The University of Arizona Poetry Center 60th anniversary celebration features an online exhibition of 20 poets with different perspectives, styles and backgrounds who have a commonality: a connection to the Grand Canyon state.
For each poet, the center gathered a portrait, a biographical note about the poet’s work, focus and connection to Arizona, and a link to hear or watch the poet reading from the center’s audio-video archive, Voca.
“Listening to poets read their work can add a layer of context to a poem, expanding what’s on the page,” says Tyler Meier, executive director of the UA Poetry Center.
Listening to readings given over several years can show the arc of a poet’s career.
“Readings can humanize the poet,” says Alberto Ríos, Arizona poet laureate.
Here are the poets in the 20 Arizona Poets exhibit:
Ai grew up primarily in Tucson and graduated from the UA. She is known for writing dramatic monologues that engage with violence and suffering.
Listen: Hear Ai’s reading from Sept. 13, 1972, during which she reflects on the writing process and reads from her first book, “Cruelty.” In a March 6, 1985, reading, Ai reads from the manuscript for “Sin” and discusses her time as a student at the UA during the late 1960s at tucne.ws/aipoetry
The author of three collections of poetry, Sherwin Bitsui is originally from White Cone, Arizona. He is Diné of the Todích’ii’nii (Bitter Water Clan), born for the Tlizí-laaní (Many Goats Clan). He is a UA graduateand a professor at Northern Arizona University.
Watch: Bitsui reads from his work in English and Navajo as part of a multilingual poetry reading held Sept. 10, 2010, at tucne.ws/bitsui
Eduardo C. Corral
Eduardo C. Corral is the author of the poetry collections “Guillotine” and “Slow Lightning.” A son of Mexican immigrants, Corral was born in Casa Grande and attended Arizona State University.
Watch: Corral reads poems from “Slow Lightning” (2012) and other works at a reading held Sept. 5, 2013, at tucne.ws/corral
Alison Hawthorne Deming
Alison Hawthorne Deming is the author of five books of poetry and five books of nonfiction, including the Guggenheim Fellowship-supported “A Woven World: On Fashion, Fishermen, and the Sardine Dress,” coming in 2021. She is regents professor of English at the UA and was director of the Poetry Center from 1990 to 2002.
Watch: Deming reads primarily from her collection “Genius Loci” at a reading held Sept. 7, 2005, at tucne.ws/deming
Natalie Diaz, the author of “Postcolonial Love Poem,” is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe. She is a professor of English at ASU and director of the Center for Imagination in the Borderlands.
Watch: Diaz reads new and uncollected poems during a reading on April 2, 2015, at tucne.ws/diaz
Mark Doty is the author of more than 10 volumes of poetry and three memoirs. A distinguished professor at Rutgers University, he attended Rincon High School and the UA.
Watch: Doty reads from his collection of poetry “Deep Lane” on Oct. 1, 2015, at tucne.ws/doty
Rita Dove, the winner of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for her book “Thomas and Beulah,” served as U.S. poet laureate from 1993 to 1995. She was a professor of creative writing at ASU from 1981 to 1989.
Watch: Dove reads from “Collected Poems, 1974-2004,” “Sonata Mulattica” and uncollected work during a reading held Oct. 27, 2016, at tucne.ws/dove
U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo is a performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Harjo lived in Tucson and was a professor of English at the UA from 1988 to 1990.
Watch: Harjo reads from “Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings” and “How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems,” and plays flute and soprano saxophone on Dec. 1, 2016, at voca.arizona.edu/readings-list/53/1298
Brenda Hillman has published 10 collections of poetry. She was born in Tucson and attended Rincon High School.
Watch: Hillman reads from “Bright Existence,” “Practical Water” and “Seasonal Works With Letters On Fire,” along with uncollected poems from a reading held Oct. 22, 2015, at tucne.ws/hillman
Katherine Larson is the author of “Radial Symmetry,” which won the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize in 2010, and “The Speechless Ones.” She volunteers with the PEN America Prison Writing Program and lives in Arizona.
Watch: Larson reads pieces from “Radial Symmetry” and “Of the Unsolved Problem of the Origin of the Angiosperms” on Feb. 2, 2012, at tucne.ws/larson
. N. Scott Momaday
N. Scott Momaday, who won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for his novel “House Made of Dawn,” is a Kiowa poet, essayist and fiction writer and has published 17 books, including a book of poetry, “The Death of Sitting Bear,” released in March. He is a regents professor at the UA.
Listen: Hear Momaday read poems and prose in “The Gourd Dancer,” “In the Presence of the Sun: Stories and Poems, 1961-1991,” “The Man Made of Words: Essays, Stories, Passages,” and “The Ancient Child,” as well as two unpublished poems during a reading Oct. 31, 1974, at tucne.ws/momaday
Simon J. Ortiz
A member of the Acoma Pueblo Nation, Simon J. Ortiz published more than 25 books, including “Woven Stone” and “From Sand Creek.” Ortiz is an emeritus professor at ASU.
Listen: Hear Ortiz read from the manuscripts of two books that would be published in 1976 and 1977 during a Feb. 26, 1975, reading at tucne.ws/ortiz
Alberto Ríos has served as Arizona’s inaugural poet laureate since 2013. Born in Nogales, Ríos is a regents professor of English at Arizona State University.
Watch: Ríos reads public and personal poems from his collected and uncollected works and speaks about goals for his laureateship during a reading held Nov. 1, 2013, at tucne.ws/rios
Tucson’s Poet Laureate from 2012 to 2016, Rebecca Seiferle is the author of four poetry collections, including “Wild Tongue” (2007).
Watch: Seiferle reads poems from “The Ripped-Out Seam,” “The Music We Dance To” and “Bitters” during a reading held Sept. 18, 2002, at tucne.ws/seiferle
Richard Siken is the author of “Crush” and “War of the Foxes.” He lives in Tucson and is the co-founder and editor of Spork Press.
Watch: Siken reads poems from his collection “War of the Foxes” at a reading held Sept. 10, 2015, at tucne.ws/siken
The author of numerous books of poetry and nonfiction, Richard Shelton founded the Creative Writing Workshops at the Arizona State Prison in 1974. He is an emeritus regents professor of English at the UA and has been involved with the Poetry Center since its inception.
Watch: Shelton reads from his books “The Last Person to Hear Your Voice” and “Crossing the Yard” during the first reading of the Poetry Center’s 50th anniversary, held Sept. 2, 2010, at tucne.ws/shelton
Leslie Marmon Silko
Leslie Marmon Silko, a poet, novelist, and essayist, was born to a family of Laguna Pueblo, Mexican and European ancestry, and her work frequently addresses the intersection of cultures. Silko lives on a ranch near Tucson, and her novel “Almanac of the Dead” is partially set in a dystopian version of Tucson.
Listen: Hear Silko engage in “what I really love to do” — storytelling in the Laguna tradition — during a reading held Nov. 19, 1974, at tucne.ws/silko
Luci Tapahonso served as the inaugural poet laureate of the Navajo Nation from 2013 to 2015. Tapahonso, the author of three children’s books and six books of poetry, lived in Tucson and taught at the UA. She is a professor emerita at the University of New Mexico.
Watch: Tapahonso reads from “A Radiant Curve” at a reading on March 14, 2009, at tucne.ws/tapahonso
TC Tolbert has served as Tucson’s poet laureate since 2017. Tolbert is author of “Gephyromania,” five chapbooks, and co-editor of “Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics.”
Watch: Tolbert reads from “Territories of Folding,” accompanied by members of the movement improvisation group Movement Salon from a reading held March 26, 2011, at tucne.ws/tolbert
Ofelia Zepeda is a Tohono O’odham poet and regents professor of linguistics at the UA, where she has worked since 1979. She is the author of a book on the grammar of the Tohono O’odham language and three collections of poetry. She received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1999 and has served as the poet laureate of Tucson.
Watch: Zepeda welcomes the audience to the 2017 Thinking Its Presence conference, reads poems from “Ocean Power” and “Where Clouds Are Formed” and other poems during a reading held Oct. 19, 2017, at tucne.ws/zepeda