door...to me.” Baruch’s poem on being “thin” is the best queer poem on body image: “If I were thin I would move a pile of needles naked from one room to another...and sleep with so many skinny boys in my bed because I’d be thin and we can lie in a line on the bed...” Natasha Muse broke her stand-up set into progressions during which she spoke of coming out as trans, starting out as Ewan McGregor and then ending up looking like Nicole Kidman, so watching Moulin Rouge hits her in a very personal way. Natasha concluded her set by talking about becoming a mom and living with her female spouse. The evening had some of the best comedic queer material that I have come across. The owner of The Living Room Project, Micah Hobbes, was impressed by the talent and acknowledged humor as a healing tool.

Photos: (Top) Regie Cabico. Credit: Carlos Rodriguez (Bottom) From left to right: J Mase III, Natasha Muse, Baruch Porras-Hernandez, Regie Cabico.

Support for Readings/Workshops events in Washington, D.C. is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Jennifer Karminmultidisciplinary projects have been presented at festivals, artist-run spaces, and on city streets across the United States, Japan, Kenya, and Europe. A founding curator of the Red Rover Series, she is the author of the text-sound epic Aaaaaaaaaaalice (Flim Forum Press, 2010) and her poetry was recently published in I'll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women (Les Figues Press, 2012). Jennifer teaches in the Creative Writing program at Columbia College Chicago and at Truman College, where she works with immigrants as a community educator. She will be a guest faculty member at Naropa University in the summer of 2013.

With fellow poet Laura Goldstein, I curate the Red Rover Series (readings that play with reading). Founded in 2005, each Chicago event is designed as a reading experiment with participation by local, national, and international writers, artists, and performers. To date, we have hosted over sixty events featuring a diversity of renowned creative minds. The Readings/Workshops program at Poets & Writers has helped support many of our programs in the past few years.

Here are Laura and I in dialogue about our curation:

Karmin: From the beginning with co-founder Amina Cain and our subsequent curator Lisa Janssen, Red Rover has tried to create an environment where anything can happen and often does. Our audience never exactly knows what they're walking into. We're interested in an interdisciplinary approach to events. This often includes nonliterary genres, audience participation, exploring a theme, and playing with seating in the space.

Goldstein: I really think that our series looks at all the elements of a typical series and tries to experiment with them in order to engage an audience with being as aware as possible about what they are experiencing. How are the words presented? How do I relate to the other readers tonight? How can I incorporate the space? How can I incorporate the audience? I think that these elements are taken for granted at a lot of readings.

Karmin: We see the curator as a facilitator of group experience for the writers, artists, and audience members. This is one way we're trying to challenge the usual hierarchies that often play out in the literary and art world. Our main mode of operation is collaboration.

Goldstein: Sometimes people send us proposals as a group, and those are usually a pre-packaged deal. Those writers have been in contact so they come up with a title based on their proposed experiment. If we get individual proposals, we connect the performers and ask them to communicate a bit about what connects their ideas.

Karmin: To experiment is to try something new. To move out of your comfort zone. It's a kind of creative freedom where there's no success or failure.

Goldstein: We call them experiments because whoever is producing the poetry is asked to experiment with the ideas surrounding the work and turn that into a mode of presentation. We also like to call them experiments because there is less pressure on the participants to have something "perfect" or "complete"...it's just something that we are encouraging writers to try out in the community.

As part of the 2013 IN>TIME Festival, Red Rover Series brought the writers of Black Took Collective to Chicago for three February events. Co-Founded in 1999 by Duriel E. Harris, Dawn Lundy Martin, and Ronaldo V. Wilson at Cave Canem, a retreat for African American poets, Black Took Collective is a group of Black posttheorists who perform and write in hybrid experimental forms, embracing radical poetics and cutting-edge critical theory about race, gender, and sexuality. We happily received support from Poets & Writers, Creative Writing at the University of Chicago, Arts + Public Life at the University of Chicago, the Creative Writing Programs at Columbia College Chicago, and the Writing Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Thoughts on Black Took Collective’s recent Chicago visit:

J’Sun Howard, writer and dance artist: Two Macbooks with blank documents open for the audience to read periodic automatic writing from the collective, as the piece went along, spread across opposite walls from each other. The third wall facing the audience housed another projection that was a small phantasmagoric video of smiling faces behind a clear makeup-ed mask, Wilson dancing while Lundy read, and more text in bold white letters contrasted eerily with the sleekness, absoluteness, and unfussiness of the other automatic writing projections. In the center of the floor, a table held all the equipment and was flooded with microphones, water bottles, more text, poetry books, props of a gun, and a black mask.

Kenyatta Rogers, poet and teacher: At the Black Took events, I found myself engaged in an experience that combined multiple voices and mediums to give me a different vision of myself as a Black man and in some senses a ‘thing’ to be feared or misunderstood.

Jen Besemer, poet and artist: Dear Plurality of One/s, To say yes and. I can't put any of my questions into words, can only nod my kangol head as the talk happens. I am obsessed with that gun, like ‘is that thing loaded, little caps, what?’ I want to move, too. The words I can't say in the audience I could say onstage. Now why is that? I thank you.

Laura Goldstein:

our bond as an audience in the blue light, paper is hung, within
letters skip, turn into that knot ronaldo was taking about. what fits
in frame. duriel's fairy tale: feel skin, found doubt, in you. each for
each. and dawn the tone and tongue. gently peel back the sack, give heart attack.

At the end of Black Took Collective’s evening of performance, I lead a short tribute to poet, performer, and activist Jayne Cortez, who died on December 28, 2012. Calling for five volunteers from the audience, we presented a choral reading of the Cortez poem "Find Your Own Voice". One by one, I tapped the readers on their shoulders and asked each to start reading. Listening to the voices spontaneously weave together, I was reminded that curating is often a form of making a live collage and witnessing the ways creative community gets formed.

Photo: (from top) Jennifer Karmin. Credit: Amina Cain. Ronald V. Wilson, Dawn Lundy Martin. Credit: Laura Goldstein. Duriel E. Harris. Credit: Laura Goldstein.

Support for Readings/Workshops events in Chicago is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Cybele Knowles works as a program coordinator at the University of Arizona Poetry Center, where she coordinates the PW-funded Center’s Reading and Lecture Series, Classes & Workshops program, and Closer Look Book Club. She holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Arizona and an MA in English from U.C. Berkeley. Her poetry and prose have appeared in the DestroyerSpiral OrbDiagramPindeldyboz, the Asian Pacific American JournalFaucheuse, and the Prose Poem.

In my final post, I’ll share some homage tattoos spied in and around the University of Arizona Poetry Center. These tattoos reference poets, writers, artists, and artworks that have a special significance to the wearer.

My interest in such tattoos originated when poet Philip Jenks came to Tucson in 2010 to appear in our Reading and Lecture Series, a program supported by the Poets & Writers Readings/Workshops program. I knew about Philip’s fabulous tattoo of Emily Dickinson, and asked him if I could take a picture of it. He was gracious enough to allow me to capture his Emily in all her glory.

Philip Jenks

This is a powerful Emily Dickinson, with large hands and a tribal halo. Philip also chose to depict Emily as she might have looked in her later years (the only known photos of Emily are from when she was very young). As you can imagine, encountering Philip and his Emily sparked in me an interest in other tattoos that reference loved writers, artists, and artworks. It turns out that such tattoos are everywhere at the Poetry Center, on the bodies of our visitors, volunteers, colleagues, friends, and patrons. Here are just a few homage tattoos I’ve discovered at the Poetry Center. With each image is a statement from the wearer about the origin, history, or personal significance of the tattoo.

Zachary Schomburg: Poet, Editor, and Poetry Center Visiting Poet (October 2012).

Zachary Schomburg

“Much of the history of this Aram Saroyan poem was spent at the center of political controversy over the value of public funding for the arts, but now it represents more of a marker of that successful resistance. This tattoo then embodies not only my commitment to poetry, this unbound experiment of language that the poem itself embodies, but also its defense. Plus, it is an entire poem I can fit on my wrist. I’m sure I’m one of many with this poem on my body, but I wear it also in unison with two of my good friends, Mathias Svalina and Joshua Marie Wilkinson. We share a Frank Stanford line too. I’m developing this compulsion of wanting to be completely covered with language and images. Tattoos and pens. I like writing on myself. When I write on myself with a pen, it quickly disappears. Without this particular photo, I wouldn’t have ever remembered writing that scribble on my hand. I think it says, ‘Maybe everybody is trying to kill me and failing.’ I don’t know if I ever called TS. Who is TS? Some owls? My fingernails are dirty.”

Kate Bernheimer: Writer, Editor, and Poetry Center Colleague/Teacher/Friend.

Kate Bernheimer

“I used to live in Portland, Oregon, and every winter I would come spend around a month in the Tucson Mountains, out near the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, at my friend Lydia Millet’s place. I had to get out of the rain and I revere the high desert. Lydia had renovated what was basically a trailer into a compound of sorts and had space for a guest among the many creatures and incredible botany there. We would work from sunrise to sunset—we would write for more than eight hours, it was serious bliss—and then we would have drinks in her kitchen with the lights out and watch javelinas feast on a quail block. As we wrote, I could hear Lydia chortling at her computer at the other end of the house. Her laughter carried me through the end of my first two novels. In 2000, the year she wrote My Happy Life (and chortled through it, which is hilarious because it’s a terribly heartbreaking book), I completed The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold. The day I finished the novel, we drove over Gate’s Pass into downtown Tucson and I got my tattoo on Fourth Avenue after having a vodka and soda at Plush, though I’m not sure if it was called Plush at the time. I think so. I had just the one drink, I wasn’t drunk. I had planned on getting a tattoo of the word ‘Mom’ written inside a winged heart, to match Lydia’s, but at the last minute I decided on the angel with chicken feet. The tattoo is a version of an illustration by Alexander Alexeieff that appears on the title page of Russian Fairy Tales, collected by Aleksandr Afanasev and translated by Norbert Guterman. She also appears in The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold—a description of her, not a picture. Portions of the novel are based on the tales in that book, and I had the book with me when we left Lydia’s spread in the desert and went into town. I pretty much took it everywhere I went, at the time, along with a collection of Brothers Grimm tales. Both have now completely fallen apart.”

TC Tolbert: Poet, Assistant Director of Casa Libre en la Solana, and Poetry Center Friend.

TC Tolbert

“I got this tattoo of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain just as I was beginning my gender transition from female to something less visibly female (also often called male but, unlike many trans folks, I don’t identify as male, I identify as trans—anyway). At the time I was in grad school for poetry, reading Poems for the Millennium, and it was Mallarmé, then Dada, that gave me a poetic lens for my body. And, in turn, my (trans and genderqueer) body gave me a physical/spatial lens for my poetic work. It is not an exaggeration to say that I transitioned partly because the avant-gardes (plural, as Richard Kostelanetz points out) gave me permission to interrupt the narrative, the confidence to experiment with form. Trans and queer coming-out stories are important to me, but even more encouraging, and less prescriptive, has been the work of Gertrude Stein, Stéphane Mallarmé, Marcel Duchamp, Trisha Brown, Shen Wei, and C.D. Wright. Fountain embodies Cage’s dictum: It’s lighter than you think. I needed that. I still do. To remember that my body (my bodies) is (are) a readymade—that I actually have very little idea of the different things it is, it can become, it can do. It’s also fascinating to see how different people read the piece. Among the many guesses: an athletic cup (jock strap), a regular old urinal, a hunk of roast beef, a steak. Judith Butler says that one ‘exists’ not only by virtue of being recognized, but, in a prior sense, by being recognizable. So too for the trans body, the experimental poem.”

Cameron Louie: Poet and Poetry Center Advisory Board Member.

Cameron Louie

Ad astra per alas porci: ‘to the stars on the wings of a pig.’ The Pigasus is, in a sense, John Steinbeck’s truest signature. It symbolized him, and I think it symbolizes all of us who try at writing, as ‘lumbering souls but trying to fly.’ It is an impossible thing, and imaginary. Most importantly, while riding the Pigasus, one gains the gift of poesy...”

Adam Kullberg: Nonfiction Writer and Poetry Center Volunteer.

Adam Kullberg

“I didn’t read Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, on which this tattoo was based, until I was in my early 20s. But when I did I found myself fascinated with his use of the Martian landscape—a place I viewed as foreign, lifeless—to convey the beauty, as well as the ugliness, of the world in which I lived. I meant for this tattoo, through its watercolor style and surreal landscape, to convey one of the strengths I find in all of Bradbury’s short stories and novels: that he speaks to both the artist and the child, the ordinary and the fantastic, the real and the magical, that are tethered to each of us.”

Mike Powell: Fiction Writer and Poetry Center Volunteer.

Mike Powell

“This tattoo is of a muted post horn, the symbol of an underground mail-delivery service in Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49. I got it when I was 19 or 20 in a strip mall next to a sushi restaurant near the edge of Charlottesville, Virginia. I imagine that some people get tattoos of images they think are singular or uniquely expressive. Part of the reason for getting this tattoo is precisely that I knew other people who already had it: friends of friends of friends, cousins of friends of friends, strangers I’d met at parties. It wasn’t a mark of separation, but of connection. Plus, while I’m not particularly attached to physical mail or mail delivery, I liked the idea that the symbol belonged to an underground mail-delivery service, which seemed like an elegant metaphor for both the romantic appeal of subculture but also the superfluity of it. (The USPS has always served me just fine.) Twice or so a year, I meet people with the same tattoo. I’d be lying if I said it brought me closer to them, necessarily. Not all groups are predicated on spiritual kinship. For these people I reserve a quiet smile, and take heart in the idea that we know something, however irrelevant, that other people don’t. (My other tattoo is of the now-extinct Tasmanian tiger.)”

Laura Miller: Fiction Writer and Poetry Center Volunteer.

Laura Miller

“When I was feeling as if I’d never be a legitimate writer, a Steinbeck or a Chekhov, science fiction showed me the writer’s imagination cracked open on the page and gave me a way forward. This tattoo is from the first science fiction film, Le Voyage dans la Lune, and I love the harshness of the film: the un-romanticized depiction of space, the moon-image characterizing man’s capacity for destruction. I worked closely with the tattoo artist to retain that gruesome quality. The moon paradox, a symbol of darkness, of mother, of spiritual guidance, is something I think about a great deal in my fiction. Moons have—since childhood—haunted me.”


Thanks to Philip, Zach, Kate, TC, Cameron, Adam, Mike, and Laura for sharing their homage tattoos, some of their favorite authors and artists, and their stories with me!

Photo Credit: Cybele Knowles.
Support for Readings/Workshops events in Tucson is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

In January, Poets & Writers convened its third annual Workshop Leaders Retreat for Los Angeles-area writers who teach workshops for underserved communities. Readings/Workshops Fellow Andrew Wessels writes about the day.

Just Kibbe with his poetry/art carIn the back room of 826LA in Echo Park on a wintry Sunday afternoon, a group of dedicated workshop leaders gathered to make connections, share advice, and enlarge each others’ repertoires of writing prompts. The Workshop Leaders Retreat was P&W’s way of thanking the writers who help us fulfill our mission, and providing them with resources to continue their work.

The meeting began with an exquisite corpse poem. Each workshop leader wrote a line (or two) of poetry that communicated something that he or she wanted the group to know. As each line was written, the page was folded over to conceal what came before. The resulting poem, which can be found at the end of this post, included imagery ranging from dinosaurs to DeLoreans.

The group transitioned from the whimsical to the practical, engaging in a free-flowing conversation that covered administrative strategies, contract negotiation, and maintaining good relations with site directors.

They also shared techniques that inspired workshop participants to new levels of writing. Just Kibbe prompted his high-school students to create their poems right on his car. They spray-painted words and numbers connected to their identities on the car, which he continues to proudly drive (and which has been used now by multiple classes as a mobile writing platform).

Why do writers do community work, especially when the pay is minimal and the Blue Book value of one’s car might be lowered as a result?

“Part of writing is to teach how to be in the world,” offered Jeremy Radin, who has taught workshops for teens and people with eating disorders.

After a lunch break, the group reconvened for the highlight of the afternoon: the writing prompts. Radin began by leading the entire group through one of his tried-and-true workshop sessions. Here’s the prompt:

Workshop Leaders Retreat attendees“You are the ghost that haunted the house you first lived in. The one that makes the house creak and the wind sing so strangely in the windows. You (the ghost) have a message to deliver to child-you (the author). It can be a message about child-you’s future, something that is happening right now, something you need in order to be free, etc. What is the message and how do you deliver it? You are a ghost, so moving physical objects requires incredible expenditures of energy. Have at it!”

The fifteen-minute writing session guided by Radin produced a wide range of responses, from the humorous to the emotionally charged. The group then broke into two, led by Traci Kato-Kiriyama and Hannah Menkin. Kato-Kiriyama led her group in a minimalist prompt: “And when…”.

Menkin’s prompt, by contrast, was slightly more involved, beginning with the Rabindrath Tagore quote: “There is a point where in the mystery of existence contradictions meet; where movement is not all movement and stillness is not all stillness; where the idea and the form, the within and the without, are united; where infinite becomes finite, yet not.” Menkin then asked her group members to respond, thinking specifically about the stillness of poetry.

As both groups shared their responses, the energy in the expansive room was anything but still.

(Want to see more prompts? Check out The Time Is Now.)

Exquisite corpse poem:

“Back to the Future Now and Again”

I am on my metaphorical walk back to the future
I am 100 years of age
When I was a boy, I’d stand the broccoli
Up on the plate, pretend I was a brontosaurus
Feasting on trees. Wished I could leave this behind.
Wish I could cry about it
But the tears no longer fall
My only choice is to stand tall
A caffeinated DeLorean sends me spinning
Into the unexpected, yes…
It’s poetry again, coming to soothe the soul,
Opening windows, releasing tears, swirling dust
In the room. Writing rocks.
Pink stains on paper towel, stomach full of cherries.
And scattered she slumped bed-ward, a sink sink sink.
Translate the books into art, into the landscape
Of the sea and sunset.
Voices are verbs unwritten given to pen to paper from tree.
Reverse the reverb and make verbs with me.
They are lining up outside.

Photos: (Top) Just Kibbe with his poetry/art car. (Bottom) Workshop Leaders Retreat attendees. Credit: Andrew Wessels.

Major support for Readings/Workshops in California is provided by The James Irvine Foundation. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Cybele Knowles works as a program coordinator at the University of Arizona Poetry Center, where she coordinates the PW-funded Center’s Reading and Lecture Series, Classes & Workshops program, and Closer Look Book Club. She holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Arizona and an MA in English from U.C. Berkeley. Her poetry and prose have appeared in the Destroyer, Spiral Orb, Diagram, Pindeldyboz, the Asian Pacific American Journal, Faucheuse, and the Prose Poem.

In this post I’m going to lead you on a tour of the University of Arizona Poetry Center. As I think you’ll see, in its design and function, it combines elements of a library, university, theater, community center, garden, workspace, home, aerie, and even church. In Fall 2007, after a decade of envisioning, designing, fundraising, and construction, the Poetry Center moved into this custom landmark building.

University of Arizona Poetry Center Exterior

The spaces of the building allow us to do so much more than ever before!

University of Arizona Poetry Center Interior

Perhaps most importantly, our entire library collection of over 70,000 items is now housed under one roof. We have open stacks (pictured here), an archive room, and a rare book room.

University of Arizona Poetry Center Book Stacks

Here are a few treasures from our rare book room. From top to bottom and left to right: Accidentally on Purpose by Robert Frost (Christmas card). New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1960. Book of Common Prayer. 1764. Second Avenue by Frank O’Hara. New York: Corinth Books, 1960. Field Talk by Frank Stanford. Seattle: Mill Mountain Press, 1975. Fast Speaking Woman by Anne Waldman. San Francisco: City Lights, 1975. Chartings by Lyn Hejinian and Ray Di Palma. Tucson: Chax Press, 2000.

University of Arizona Poetry Center Rare Books

Since our move to the new building in 2007, we’ve been able to mount permanent and rotating exhibits. Here’s my favorite of our permanent exhibits: a collection of posters for Poetry Center readings from the 70s and 80s.

University of Arizona Poetry Center Reading Posters

In addition to permanent and library exhibits, we exhibit work by visual artists. Our current art exhibit by Karen McAlister Shimoda (mother of the poet Brandon Shimoda) includes this piece. It’s the artist’s wedding dress, on which she inscribed a history of a history of her marriage, from when she met her husband-to-be through to the divorce.

Karen McAlister Shimoda Exhibition at the Poetry Center

Here’s a close-up. Being a fan of both words and textiles, I’m rabidly in love with this piece.

Karen McAlister Shimoda Exhibition Detail at the Poetry Center

The Poetry Center is bordered by a minimalist meditation garden. In this photo, you can also see the Poetry Center’s “Turning Wall.” Perhaps this wall was inspired by the fact that the word verse comes from the Latin root -vert, for "turn or turn away, bend, incline.”

University of Arizona Poetry Center Turning Wall

At the back of the meditation garden is this memorial fountain for poet Steve Orlen (1942–2010), creative writing professor at the University of Arizona for decades, and beloved teacher.

University of Arizona Poetry Center Steve Orlen Fountain

At the opposite end of the building is the room where we hold events that are part of our Reading and Lecture Series, a program supported by Poets & Writers. Here, poet Thomas Sayers Ellis reads his work for an audience of middle- and high-school students.

Thomas Sayers Ellis Reading at the University of Arizona Poetry Center

Here’s a special peek into a private space of the Poetry Center: our guest house for visiting poets and summer residents. It’s just steps away from the library, but hidden from view. It’s decorated with broadsides and a few furnishings from the original Poetry Center of 1960.

University of Arizona Poetry Center Guest House

We’ve inhabited the building for five years now, and I have a real fondness for the signs of our habitation. The little details. Like this drawing, hanging in Renee’s office, created during one of our children’s programs...

University of Arizona Poetry Center Children's Program

...this print of H.D. (and her hedgehog) by Gwyneth Scally, commissioned by the Poetry Center, and hanging in the Children’s Corner...

HD and Hedgehog Print by Gwyneth Scally

...and this text/art object, created by one of our Classes & Workshops students, abandoned by the creator, but rescued by me, and now displayed in my office.

University of Arizona Poetry Center Workshop Text/Art Object

Our virtual tour of the Poetry Center ends here, with the feet of poets Joyelle McSweeney and Zachary Schomburg (who read together at the Poetry Center in September 2012). But there’s a lot more to see; we hope you can stop by for a visit sometime soon!

Joyelle McSweeney and Zachary Schomburg Read at the Poetry Center

All Photos Credit: Cybele Knowles.
Support for Readings/Workshops events in Tucson is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

<< first < previous Page: 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 next > last >>

113 - 119 of 285 results

Subscribe to P&W Magazine | Donate Now | Advertise | Sign up for E-Newsletter | Help | About Us | Contact Us | View Mobile Site

© Copyright Poets & Writers 2014. All Rights Reserved