'Copper and Oranges:' ASU Regents Professor Alberto Ríos ushers in new year with prose and purpose


Suzanne Wilson

As the sun rises on a new decade, Alberto Ríos is reminding us of how far Arizona has come and how much more there is to discover.

“The desert is an act of the imagination, so much still to be filled in,

So little ready-made. We have worked to fill spaces like this with cities.

But that model is old. Let us build instead a boulevard of better selves. We know we can conjure energy from the world around us.”

 -Alberto Ríos, "Copper and Oranges" (As published in The Arizona Republic on Dec. 31, 2019)

Ríos, a Regents Professor in the Department of English at Arizona State University and Arizona’s first poet laureate, was asked by The Arizona Republic to close out 2019 and usher in 2020 with a reflective composition on purpose and resolve in the Grand Canyon State, also known as the Copper State.

Albert Rios

Alberto Ríos

The result: "Copper and Oranges" – 37 lines of prose from a literary witness of Arizona’s horizons of growth in cities and citizenship. The original poem caps an illustrious decade of high profile acknowledgements for Ríos that included a world tour of sorts — rock band U2 included Ríos’ poem “The Border: A Double Sonnet” on its 2017 stadium tour — and a nod from media mogul Oprah Winfrey, who has quoted Ríos’ words for inspiration and affirmation.

The author of 10 books and chapbooks of poetry, three collections of short stories and a memoir, Alberto Ríos has taught at Arizona State University since 1982. He is the director of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at ASU. In addition to his designation as the inaugural poet laureate for the state of Arizona in 2013, Ríos has received numerous accolades in acknowledgement of his work over the decades, including the Western Literature Associate Distinguished Achievement Award, the Arizona Governor’s Arts Award, fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others.  

Top photo: ASU Enrollment Services Communication/Flickr 

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