Poems of Public Purpose

Speak to the animal in us and the animal will answer.



Poems say what words cannot.  They reach for what words mean to say, what they wish they had said, what they need to say.  Words themselves are sometimes too shy, too inadequate, too overused.  Poems stop us, for a moment, and say, pay attention.  They charge us with remembering that words used to—and still can—gift us with meaning and with feeling.  When we do pay attention, we are better for it.  Paying attention is now and has always been the great magic of the world.


As a writer, and a poet particularly, I have come to see the value of paying attention, and the wisdom of paying attention not simply to oneself.  Paying attention to and for others, and to the things of this world as well—this has given me a new work, a next level of public as well as personal consideration.  It has given me a sense that the small things we do can suggest compensation through metaphor and understanding, and must serve as the momentary restorative salve to great problems.  It is in and by these small, tender acts that we will understand what matters most to us.


The following are what I call “poems of public purpose.”  By this I mean to say that these are not poems I would have normally written myself—rather, these are poems of occasion, of circumstance, of request, where the request suggested an idea of substance.  These are poems both mine and not mine, poems that attempt a wide and fresh public work.



The following are some selected examples of my work featured in public efforts and installations.


“Passage” at South Mountain Community Library(2011) (2)

“Waterworks” at Arizona Falls (2003).

The First Inauguration of Arizona governor Janet Napolitano (2003).

The Second Inauguration of Arizona governor Janet Napolitano (2007).

The Visit of Mexico’s president Vicente Fox to Arizona.

The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Words Over Water at Tempe Town Lake.  Examples.  Greguerías.

Ocotillo Library, South Phoenix.

Inauguration of the Virginia Piper Center for Creative Writing.

The Phoenix Public Library Matthew Shepard Community Poem.

ASU + Mayo Clinic Palliative Care Unit project.

“Moving Poems at ASU.

ASU 911 Artists’ Response.

Family and the Arts in Civic Life.




ASU Memorial Union.

Retirement of Milt Glick.

Retirement of Service.

Philip C. Curtis, in memoriam.

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