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Infused with prose

By Anne Gardner
ARIZONA DAILY WILDCAT

Wednesday September 12, 2001
Headline Photo
 

Denise Chávez

The UA poetry series revamps its program

The University of Arizona Poetry Center is getting a healthy dose of prose this year.

Since 1961, the center has held the annual poetry series, which includes readings by well-known poets, graduate and undergraduate students. For the first time ever, the series this year will feature literary authors as part of a new series.

The UA Prose Series is now an integral part of the poetry series. Sponsored by the College of Humanities, the department of English and the Poetry Center, the new addition is hoped to help strengthen the existing program.

The new series has been constructed to work with the existing colloquia series. The colloquia series is an informal opportunity to meet with the artists and learn more about them and how they work. Sessions include questions and answer segments, crafts lectures, and class discussions.

Poetry Center director and assistant creative writing professor Alison Deming encourages being active in the colloquia series.

"You can hear what the writers are thinking about their work, rather than just hearing it," Deming said.

The prose series is unique in that it features established writers co-reading with an emerging writer of their choice.

The first authors to be featured in this year's series are Denise Chávez and Loida Maritza Pérez. Chávez is the featured author and will be reading selections from her latest book,"Loving Pedro Infante."

Chávez selected Pérez to appear with her, and the latter will read excerpts from her first novel, "Geographies of Home."

Deming is pleased to have Chávez as part of the series.

"Chávez is one of the most loved Southwestern writers," Deming said.

UA assistant professor of creative writing Aurelie Sheehan echoed Deming's sentiments about Chávez.

"Chávez is very important in the literary community," Sheehan said. "Her work is intelligent and spirited - she has a beautiful use of interplay between Mexican and American cultures."

Chávez is a native of Las Cruces, N.M., and lives in the same house in which she was born. Her first novel, "Face of an Angel," won her three awards - the 1995 American Book Award, the Premio Aztlan, (awarded to an outstanding novel written by a Chicano/Chicana writer), and the 1995 Mesilla Valley Author of the Year award. Chávez has written numerous plays, poems and short stories, and has been published in the 1989 "Norton Anthology of American Literature."

Pérez uses her personal experiences to fuel her writing.

Born in the Dominican Republic, Pérez was brought to America and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. She has received numerous honors, including a 1992 New York Foundation for the Arts grant and a fellowship in 1994 from the Ragdale Foundation's U.S.-Africa Writer's Project. Pérez has recently published her first novel, "Geographies of Home." Presently, she teaches creative writing in New Mexico.

"'Geographies of Home' is a very moving portrait of a Dominican family making its way in New York," Sheehan said. "She does an exceptional job of bringing a family of 14 to life in a relatively short novel."

 
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