UA Graduate TC Tolbert Named Tucson's Poet Laureate
The UA Poetry Center helped announce that TC Tolbert, who earned a Master in Fine Arts degree from the UA, is the new Tucson poet laureate. U.S. poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera attended the announcement.
The new Tucson poet laureate position has been awarded to TC Tolbert, the University of Arizona Poetry Center, the office of Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and the Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona jointly announced to kick off last weekend's Tucson Festival of Books.
Tolbert is an accomplished transgender and genderqueer poet demonstrating consistent publishing history with multiple national presses. A leader in the field of transgender and genderqueer poetry and poetics, Tolbert first moved to Tucson more than 14 years ago to complete a Master of Fine Arts in poetry from the UA.
"Tucson is a place unlike any other. With its deep commitment to the arts and social justice, I have been able to fully live all of my identities — transgender, queer, poet, teacher," Tolbert said.
"Being appointed Tucson poet laureate means I have the opportunity to give and reflect back the incredible inspiration and support I've been so blessed to receive here in these last 14 years. In this role, I see myself as a public servant."
In town for the book festival, U.S. poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera also attended the announcement.
In 2012, Rothschild named poet, translator and editor Rebecca Seiferle as Tucson's poet laureate. Seiferle served as a judge in poetry contests for children and youth and gave poetry workshops in a number of Tucson K-12 classrooms.
For the current position, an open call for applications was disseminated, and a panel of community members ultimately met to discuss the 10 applications received. The panel was assembled by and facilitated through the Arts Foundation, with input from the Poetry Center.
A staff member from the Arts Foundation facilitated the panel's discussion and took notes on all applicants. The panel recommended three applicants to Rothschild, who made the final selection.
"Poetry, among other things, is a great way to get kids excited about reading and writing," said Rothschild, who is a published poet. "That's one reason I wanted our city to have its own poet laureate — to visit schools and work with students in grades K-12."
Tolbert is the author of numerous publications, including "Gephyromania," published by Ahsahta Press in 2014; "Conditions/Conditioning," a collaborative chapbook with Jen Hofer, published by New Lights Press in 2014; "I: Not He: Not I," a chapbook published by Pity Milk in 2014.
"I think of a poem as a record of one person's experience of the world, at a particular point in time," said Tyler Meier, executive director of the UA Poetry Center.
"Formally inventive, TC's poems embody a sense of possibility beyond the binaries of loss and discovery, poverty and abundance, male and female, abstraction and specificity. They work, in a way, like anthems for the kind of poet TC has been in Tucson's rich literary community for many years: deeply engaged, earnestly present, full of attention and care for what language makes possible."
Tolbert is also a core teaching artist in the Poetry Center's Writing the Community program, whicih pairs teaching writers and poets with a local Tucson Unified School District classroom for 8-week-long writing residencies. During the program, students prepares work for publication in an annual anthology.
"TC's teaching has been an engine behind this program's success, and has been an critical voice as the program has grown," Meier said. "We've learned that for the program to thrive, it requires teaching artists who can build deep relationships with students and with the teachers in the partner classrooms. TC has modeled how to do this work with consistency, grace, playfulness and with sensitivity to each unique classroom, encouraging student's best work in each residency, and it has been critical part of our success."
As Tucson poet laureate, Tolbert will serve a two-year term promoting poetry and an appreciation of poetry among the general public. Tolbert also is charged with helping to encourage advancements in literary education and inspiring an emerging generation of literary artists and readers of literature, serving as an ambassador to the literary arts.
With that charge, and among other responsibilities, Tolbert will provide several public readings each year, compose poems for ceremonial occasions and pursue a major literary project, one with an emphasis on outreach and education.
"My primary focus is, as always, uplifting the voices of those who are too often silenced, with particular emphasis on LGBTQ youth and elders, femme-identified people, youth of color, migrants and refugees," Tolbert said.
The University of Arizona Poetry Center, part of the UA College of Humanities, is housed in one of three landmark buildings for poetry in the nation. In addition to its world-renowned collection of contemporary poetry, the Poetry Center is known for its long-running readings and lecture series, international symposia, classes and workshops, writers’ residencies, and a range of programs for children and youth.
For more information, visit poetry.arizona.edu or call 520-626-3765.
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University of Arizona in the News