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ASU fall arts showcase to embrace community, culture in downtown Phoenix

The showcase will feature poetry, short stories, film and music

From left, Matthew Session, Daniela Diaz, Anna Flores, Sawyer Elms, Kellen Shover and Rosemarie Dombrowski. Dombrowski's students pictured above will be some of the writers and creatives featured in Thursday's showcase.

From left, Matthew Session, Daniela Diaz, Anna Flores, Sawyer Elms, Kellen Shover and Rosemarie Dombrowski. Dombrowski's students pictured above will be some of the writers and creatives featured in Thursday's showcase.

"I had nothing to give you, so I made sure to plant trees. By the time I'm dead and gone, you'll be able to enjoy the fruit."

Matthew Session, or just "Session", as he prefers, read this poem off his laptop during a poetry workshop on Tuesday. There are four or five more poems like these, and all of them are 40 words or less. Session and his peers, with the help of his ASU professor Rosemarie Dombrowski, are preparing for their fall showcase on Thursday at Grand Central Coffee in downtown Phoenix.

There are showcases for Dombrowski's students at the end of every semester, and they give young poets, writers and creatives a chance to put their portfolios on display to the public.

"Even if they've never submitted it to a publication, I wanted them to feel like they had at least done all of the revisions and done all of those edits for public performance, for consumption of some kind," Dombrowski said. "So this is really just an outcropping of the showcases I've been doing in the past, but with that cultural component from that larger project I was a part of worked in."

The larger project, she said, refers to a project she was involved in years ago as an artistic liaison. It was an artistic investigation into the cultural identity of downtown Phoenix, and some of her younger students became involved in the project as poets. After the project ended, Dombrowski continued having showcases for her students.

This showcase, a semester-long work in progress, is titled "Community and Culture: Celebrating Diversity Through Art," and features a diverse range of artistic outlets including poetry, flash fiction, film and music. 

The films, Dombrowski said, are micro-documentaries, and are 10 minutes long at most. They discuss Indigenous Peoples' Day and the movement that has risen in response to Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.  

Rosemarie Dombrowski collaborated with Michael Pfister, an ASU professor with a focus on language and culture. He oversaw the creation of these documentaries, and said the showcase allows students to be engaged with the community. 

"(The showcase) is a way of breaking down the wall of academic and public and showing students that their work is socially significant," he said. "The students I work with to produce micro-documentaries immerse themselves in an issue that they feel is unknown or significant in Phoenix." 

Kellen Shover, a senior English major, will present his poetry in homage to singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, who passed away Nov. 7 of this year. Shover said the process has helped him grow as a writer and performer.

"The showcase has helped me grow in the sense that it has put some pressure on me as a writer to increase the quality of my work," he explained. "I wasn't extremely confident in much of my writing before, but workshopping (my poetry) with the final goal of reading in a public space has been a good way for me to feel more comfortable with my voice as a writer and my performing persona." 

As for his hopes for tomorrow's performance, he said his goals are simple. 

"The only real hope that I have is that people come out," he said. "If only one person is in the crowd, then that is successful in my eyes.  Also, I just hope that I deliver my poems in a manner that I am satisfied with, and I hope the newer poems I haven't read in public translate to the public space."

On Tuesday, he read his poetry to his peers, listening to how the words sounded off of the page. 

"I want to be the dust that clings to Joan of Arc's wedding dress," one poem read.

English student and fellow poet Anna Flores reads her poetry for feedback as well.

She writes, "The human experience was born from a nebula (You know it's true 'cause it feels so good to ride a bike.)" 

Daniela Diaz, a communications senior and storyteller, said she has high hopes for tomorrow.

"I think that things will go fantastically," she said. "We're a tight group of poets ... It's fun to discover ourselves in the poetry world under (Dombrowski's) guidance."

The showcase, free for the public, will take place at The Grand Central Coffee Company from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 17.

Reach the reporter at or follow @mvyphvn on Twitter.

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