ALEGRA IN TOWN: Once again, the UA Poetry Center pulls
off a literary coup with its latest featured poet: Latin American
luminary Claribel Alegría. The Salvadoran author
makes an impromptu visit to the Old Pueblo to combine a little
work with pleasure. While taking a break from a University of
Colorado residency to visit grandchildren here in town, the engaging
Alegría will also give a free, bilingual reading at 8 p.m.
Wednesday, October 22, in the UA Modern Languages Building auditorium.
"We had to hustle because we'd already spent our budget for the fall reading series," says Poetry Center Program Coordinator Karen Falkenstrom. "Everyone's kicking in a little (from their budgets) to pull it off." The program is co-sponsored by UA Women's Studies, the Latin American Area Center, International Affairs, the Spanish and Portuguese department, Dean of Students office, English Composition program, Student Union administration, UA Foundation and Friends of the Poetry Center.
Nicaraguan-born Alegría was raised in El Salvador, and traveled to the states to earn a B.A. in philosophy from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She's written 13 books of poetry, four short novels and a book of children's stories. Her 1978 collection Sobrevivo (I Survive) won the Casa de las Americas poetry prize; and many subsequent books of poetry, including the excellent Flores del Volcán/Flowers from the Volcano, have been translated into 14 languages. She was featured in Bill Moyers' 1995 series The Language of Life on PBS.
Alegría writes with a clarity, simplicity and beauty that is as accessible as it is profound. A master of literary dualism, her style is at once lush and spare, with images that render a wholeness to life right in the midst of disintegration and chaos. Though much of her work is specific to the lethal politics of her homeland, the images she creates resonate of a much larger world. This is "a poet who has called herself a cemetery, willing to provide herself as a resting place for those whose bodies have never been recovered...the dead who become 'too many to bury'," as Carolyn Forché writes in the preface to Flowers from the Volcano. A lifetime of travel, raising four children and reflection have infused more personal themes with the same incisive sympathy of her award-winning socio-political writings.
Recent works include the 1993 poetry collection Fugues, which tackles morality, love and aging; and two works of non-fiction (the last in a body of collaborations with late husband Darwin Flakoll), Tunnel to Canto Grande and Death of Somoza. The former is the story of a daring escape staged by political prisoners in Peru, the latter a chronicle of the assassination of Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayal.
Meet the author at a reception preceding the reading at 3 p.m. in the Rotunda Room of the UA Memorial Student Union, on the UA mall. For more information on this and upcoming readings, call 321-7760.
DOÑA PRIMA: Diane di Prima was the Queen of the Beat Generation, a poet who held her own among the likes of fellow hipsters Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. She's written more than 30 books of poetry and prose, including the recent Pieces of A Song: Selected Poems published by--who else--City Lights in San Francisco. Since 1983, she's taught at the San Francisco Institute of Magical and Healing Arts, and continued her study and practice of Tibetan Buddhism, magic, alchemy and healing. The first volume of her autobiography, Recollections of My Life as a Woman, will be published by Viking Penguin in 1999. Ginsberg called di Prima a "revolutionary activist of the 1960s Beat literary renaissance, heroic in life and poetics; a learned humorous bohemian, classically educated...her writing, informed by Buddhist equanimity, is exemplary in imagist, political and mystical modes."
Di Prima, still living hard enough to write about it, visits Tucson on Friday, October 17, to give a benefit poetry reading for Arizona Friends of Tibet. She also leads a two-day Poetics of Loss Workshop this weekend, following this theme from her own poem, "Parthenos":
Now death is in the light/it is/the light...golden...the door/soundless the path a silhouette/or outline of the Bird/the Owl, Hawk...all those/whose beak curves downward.
Di Prima's workshop will explore the contents of the "gap" that happens when a loss, such as death, the end of a friendship, or any such "tear in the fabric of our lives" occurs. Participants will explore the images and emotion around that loss through poetry, visualization, meditation and ritual. The reading will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Cecil Building on the UA campus. Cost is $12, $7 for students. The workshop fee is $125. To register, call Arizona Friends of Tibet at (520) 885-6527.
TERRIFIC TWOS: Much as we like to champion the little guy, we know superstores are here to stay. And since they are, we're glad to see stores like Borders Books and Music take an active role in the community in which they've landed, providing a warehouse of community events, reading programs, charitable fundraisers, and a stage for local musicians in addition to cheap books and a decent cappuccino. For example, Borders, 4235 N. Oracle Road, celebrates its second anniversary in Tucson with a week of readings by 100 Tucson authors. The free readings begin Tuesday, October 21, and continue through October 27. See the section "Literature" in the City Week listings for details; or call 292-1331 for more information.
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