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Native Arts: Poetry Center features American Indian student writings

By Jessica Suarez
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday Feb. 19, 2002

The UA Poetry Center will showcase the talents of some of Tucson's newest young writers at the next installment of its Reading Series tomorrow.

These writers are in grades ranging from kindergarten through high school and are all part of the ArtsReach program, an organization that conducts creative writing workshops in local schools that serve Arizona's American Indian populations.

They will each read from the work they have just published in "Dancing with the Wind," the ArtsReach literary magazine that features poetry, short stories and artwork created by the students. The magazine has been edited by well-known American Indian writers, including N. Scott Momaday and Leslie Marmon Silko.

Luci Tapahonso, professor of English and American Indian studies and author of five books of poetry and three books for children, guest-edited this year's magazine. In her introduction she writes, "This compilation illustrates that as cultures change, and languages evolve, the literary traditions change as well. It reinforces the idea of continuance and survival the range of topics is as varied as the lives of native people today. The poems are sometimes stark in their honesty and yet full of optimism and hope for the future."

Frances Sjoberg, events coordinator for the Poetry Center, says past readings from the group have gone "very well."

"Students are brought in from cells and local neighborhoods. Parents and teachers attend as well as others from the community," she said. "It's heartening to see how great the poetry is by these young people."

The Poetry Center has sponsored the readings for several years.

"We cosponsor (the readings) to support ArtsReach because they're doing important work in the community, both to support the art and further American Indian youth," Sjoberg said.

The program, which began in 1987 in two schools, has grown to serve 24 schools in eight Arizona school districts.

The reading is scheduled for 7 p.m., Wednesday, in the Modern Languages Auditorium. Tohono O'odham storyteller and ArtsReach instructor Danny Lopez will be the master of ceremonies, and copies of "Dancing with the Wind" will be available for purchase. The reading is free and will be followed by a reception.

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