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Poetry Inside/Out takes science outreach a step further, seeking to bridge the gap between the sciences and the humanities. The program, which was founded by poet and teacher Madeline Kiser, takes place inside at the Pima County Juvenile Detention Center and out at Pima Vocational High School. It benefits from the expertise of SNR faculty member Guy McPherson and Kevin Bonine, in the UA's Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department. Kiser, McPherson, and Bonine teach "Sustainable Living: Ecology and the Human Experience" together with the other two co-creators of Poetry Inside/Out: Mary Goethals, a retired teacher, and the UA Poetry Center's Poet in Residence, Cameron Conaway.
Each year Poetry Inside/Out focuses on a different theme from stewardship to the sustainability of transportation. This year's focus is politics. Dr. McPherson and Dr. Bonine's course meets weekly to discuss sustainability in depth. This year the students are reading Derrick Jensen's "Endgame," which tackles the problem of civilization and links humanity's treatment of the environment to our treatment of individual humans. Students and faculty find parallels between the country's approach to environmental protection with its system of incarceration.
Guest speakers, including a Buddhist nun and the City's director of transportation, bring diverse perspectives to the course. In addition, students from the University of Arizona visit the juvenile detention facility to interact with detainees. All groups anonymously exchange poetry with each other. The program encourages deep thought, profound life changes, and individual lives of excellence. Its impact can be heard in these comments by Poetry Inside/Out participants.
"This class has made me think probably more than any other class I've had in the 5 years I've been here."
"Fascinating class -- very fun, engaging, enlightening. Depressing and funny at the same time."
"This course is engaging and always interesting. I feel that what I have learned is useful and can be applied to my life."
Cover Image: Pima Vocational High School students write during a break on a field trip.
Above: Valerie James hosts Pima Vocational High School students at her gallery in Amado.
Funders & Partners:
The Friends of the Pima County Public Library
Pima County Public Library
Tucson Parks & Recreation
Art in Reality
Pima County Juvenile Detention Center
Pima County Adult Detention Center
Pima Vocational High School
UA Poetry Center
Community Foundation for Southern Arizona