City Week

Starry, Starry Night

Stargazing Party at Saguaro National Park
7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday, Jan. 27; 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday, Feb. 24
Rincon Mountain Visitor Center, Saguaro National Park East, 3693 S. Old Spanish Trail

When I was living in Marietta, Ga., my roommate Adrienne dragged me up the north Georgia Mountains--they're more like hills compared to Tucson's ranges--at midnight to see the annual Leonid meteor showers. I did not want to go. I had to work the next morning and had a completely different mountain to tackle before bed--my laundry. There was no time for stars. Thankfully, Adrienne didn't listen and pulled me away from my box of Tide. The next thing I knew, we were sitting on an old quilt, sipping hot chocolate and watching the white blur of meteors overhead. Good times.

Now I'm here to tell you all about Saguaro National Park's Star Parties in Saguaro East on Jan. 27 and Feb. 24. Both Friday night parties are at 7 p.m. in the parking lot of the Rincon Mountain Visitor Center. Park rangers and naturalists give an intro to astronomy, namely what's going on in the southern night sky. The stargazing is free and open to the public, and you get a chance to detach from the everyday--a recommended change of pace.

Park ranger Melanie Florez said the Star Parties began last summer and were a big hit. She asks interested groups and individuals to sign up before the event by calling 733-5153. Florez also said that this free event can only be held so many times a year due to national parks' "diminishing budgets." So you may want to consider donating to the program that helps you see stars. Guaranteed good times. --M.H.

An Inspired Lineup

UA Poetry Center's Spring 2006 Reading Series
6 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 26
UA Poetry Center, 1600 E. First St.

In a 2004 Denver Quarterly interview, poet and literary critic Cal Bedient said, "Poetry is the eroticization of thought--psychic vitality. If it isn't spending a sexless night in the Abstract Reasoning Motel, if it isn't mere calculation or joyless analysis, thinking is an aesthetico-sensual activity, vivified and incarnate in the desiring body. Even when it is mournful, which is often, it's a form of love. Almost especially when it is mournful."

Yeah, what he said.

But for those interested in hearing more than an "amen" from the choir or Bedient's sexy definition of what makes poetry, you're in luck. The esteemed author of two collections of poetry and four books of literary criticism will give a lecture on "The Five Theses of Contemporary Poetry" Thursday at 6 p.m.

It's exciting and appropriate that Bedient, co-editor of the experimental New California Poetry Series and of VOLT magazine, kicks off the Poetry Center's Spring 2006 Visiting Poets and Writers Reading Series. Poets and writers following Bedient include Nikki Giovanni, Patricia Hampl, Nathalie Handal, Rafael Campo and others.

"Some parts of the series that might get overlooked are the Sonora Review anniversary reading, the graduate student reading, the Poetry Center Student and Corrido Contest Awards Presentation, and the Persona undergraduate reading," said Michael Rerick, the Poetry Center events coordinator. "Those are sort of marginalized, but they're important since they support emerging people in the community, poets of all calibers."

For a full list of readers and events--including a Feb. 7 panel moderated by poet Peggy Shumaker called "Creativity and Illness: Virginia Woolf's On Being Ill"--visit for dates and times. --M.H.

The Verse is on the Mirror

Debut of "Desert Water, Desert Light: A Mirror Poem Series"
2 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 29
DeGrazia's Little Gallery Gallery In The Sun, 6300 N. Swan Road

I've always wondered what would happen if an artist decided to sandblast a poem series on mirrors, place the reflective gems in the desert, snap some pictures and then display the results at an art gallery in Tucson.

Luckily, poet and artist Eric Magrane exists, so I don't have to wonder anymore. Magrane, a former artist-in-residence at two national parks and a UA alum, writes haiku-inspired verse that captures the intersection between desert and art. He sandblasts Masonite, Plexiglas and other materials with his poetry and then photographs his work in the landscapes he's witnessed as a professional hiking guide.

"Well, I spent a lot of days hiking through the Catalinas, as well as all the other Tucson ranges, and I was trying to watch the light and shadows and see how they move through the canyons," Magrane said of his inspiration. "That was what I was trying to work with through language, too--taking language off the white page and putting it in a place where it's usually not seen."

To experience Magrane's off-the-page work, check out DeGrazia's Little Gallery on Sunday at 2 p.m. Magrane was funny when he reminded me that the reading won't last long since the poems are short and sweet. Quiet, too.

"The language, for the most part, is quiet language," Magrane said. "It's language that's made specifically and that's made for the surface of the mirror. The letters become three-dimensional, and I like the idea of being able to literally see yourself in the mirror and how sometimes the letters will reflect upon each other." --M.H.

A Puppet Whodunit

Tucson Puppet Works presents "The Case of the Stolen Smell and Other Tales of Judge Ooka the Wise Samurai"
2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 28 and 29; 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 4 and 5; 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4
Tucson Puppet Works Studios, 44 W. Sixth St.

The playful stories of Judge Ooka the Wise Samurai are coming to life--puppet life, that is--for the first time at the Tucson Puppet Works Studios. The Tucson Puppet Works has performed Ooka, pronounced "Oh-oh-kah," on the road over the years in different formats, most recently at Maricopa County libraries, but the group has never performed the play in their own studios.

"I think we liked the story because it has a really good narrative," said Charles Swanson, one of three puppeteers of the Ooka production. "We got it from a book of Japanese folktales, and all of the stories have a very clever verdict with a clever twist in the end. There's lots of good action, which translates well for the visual quality of puppetry."

Swanson didn't want to ruin the plot, but he was willing to discuss which puppet he likes to work with the best: "The noodle-seller. He's a buffoon, and the puppet looks kind of cute. He has very stern eyes, a bald head and shaggy beard. So he kind of looks mean, but his character is not as suave as Oscar the Grouch. Basically, he tries to take advantage of kids, and he accuses the kids of stealing smells from him--I don't want to tell too much. Let's just say he comes out in the end in an unusual place."

For an unusual weekend, check out the puppet show. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for children. Visit for more information concerning alleged olfactory abduction. --M.H.

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