PR for 26th Annual Tucson Poetry Festival


Tucson Poetry Festival 26—Poetry and Voice


The year 2008 marks the 26th Anniversary of Tucson Poetry Festival, the longest running event of its kind in Arizona!  Tucson Poetry Festival (TPF) was founded in 1981 with the mission to celebrate—and expand the audience for—contemporary poetry. TPF has provided people with the opportunity to hear over 150 superb visiting poets in this unique annual experience, including some of the most celebrated poets of our time, as well as talented local and emerging poets.

This year, poets from Tucson and beyond join us to celebrate all aspects of Voice in poetry, as a stylistic convention and a performance tool.  This festival showcases a broad and diverse range of poetic voices—written, spoken, and signed.

This year, we have partnered with The University of Arizona Disability Resource Center who, as co-sponsors of the Festival, will provide accessibility services including ASL translation for all Readings and the Panel Discussion. 

Thursday, April 10, 2008—Sunday, April 13, 2008

All tickets are available at The Historic Y the day of the event; no advance tickets.
Individual readings—$10
With student ID—$5
Small group sessions—$10
Festival Pass good for all events—$50
20% off groups of 10 or more


U of A Poetry Center, 1508 E Helen Ave

Thursday April 10th
7:30 pm
            Performance by Ayisha Knight (free)

The Historic Y, 300 E University

Friday April 11th
7:30 pm            Readings by:  The Will Inman Award Winner, Benjamin Alire Saenz, Wanda Coleman; Book Signing to follow

Saturday April 12th
Small Group Sessions in the Historic Y Conference Room
10:00 am
            Wanda Coleman
11:30 am            Benjamin Alire Saenz
1:00 pm            Rebecca Seiferle
2:30 pm            Sherwin Bitsui           

7:30 pm            Reading by Ayisha Knight, performance by Verbobala Spoken Video,
Book Signing to follow

Sunday April 13th
11:30 am            Breakfast & Panel Discussion on “Poetry and Voice” and “Other People’s Poetry” Reading: Moderated by Paul Fisher (free event w/ bagels & coffee)
2:00 pm            Verbobala Small Group Session
3:00 pm            High School Contest Reading w/ Contest Judge Rebecca Seiferle (free)
5:30 pm            Readings by:  the High School Contest Winner, Sherwin Bitsui, Rebecca Seiferle; Book Signing to follow
8:00pm            Community Poetry Slam hosted by Lindsay Miller ($5 suggested donation)


Ayisha Knight is the daughter of a white Jewish mother and a Black Cherokee father by birth, but was raised in a community of single mothers who raised her as their own.  Questions of her cultural and linguistic identity always evoke quizzical expressions, astonishment or resignation to the fact that she can't be described in one checked box on college applications.  As a Deaf woman whose primary language is ASL, her vision of the world is unique.  Her passions for art, storytelling, theater and education have been forming a tapestry for many years now.  Ayisha Knight is the only deaf poet who has ever appeared on Def Poetry Jam.

Poet and fiction writer Benjamin Alire Saenz, the son of a cement finisher and a cook, was born in his grandmother's house in Picacho, N.M. He studied at the University of Iowa and Stanford University as a Wallace E. Stegner fellow. His first collection of poetry, Calendar of Dust (1991), won the American Book Award. He is the author of a collection of short stories, Flowers for the Broken (1992), the novel Carry Me Like Water (1995), several children's books and a collection of poems, Elegies in Blue (Cinco Puntos Press, 2002). He teaches creative writing at the University of Texas, El Paso.

Wanda Coleman is the author of Bathwater Wine (Black Sparrow Press, 1998), winner of the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. A former medical secretary, magazine editor, journalist and scriptwriter, Coleman has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation for her poetry. Her other books of poetry include Native in a Strange Land: Trials & Tremors (1996); Hand Dance (1993); African Sleeping Sickness (1990); A War of Eyes & Other Stories (1988); Heavy Daughter Blues: Poems & Stories 1968-1986 (1988); Imagoes (1983); and Mercurochrome: New Poems (2001). She has also written Mambo Hips & Make Believe: A Novel, published by Black Sparrow Press in 1999.

Verbobala Spoken Video is a bi-national video performance group based in Cuernavaca, Mexico and Tucson, Arizona. Of diverse ethnic backgrounds, the members include video artist Moisés Regla, a Mexican of French and Spanish decent, acclaimed media designer, Adam Cooper-Terán, a Chicano of Russian and Yaqui decent, and Border poet Logan Phillips, an American of Irish and Slavic decent. This diversity is also reflected in their artistic backgrounds, as each comes to the project with experience in distinct areas including slam poetry, underground hip-hop, new media, experimental linguistics, electro-acoustic music, contemporary ritual and video installation.  Verbobala creates bilingual site-specific performance art that challenges the traditional concept of artistic genres. Like international borders, the separation between artistic forms and languages has become increasingly amorphous and irrelevant. Their pieces play with the limits between cinema and literature, performance and installation, orchestration and improvisation, English and Spanish, audience and artist.,

Rebecca Seiferle's poetry collection, Wild Tongue, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in Fall, 2007. She was awarded a Lannon Foundation Fellowship in poetry in 2004. Her third poetry collection, Bitters, won the Western States Book Award and a Pushcart Prize. She has also won the Hemley and Bogin Awards from the Poetry Society of America, the Poets & Writers Exchange Award, and has work included in Best American Poetry 2000. She is the Founding Editor of the online magazine The Drunken Boat ( and her poetry, translations, and essays have appeared in over twenty-five anthologies.

Sherwin Bitsui is originally from White Cone, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation. Currently, he lives in Tucson, Arizona. He is Dine of the Todich'ii'nii (Bitter Water Clan), born for the Tl'izilani (Many Goats Clan). He is the recipient of the 2000-01 Individual Poet Grant from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, the 1999 Truman Capote Creative Writing Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Literary Residency Fellowship and more recently, a 2006 Whiting Writers' Award. Sherwin has published his poems in American Poet, The Iowa Review, Frank (Paris), Lit Magazine, and elsewhere. Shapeshift is his first book.

Paul Fisher is a theatre education specialist, performing artist, and published poet. He is a regular performer with Monolog Cabin, Orts Theatre of Dance, and Sweatlodge. Paul is the Founder and was the Director of the nationally recognized Arts Education Program for the Tucson Pima Arts Council. He is a private consultant specializing in the use of creative thinking and performance as a tool. In 2003 he received the Buffalo Exchange Arts Award from the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona. He is currently working with the Development and Training, Staff Development and Human Resources Departments of the INTUIT Corporation.

For the past 13 years, the High School Contest has incorporated young writers into our program, encouraging them to express their experiences through poetry. The young writers submit three poems in English, Spanish, or Tribal Languages, which are judged by an acclaimed Spanish-speaking writer to be eligible for gift certificates from local bookstores and the chance to read at TPF.  This year’s High School Contest Judge is Rebecca Seiferle.

For 24 years, the Statewide Poetry Contest (Will Inman Award) has inspired adult writers to share their poetry with nationally known poets who select their poems for cash prizes, publication in our program and the opportunity to read at the Festival.  This year’s Statewide Poetry Contest Judge is Wanda Coleman.

For More Information:
Tucson Poetry Festival