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A visual sonnet

ASU photographs inspire poems by Arizona Poet Laureate Alberto Ríos.
February 16, 2017

Project to celebrate National Poetry Month combines the words of Arizona Poet Laureate Alberto Ríos and images by ASU Now

In anticipation of National Poetry Month in April, Arizona Poet Laureate and Regents' Professor Alberto Ríos and ASU Now photographers Charlie Leight and Deanna Dent are collaborating to create a "visual sonnet." Each week we share a new image and poem on our @asunow Instagram account. When completed, the entire project - 14 images and poems, reflecting the number of lines in a sonnet - will be found on this page, culminating on April 27.

All images were captured not for "work," but as images that stood out to each photographer. Ríos then wrote short poems adapted to the images without knowing their initial context.

This isn't the first team project for Ríos, who often collaborates with community members and artists from different parts of Arizona. He knows the power that can come from combining ideas. 

"The best of collaboration suggests two or more people working not in service to each other, but to the idea they envision, differently," he said. "This seems an awkward assumption, but let me say it this way: I can say 'blue' to you and I will mean what I mean, but you will hear 'blue' and think what you think it means.

"Through our different understandings, though, together we create a third blue, a blue of difference, a blue that suddenly makes three blues where only two began. Something magical and transformative happens in that moment. Putting our blues together makes something happen, something palpably more."  

Ríos suggested the name Ekphrasis for the project, a Greek word summed up in a "verbal description of a visual work of art, either real or imagined." 

A Sonnet of Images 
Ekphrasis.  Translation.  Conversation.

Click on the words below to jump down to that week's photo and poem:

1. In you I have the future...    2. Orange...    3. I play the game...    4. I stretch...  5. I was something...   6. In the great oculus...   7. World, I see you.   8. Great stone comb... 9. A caterpillar... 10. Thoughts lift off me... 11. However this happens... 12. We pledge... 13. We have come upon a man... 14. What is finally left of us...



In you, I hug the future.
I hold to me the arms of what is going to happen.

I embrace the next edge of civilization,
The farthest forward we as human beings have ventured.

These robes we are wearing are not clothing—
They are the gift-wrapping of everything we know. 

I hold you tight.  I smile through the beautifully curled hair 
Of you.  I put my two hands

On the back of you.  Future,
I want to hold you like there’s no tomorrow— 

Which means, of course, that this tight hug,
Even if I cannot say it, is all tomorrow.

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orange splatter 

In the dictionaries the earliest uses of the word in English refer to the fruit, that the

Color was later named after the fruit. Before the English-speaking world was exposed to the
Fruit, the color was referred to as “yellow-red” (geoluread in Old English) or “red-yellow.”

The word comes to us from late Middle English: from Old French orenge (in the phrase
Pomme d'orenge), based on Arabic naranj, from Persian narang.

So what, I say.
Do you dance? I ask, but I don’t wait— 

I spin you on the dance floor and watch your dress
Make the brilliant mark of the hard tango turn,

The scribbled signature of urgency made with the body,
The mark left that says I was here, in this moment, in this place.

I was here, that orange says, loudly and so much that to say anything more
We must turn to a next page.  This page, this moment—it is done.

-Back to Top- 


 child on carpet

I play the game and am the game.  I play chess
And am the knight.  I play the cube

And turn, somehow, yellow into red,
Dream orange into green.  I am the game

Right now and yesterday, right now
And tomorrow.  I am the player and the board both

Trying everything to win.
Winning is a candy in my mouth. 

I lie on the bed of the game.
I am the game of me.

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yoga in the museum 

I stretch among the museum’s images,
Bend my body to their inclinations,

Try out orange and precipice,
Hold the sun and poke the eye of green. 

I stretch.  I grow among the images
And in answer to my lean 

They move themselves for me.  These paintings
And me, we are in this place together.

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Poetry photo

I was something and now I am something else—
I have played the game of tag with myself, 

Standing up a little more with each incarnation
Through the centuries, standing up a little more 

And leaning a little farther forward.  I crouched
For so long, I stooped for so long, 

I ached through it all, all of it, all of me,
Unfolding, all in order to stand today, 

And more.  I am moving so that
I will fly tomorrow, unlikely as it may seem.

I will fly.  And then,
Wherever this trajectory takes me, I will go.

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In the great oculus I see the fingernail moon,
The opal in the rafters, 

The worn space helmet,
The eye of the weatherless hurricane, 

The adjusting telescope allowing me
A view outward, but, simultaneously, 

The microscope of what can only be called
The gods, the greatness, the Out There, 

Its lens bearing down on me.  In this moment,
I have seen it and it has seen me.

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World, I see you.  Earth, I see you.
Do you see me?

I am here.  I bring with me my child.
I give this child to you 

As I was given.  I give this child
To this great world, unafraid,

Fierce, sturdy, with a ferociousness for good,
I give this child who is me.

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Great stone comb of the four directions—
It is nothing like that.  Don’t be fooled. 

I wear the chicken hat.
I am a man and a beast both. 

I speak and I cluck, I howl and I whisper,
I live in the sunflowers under the sky. 

I am the translation of man to animal,
Hummingbird to ant, lizard to moth. 

I direct the bees and elicit the breeze—
I am the crossroads.  I am the moment 

Oxygen moves into blood, I am when
Peahen screet moves from need into word.

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A caterpillar sometimes does not move forward,
Does not follow the centuries-old map of work-to-be-done. 

One Tuesday, it looks up.
One Thursday, it looks up again— 

These risings to the air are not much in their movement,
But in the history of things, everything has happened. 

This explains how cactus once moved through the desert,
Starting out as a caterpillar looking to the stars.

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Thought lifts off me
As if it were a mist. 

I look hard and straight ahead—
That focus, sweat on my brow, 

Me finding water
Miraculously in the desert. 

It makes me think:
Perhaps when mist lifts off the ground, 

The ground itself, like me,
Is thinking.

Perhaps we are complicit
In the journey that comes next: 

I think.
And in that moment, 

I move one step ahead
Even as I am standing still.

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poem 11

However this happens, we see images, and they make us think of things—
A slide of a man with a beard, for example, his kind of beard, that fullness— 

It makes us think of the Lost Dutchman, and then, of course,
Of the treasure.  The Superstition Mountains.  Gold. 

We see images and they speak to something we hold inside ourselves—
Perhaps not gold itself, but a desire 

To find what has not been found.  Perhaps these images guide us,
Are themselves maps, and the Great X is not myth after all, 

But something, something like gold, that we have been looking for
But all the while have been thinking someone else would find.

Suddenly, this image is our chance, though no one else would know.
This image, however unlikely, has sparked a fire in us that will not be settled. 

There is something, something that is ours, out there.
We might laugh at the Lost Dutchman’s mine, but we know what is ours.

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We pledge and are aghast in the same gesture.
We move into the coming years

Clutching the heart, or feeling at the heart constantly,
Checking to gauge what may or may not be held 

In the grace of its rooms.  When all else is full, is crowded,
The heart, we think, is where to go.

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poem 13

We have come upon a man
Who is telling us to stop.  To go another way.

We have come upon a man we do not know,
But we give him the courtesies of humankind. 

We listen.  We are so many, there are many
Thoughts, many words, many ways to move forward. 

And yet, a good voice.  A good reason.  We are one
In that moment.  In that moment, there are no strangers.

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What is finally left of us
Is sometimes unrecognizable—

That we have been other beasts
Through the centuries 

May be forgotten to us awake,
But it is asleep in our bones, 

The past of us,
The monsters that snarled, but who in turn 

Tamed each other.  We are the alien
And the friend both. 

Our bones are the bones
Of story.

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Small grants make big impact

The grants are small but the impact is big for ASU student-led service projects.
February 17, 2017

ASU program receives national honor for funding student-led service projects that help refugees, teens, homeless families

The grants are small, but the impact is big.

A program that gives awards of $1,500 or less to Arizona State University student-led service projects is being nationally recognized for its success in only its third year.

This year, more than $21,000 was awarded to 19 student projects that are impacting hundreds of people in the Phoenix area, including refugees, high school students, homeless families, recovering addicts, prisoners and elementary schoolchildren who need books. The students are helping those in need through art, tutoring, sports, health education, yoga, literature, hiking and gardening.

“It offers such a unique opportunity for students to really create the change they want to see in the community,” said Lindsay Dusard, who won two grants in previous years and is now the student chair of the Woodside Community Action Grant program. The initiative has been named the “service program of the year” by the IMPACTDusard and others in the program left Feb. 16 for the national conference in St. Louis to accept the award. Conference, a national group of student leaders, administrators, faculty and nonprofit groups that engage college students in socially responsible work.

Woodside, like all programs that are part of Changemaker Central @ ASU, is run by students, who promote the competition, supervise the application process, judge the applications and administer the grants, with the help of a staff adviser. Dusard runs the program with Lindsay Zapata, a Woodside student intern.

Student winners are able to make a big impact with small amounts.

“The reasons these projects can happen is that the students dedicate their time and labor, and it’s a lot of work,” Dusard said. “And we encourage them to go out and seek more donations, for supplies or whatever, and they also work with their organizations to extend the money as far as they can to make the greatest impact.”

The program is funded by the Woodside Community Embeddedness Endowment held by the ASU Foundation. The endowment was established in 2000 by Migs Woodside and her late husband, Bill Woodside, to support faculty or student organizations making meaningful impact in the community. Over the years the endowment has grown significantly because of additional donations from Migs Woodside and attendees of the Woodside Lecture Series, which featured ASU faculty members speaking to members of the community. 

Migs Woodside said: “In gratitude to ASU's stellar faculty for presenting 16 years of seminars for the Woodside Lecture Series, our community is pleased to give funds to students to develop service projects and improve the lives of others. We hope the Woodside Community Action Grants will encourage students to continue their volunteer efforts and take on leadership roles in future. We are excited and impressed by the outstanding success of this program and its recognition in just three years by a national organization.”

Members of Students Organize for Syria, an ASU student organization, took children of Syrian refugee families hiking recently. The club won a Woodside Community Action Grant for its outreach program. Contributed photo

 After the Changemaker students make their recommendations for fundable projects, a committee of donors to the Woodside Endowment make the final determination on the amounts awarded. The 19 winners this year were chosen from 39 applications.

“A lot of the students have already volunteered extensively in the community they are applying to serve, so they have a good feel for the community needs, and they have to prove that in their application,” Dusard said.

Some of the projects have won in consecutive years, including Iron City Magazine, a journal devoted to writing and art from the prisoner world, and Designing Micro Air Vehicles, a hands-on engineering venture for minority high school students.

New this year is a series of monthly workshops for the winners, according to Jasmine Smalls, program coordinator at Changemaker Central and the staff adviser for Woodside.

“In the past, the feedback we received that the entire semester can go by and we would never know the progress of a project,” she said. “Now, the students are working on professional development workshops on topics such as e-portfolios, so they can tell their stories and the impact they’re making on the local community.”

Dusard’s two grants funded a project with the Peace Corps Club in which members gathered corps alumni and current students to work on a garden for refugee families, and a summer recreation program for refugee children that she established as part of her thesis for Barrett, the Honors College.

“It was important for the social and emotional development of these children who have experienced high levels of trauma and are forced to integrate quickly into a classroom,” said Dusard, a senior majoring in marketing and public programs and public policy in the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Helping refugees has been the focus of several projects over the three years. One winner this year is Ainsley Pfeiffer, a member of Students Organize for Syria, which won a $1,200 grant for its tutoring and outreach program. The group works with children of Syrian refugee families, giving homework help and boosting their English skills, but the members realized that the kids needed to get out more. The grant will pay for trips to museums and the zoo and recreational activities such as bowling and picnics. On Feb. 12, the group took several children hiking at South Mountain.

“Usually on the weekend, the kids stay at home and they haven’t seen much of Arizona or even of American culture, so we thought it would be fun to take them out,” said Pfeiffer, a senior anthropology major.

Over the course of many months, Pfeiffer and the club members have bonded with the families.

“When we drop off the kids, they invite us in for dinner, and we’ve built some great relationships,” she said. “I didn’t know any refugee families before this, and I see that they have a lot of resilience because they don’t speak English, but they still go out and get jobs and maneuver American society pretty well.”

Many of the Woodside projects reach out to children and teenagers. The Sun Devil Handball Club was awarded $750 for its Homework and Handball program in which club members visit high schools in Phoenix, play with the students and then talk to them about college.

The Sun Devil Handball Club won a Woodside Community Action Grant for its outreach program to Phoenix high schools. Contributed photo

 Derek Doyle, president of the handball club, said the members came up with the service idea last fall, and it was a natural fit for some of the Phoenix high schools because they already had courts and many students play during lunch time.

The grant money will be spent on equipment, including several dozen pairs of eye guards that the teens can use. At a typical outreach, the club will set up a bracketed tournament for the high school players, and after the games the club members will chat with them and encourage them to consider applying to college. Many of the high schoolers don’t come from college-going families.

“A lot of them think it’s too expensive or too hard. We’ll talk about how there are scholarships and financial aid. We tell them if they put in the effort during high school, they can realize college is an option,” said Doyle, who is a sophomore sports and media studies major in the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Forging that connection with the handball clubThe service project was one reason the Sun Devil Handball Club was recently named the “organization of the year” by the U.S. Handball Association. is another incentive for the young students.

“When a student gets into a club at college, they feel more welcome, and the kids realize there’s a team that’s already here that they can be a part of,” he said.

For a list of all the student projects that won Woodside Community Action Grants, click here.

Top photo: Book Buddy received $750 to help children who are English language learners in the third and fourth grade at Kyrene de las Manitas Elementary in Tempe, by giving them a reading resource that will help them improve their English language skills.

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News