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Colorados Poet Laureate, Mary Crow, teaches poets how to soar in her series, Words on the Wing II

Mary Crow grew up in Ohio, an identical twin in a family of eight children. In love with the West from an early age, she grew up "horse-crazy ... always facing West," until one day she and her two young sons moved west to Fort Collins where Crow accepted a position teaching creative writing at Colorado State University.

Now, over 30 years later, Crow has raised a family, managed a herd of cattle, traveled the world, won Fulbright research and creative writing awards and fellowships, and still manages a full schedule at CSU teaching poetry, creative writing, and courses on women writers.

Crow is the author of four books of poetry, including I Have Tasted the Apple (1996) and Borders (1989). A specialist in Spanish poetry, her three books of translations include Vertical Poetry: Recent Poems by Roberto Juarroz, which won a Colorado Book Award in 1993. Her most recent books of translations are due to be released by 2001 and feature the poems of Olga Orozco and Enrique Lihn. In addition to another collection of poems, Crow is working on a third edition of her anthology of Latin American women poets, Woman Who Has Sprouted Wings.

In 1996, Crow was appointed Poet Laureate of Colorado by then-governor Roy Romer, selected on the basis of her "artistic excellence, service in the advancement of poetry, and interest in presenting poetry and literature to Colorado and the nation."

Crow says, "Poetry is good for us." She wants everybody to read poems, especially children. During her four-year tenure as poet laureate, Crow has worked extensively to make poetry visible in urban and rural communities throughout Colorado.

She prefers to take poetry into the heart of a community, particularly into the classroom. She has helped stock public school libraries with more poetry books (most schools have few if any) and has developed an incentive program that awards teachers for introducing poetry into their curriculum. She keeps flocks of graduate students busy reading and teaching poetry in public schools, and works with teachers, librarians and members of the literary arts community one-on-one to make poetry more accessible to students and the general public.

Words on the Wing II, coming this week to Colorado Springs, is a continuation of Crow's Words on the Wing I series which toured Colorado communities last year and included a marathon of poetry events. The current series features poetry readings, workshops and public talks about incorporating poetry into "the life of the area."

On Thursday, Oct. 5, at 7:30 p.m., Crow will present a forum on "Increasing the Visibility of Poetry Locally," at Colorado College, focusing on literary needs in Colorado Springs and introducing methods that can be used to put local poetry projects into motion.

On Oct. 6, at 7:30 p.m., Crow will give a poetry reading at The Lodge at UCCS. Both events are free and open to the public.

The Independent caught up recently with Crow to learn more about her tour and Words on the Wing II.

Indy: What expectations do you have for Words on the Wing II?

Crow: I would like to be going out to more Colorado communities and finding out what people think needs to be happening in their communities for poetry -- how they'd like to see more poetry events going on or more activities involving poetry.

Another thing I'm trying to do is give some readings that include poems by other people. I want to convince people to come to the readings -- even if they don't like poetry. I want them to know that poetry is not all, as it's sometimes depicted, too difficult and too unrelated to their lives to be of interest.

Indy: Do you find that interest in poetry is growing in Colorado?

Crow: Oh definitely! A lot more people are writing poetry. So I think there's a growing interest from that aspect. I'm hoping that more people see there is a connection between interest in poetry and literacy. I'd like to see more teaching of poetry in the early grades.

Indy: Why is it important to teach children to read and write poetry?

Crow: Well, I think if we're going to have an audience for poetry, we definitely need to be trying to involve children with poetry. I think when children do read and write poetry, they get very involved in it. Children are experts at remaking the language. A teacher here in Fort Collins said, "Poetry is the natural language of adolescents." It's the natural language of children.

Indy: What are some of the ways that a community can make poetry visible?

Crow: You have to do a few things at a time. In Fort Collins, we are doing poetry placards in the buses. That's something I'd like to see spread through the state. Some of the poems are by small children. We make the poems into posters. We've been trying to find a way to get those posters into banks and other places. All these things take time and energy and people to help do them.

Indy: What repercussions have you noticed as a result of dropping poetry from school curriculum?

Crow: Here in Fort Collins (as well as other places), the public schools are telling me that one of the lowest scoring areas is the area of poetry, because poetry is included on standardized testing. One of the things I'm going to be doing in the spring semester is taking a larger number of [graduate] students into the schools. We're going to try to hit every public school [in Fort Collins] over a three-year period. We'll go to the ones most in need -- those students graded poorest on the reading test -- and we'll try to teach them about poetry and writing poetry.

Indy: Is there a chance that poetry could become extinct in Colorado classrooms?

Crow: There's certainly a danger of it disappearing from the schools, especially in rural communities. I think there's a lot of fear of poetry among public school teachers. I have to say that the blame must fall on university teachers to some degree. For some reason, a lot of students have been taught to be afraid of poetry. I do think that's changing.

Poetry might be in danger of extinction in terms of the schools' curricula. But I think that poetry will, on some level, go on. It's inherent in human nature. Creativity is in everybody. p

Mary Crow grew up in Ohio, an identical twin in a family of eight children. In love with the West from an early age, she grew up "horse-crazy ... always facing West," until one day she and her two young sons moved west to Fort Collins where Crow accepted a position teaching creative writing at Colorado State University.

Now, over 30 years later, Crow has raised a family, managed a herd of cattle, traveled the world, won Fulbright research and creative writing awards and fellowships, and still manages a full schedule at CSU teaching poetry, creative writing, and courses on women writers.

Crow is the author of four books of poetry, including I Have Tasted the Apple (1996) and Borders (1989). A specialist in Spanish poetry, her three books of translations include Vertical Poetry: Recent Poems by Roberto Juarroz, which won a Colorado Book Award in 1993. Her most recent books of translations are due to be released by 2001 and feature the poems of Olga Orozco and Enrique Lihn. In addition to another collection of poems, Crow is working on a third edition of her anthology of Latin American women poets, Woman Who Has Sprouted Wings.

In 1996, Crow was appointed Poet Laureate of Colorado by then-governor Roy Romer, selected on the basis of her "artistic excellence, service in the advancement of poetry, and interest in presenting poetry and literature to Colorado and the nation."

Crow says, "Poetry is good for us." She wants everybody to read poems, especially children. During her four-year tenure as poet laureate, Crow has worked extensively to make poetry visible in urban and rural communities throughout Colorado.

She prefers to take poetry into the heart of a community, particularly into the classroom. She has helped stock public school libraries with more poetry books (most schools have few if any) and has developed an incentive program that awards teachers for introducing poetry into their curriculum. She keeps flocks of graduate students busy reading and teaching poetry in public schools, and works with teachers, librarians and members of the literary arts community one-on-one to make poetry more accessible to students and the general public.

Words on the Wing II, coming this week to Colorado Springs, is a continuation of Crow's Words on the Wing I series which toured Colorado communities last year and included a marathon of poetry events. The current series features poetry readings, workshops and public talks about incorporating poetry into "the life of the area."

On Thursday, Oct. 5, at 7:30 p.m., Crow will present a forum on "Increasing the Visibility of Poetry Locally," at Colorado College, focusing on literary needs in Colorado Springs and introducing methods that can be used to put local poetry projects into motion.

On Oct. 6, at 7:30 p.m., Crow will give a poetry reading at The Lodge at UCCS. Both events are free and open to the public.

The Independent caught up recently with Crow to learn more about her tour and Words on the Wing II.

Indy: What expectations do you have for Words on the Wing II?

Crow: I would like to be going out to more Colorado communities and finding out what people think needs to be happening in their communities for poetry -- how they'd like to see more poetry events going on or more activities involving poetry.

Another thing I'm trying to do is give some readings that include poems by other people. I want to convince people to come to the readings -- even if they don't like poetry. I want them to know that poetry is not all, as it's sometimes depicted, too difficult and too unrelated to their lives to be of interest.

Indy: Do you find that interest in poetry is growing in Colorado?

Crow: Oh definitely! A lot more people are writing poetry. So I think there's a growing interest from that aspect. I'm hoping that more people see there is a connection between interest in poetry and literacy. I'd like to see more teaching of poetry in the early grades.

Indy: Why is it important to teach children to read and write poetry?

Crow: Well, I think if we're going to have an audience for poetry, we definitely need to be trying to involve children with poetry. I think when children do read and write poetry, they get very involved in it. Children are experts at remaking the language. A teacher here in Fort Collins said, "Poetry is the natural language of adolescents." It's the natural language of children.

Indy: What are some of the ways that a community can make poetry visible?

Crow: You have to do a few things at a time. In Fort Collins, we are doing poetry placards in the buses. That's something I'd like to see spread through the state. Some of the poems are by small children. We make the poems into posters. We've been trying to find a way to get those posters into banks and other places. All these things take time and energy and people to help do them.

Indy: What repercussions have you noticed as a result of dropping poetry from school curriculum?

Crow: Here in Fort Collins (as well as other places), the public schools are telling me that one of the lowest scoring areas is the area of poetry, because poetry is included on standardized testing. One of the things I'm going to be doing in the spring semester is taking a larger number of [graduate] students into the schools. We're going to try to hit every public school [in Fort Collins] over a three-year period. We'll go to the ones most in need -- those students graded poorest on the reading test -- and we'll try to teach them about poetry and writing poetry.

Indy: Is there a chance that poetry could become extinct in Colorado classrooms?

Crow: There's certainly a danger of it disappearing from the schools, especially in rural communities. I think there's a lot of fear of poetry among public school teachers. I have to say that the blame must fall on university teachers to some degree. For some reason, a lot of students have been taught to be afraid of poetry. I do think that's changing.

Poetry might be in danger of extinction in terms of the schools' curricula. But I think that poetry will, on some level, go on. It's inherent in human nature. Creativity is in everybody.

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