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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Important local poet to jumpstart Poetry Center’s 50th

    This year marks the 50th anniversary of the UA’s Poetry Center, and to celebrate its rich history, the staff has compiled a pantheon of poets for monthly readings. The celebration begins on Sept. 2 with a reading by award-winning Arizona poet Richard Shelton. “”Shelton is one of the progenitors of Poetry Center,”” says Gail Browne, executive director of the Poetry Center. “”He’s not only an integral part of our history, but a part of our present. It seemed like a really appropriate way to begin the series.””

    Both Richard Shelton and his wife, Lois Shelton, have been long-standing supporters and players in the Poetry Center’s history. Both have served as presidents of the Poetry Center — Lois for over 20 years. Richard Shelton is not only a part of the Poetry Center’s past, but of their present and future. The duo has made such an impact on the literary landscape of the center’s history that they have been honored with a permanent place in its architecture. On the east side of the building, a wall enclosing the garden has been dedicated as the Shelton Wall. A series of holes marking the façade is actually a line of Richard Shelton’s poetry in binary code.

    In 1974, Shelton initiated the Creative Writing Workshops at the Arizona State Prison, a program that the Poetry Center has collaborated with him on for the past three decades. The program is still flourishing and has served as the precedent for a number of other writing workshops throughout  United States prisons, introducing inmates to the liberating lyricism of poetry and creative writing. Shelton is the author of numerous works, both fiction and nonfiction, including “”Crossing the Yard: Thirty Years as a Prison Volunteer”” (2007), which chronicles his experiences working in the prison system. This Thursday at the Poetry Center he will be reading from his most recent work, The Last Person to Hear your Voice, as well as excerpts from his various other books.

    Like the desert he is drawn to, Shelton’s poetry is filled with beautiful imagery and soft, easy lyricism. He focuses on the strange and unique identity of desert dwellers. As Gail Browne, executive director of the Poetry Center since 2002, says, “”Poetry offers us a fresh perspective and opens us up. It makes us expansive.”” Shelton allows us an opportunity to reexamine ourselves in the singular landscape of the Southwest.

    Shelton will be available for a question and answer session prior to the reading at 7 p.m. The reading will begin at 8 p.m. at the Poetry Center.

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