Tucson mayor appoints poet laureate - The Explorer: News

Tucson mayor appoints poet laureate

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Posted: Sunday, September 30, 2012 1:12 pm | Updated: 1:20 pm, Sun Sep 30, 2012.

The Tucson Pima Arts Council (TPAC) extends its warm congratulations to poet Rebecca Seiferle, selected by Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild as the new Tucson Poet Laureate.

Rothschild announced his decision Friday at a well-attended reception held at the TPAC offices.

The purpose of the Poet Laureate will be to promote poetry, to foster its appreciation and to inspire a new generation of readers and writers.

Taking on this mantle is a recognized poet, editor, teacher and translator, whose four books of poems have earned coveted national awards, including the Grub Street National Poetry Prize, Western States Book Award and two awards from the Poetry Society of America.

As Seiferle noted during her acceptance speech, she was inspired to move to Tucson in 2006 because of its extraordinary literary community. Since then, through her involvement with the community writers forum Casa de Solana, she has actively fostered collaboration between Tucson poets and artists and created new platforms for emerging writers. An admired translator, Seiferle has also made the words of well-known Latin American poets accessible to new readers. Just as important a factor in the Mayor's selection of Seiferle are her profound contributions as a poetry teacher. She has led countless workshops and classes for all age groups, from kindergarteners to adults. Today she serves as a core faculty member at Tucson's Southwest University of Visual Arts.

Seiferle's teaching experience is well in keeping with the Mayor's vision for the new Poet Laureate. As he stressed during his announcement, "We need to get our young children interested in reading and excited about learning. I believe poetry is a way to do this." The Mayor went on to describe his own deep interest in poetry: "We know poetry is fun. Writing poetry is playing with language. Reading poetry is like unwrapping a surprise."

To assist the Rothschild in his selection of the Poet Laureate, TPAC staff solicited nominations from the public and then organized a panel of regional writers, literary organizations and community representatives to review the slate of candidates and make recommendations.

"The requirements of the position are numerous," said TPAC Executive Director Roberto Bedoya. "In addition to being a poet of stature, the Poet Laureate has to be able to work with community, to reflect on the experiences that define our diverse lives as Tucsonans - and to feed the aesthetic education of the public about the power and magic of words."

Previous Tucson Poet Laureates include Guggenheim Fellow William Pitt Root and Tohono O'odham linguist and MacArthur Fellow Ofelia Zepeda. It is only fitting that the Old Pueblo, which has long served as a literary beacon, continue to have its own Poet Laureate. Writers who have spent time here include Edward Abbey, Barbara Kingsolver, Demetria Martinez, Larry McMurty, Leslie Silko and Luis Urrea.

The City's literary scene is further enlivened by the presence of the renowned University of Arizona Poetry Center and the Tucson Festival of Books, as well as small innovative imprints such as Chax Press and Kore Press and the Tucson Youth Poetry Slam movement, to name but a few offerings. "Rebecca Seiferle is a true servant of poetry and we believe she will help to build excitement for poetry in our community," said Gail Browne, Executive Director of the University of Arizona Poetry Center. To this end, her organization will serve as an adviser to the Poet Laureate on student outreach. 

Information regarding Tucson Poet Laureate school opportunities and reading engagements will be posted on the TPAC Website, www.TucsonPimaArtsCouncil.org.

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