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Poetry reading

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The Southern Colorado Reading Series continued its program this year with a reading by poet Lisa Chavez. The event was held in the First Year Student Center in the Library.

The Southern Colorado Reading Series has been active on campus for several years.

“Our overall objective is to bring published and established writers to this campus,” Juan Morales, director of creative writing, said.

Chavez has published two books of poetry. Poems from “Destruction Bay” and “In an Angry Season” have been included in numerous anthologies including “The Floating Borderlands: 25 Years of U.S. Hispanic Literature” and “American Poetry: The Next Generation.”

Chavez began the night by reading from an unpublished nonfiction piece titled “Skin.” She read several nonfiction pieces before she began reading her poetry.

Throughout the reading Chavez had the audience laughing with her humorous remarks about her writing, or about her dogs. She preceded each piece by giving the story behind it.

The students were curious about her writing process. This curiosity was evident Nov. 2 when Fawn-Amber Montoya, coordinator of Chicano Studies, held a literary discussion about Destruction Bay. Six students attended the discussion.

Several of the students who attended the discussion wondered how much real life Chavez puts into her writing.

During the reading Chavez commented on that by saying that a lot of her poems are based on real life, but there are only a few that are based on her.

Montoya coordinated the literary discussion because it allowed students to read Chavez’s poetry before her visit.

“It’s about being respectful to her. We should embrace this idea to be respectful of all of our visitors,” Montoya said.

Students at the discussion were from Montoya’s Chicano Studies class. They voiced the need to have more events like this one in the future.

“(Montoya) has done a really good job of promoting Chicano reading on campus. For me this is the last chance I have to learn and meet new people before I leave campus,” Kara Rule, senior psychology major, said.

The literary discussion helped to generate interest in Chavez’s visit, Morales said, which drew a good blend of current students, graduate students and community members.

“I was excited and surprised. You never know how much attendance an event will get,” Morales said.

Chavez volunteered her time to speak. She drove from Albuquerque for the event.

Chavez also visited Morales’ Creative Writing Poetry class.

Students in the class Chavez visited asked her questions about the writing process as well as for guidance about their own writing, Morales said.

Morales asked Chavez to come to campus.

“She was my thesis director and mentor at UNM,” he said.

Chavez was born in Los Angeles but was raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. She currently teaches at the University of New Mexico, but before joining the UNM faculty she taught at the University of Alaska, in Poland with the Peace Corps, in Japan and in Rochester, NY.

She resides in the mountains outside Albuquerque with her dogs, a German Shepard and two Shiba Inus.

Montoya will continue to hold literary discussion groups. In December she held a discussions for one of Morales’ books. In February she hopes to hold one with an African-American author.

Her students are more enthusiastic about the event and hope to hold one on the first Thursday of every month, she said.

During the spring semester three authors will come to campus for the Southern Colorado Reading Series. In February two poets will speak, and in March a fiction writer will hold an event, Morales said.

He hopes to be able to bring more well known authors to campus in the future.

The March visit will be connected to a literary festival that the English department is sponsoring. The festival is still in the planning phases, Morales said.

“We’re always looking for ways to grow and expand,” Morales said.

The series will continue to have authors visit classes, and hold community workshops, he said.