The University of Arizona is home to one of the premier libraries of poetry in the U.S. that acts as a leading literary institution and a living archive of poetry, according to its website.
The UA Poetry Center, located on Helen Street and Vine Avenue, provides the campus community with a series of different activities and events that aim to promote poetry and literature.
Resources range from a special collections library to a K-12 program that works to teach young artists poetry. They also host a reading and lecture series in which a wide array of world-class poets come to share their works and ideas. According to Sarah Gzemski, the center’s publicity and publications coordinator, every event is free to the public and offers a diverse and exciting lineup for the Tucson community.
“We are a special collections library, have a rare books room [and] also have a reading and lecture series, which is what we are most known for in the community,” Gzemski said. “Every year people come to read here [including] world class poets.”
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This year the center is beginning a new project as a part of the reading and lecture series. It recently received a $500,000 Art for Justice Fund grant which will fund discussions about the issue of mass incarceration in the United States through film screenings at the Loft Cinema as well as speakers who will directly address the topic. Additionally, there will be a poetry reading by poet Randall Horton, kicking off the initiative for the semester on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m.
The first poetry reading of the school year will be on Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. and wil feature Morgan Parker and Tommy Pico, who are speaking at the UA as part of the Morgan Lucas Schuldt Memorial Reading. The Memorial Reading honors new, upcoming and innovative writers.
Other speakers this semester include Charles Simic and poetry center resident Maggie Smith. Simic, who is considered by many in the poetry community as “one of the greatest American poets that’s still alive and writing,” according to Gzemski, will be speaking Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. Smith, known for her poem “Good Bones,” will be reading on Nov. 26, in addition to giving a lecture on Dec. 6.
The Poetry Center employees said they are very excited for this year’s speakers and love the community in which they work. Gzemski said everybody who works at the center has some sort of tie to poetry and is passionate about the field.
Gzemski recalls being excited to work at the center when she first started. Now that she has been in the environment for some time, she said that her favorite thing about the center is how hard everybody works to try to bring poetry into people’s lives.
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“Even if you don’t have a connection to poetry, the librarians know a lot, and there might be something that is for you,” Gzemski said.
Patri Hadad is a library assistant for the center and shared her excitement about the upcoming events and her involvement with the center.
“The Poetry Center is open to the whole community, so it’s not just students,” Hadad said. “I’ve always felt that poetry is the base of all writing.”
Although Hadad didn’t study poetry, she did complete her graduate degree at the UA, and all of her classes were at the Poetry Center. She said this was one of the reasons for her strong tie to the Poetry Center and her desire to work there. Hadad has been in her position since June and works closely with students and patrons who go to the Poetry Center. She said she wants students to know that the center constantly has new poetry from young poets, ones who are often the same age as the students and might have works that relate closely to them.
The Poetry Center is an inclusive community that fosters a love and appreciation for poetic works, according to both Gzemski and Hadad. It strives to encourage young poets, or those interested in poetry, to not give up on their passions.
If you would like to find out more about the Poetry Center and its upcoming events, its website has a full list and contact information.
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