Among the highlights of the 2016 Arizona Poetry Out Loud state finals event was a special appearance by Dr. Laura Tohe, Poet Laureate of the Navajo Nation. The acclaimed poet offered remarks and read some of her own work, as well as acting as a member of the judging panel at the event.

LToheLaura Tohe has written and co-authored four books. Her most recent book, Tseyi, Deep in the Rock won the 2007 Glyph award for Best Poetry and Best Book by Arizona Book Association and is listed as a Southwest Book of the Year 2005 by the Tucson Pima Library. She is the 2006 Dan Schilling Public Scholar for the Arizona Humanities Council. She writes essays, stories, and children’s plays that have appeared in the U.S., Canada and Europe. She wrote a commissioned libretto, Enemy Slayer, A Navajo Oratorio, for the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, which premiered in 2008.

As we close the registration period for participation in 2017 Arizona Poetry Out Loud, we’re honored to share a few thoughts on the program from Dr. Tohe.

Did you enjoy poetry when you were younger? 

I didn’t know what poetry was until I got to high school.  I wasn’t exposed to it earlier but I wish I had like the youth who participate in POL.

Poetry Out Loud is a program that has national reach, but do you think there is something Arizona high school students provide to the program that is different?  

Yes, they provide a sense of regionalism in their poetry and in their topics, which is important to the communities and people in Arizona.  In this way the wonderful poetry that comes from AZ is represented locally and nationally.

What advice would you give students who may be unsure, nervous, or completely frightened by the thought of performing poetry? 

Practice and get comfortable with performing in front of an audience.  Start small with family and friends.  Make sure they are people who are supportive.  One could also go to the poetry slams as more confidence is gained.   Practice to get better.