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Magical realism and multiculturalism

The Chautauqua Poets & Writers group will celebrate National Poetry Month by presenting an evening of poetry with award-winning poet and author Alberto Alvaro Ríos. Ríos will read from his poetry at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 17, at Ashland High School's Mountain Avenue Theater, 201 S. Mountain Ave., Ashland.

In addition to his evening reading, the poet will visit classes at Rogue Community College in Medford involving Group Latino Oregon Leadership Institute (Hispanic college students mentoring Hispanic high school students). He also will be visiting Talent Middle School, Ashland Middle School and Southern Oregon University. He will be the featured guest on Jeff Golden's Jefferson Exchange Tuesday, April 17.

Ríos is the third writer the Chautauqua Poets & Writers group has brought to the Rogue Valley. Naomi Shihab Nye visited in February 2006 and Jane Hirshfield in October 2006. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser will be here in October.

The poems written by Ríos reflect the multiculturalism of his Mexican-American heritage. He was born in 1952 on the United States side of the city of Nogales, Ariz., on the Mexican border. He received a bachelor of arts from the University of Arizona in 1974 and a MFA in creative writing from the same institution in 1979.

His style, described by the New Yorker as "indebted to magical realism but rooted in naturalism," shows the beauty and magic within even the most familiar aspects of life.

"Alberto Ríos is a poet of reverie and magical perception," wrote the judges of the 2002 National Book Awards, "and of the threshold between this world and the world just beyond." His work is regularly taught and translated and has been adapted to dance and to both classical and popular music. Ríos' poetry has been set to music in a cantata by James DeMars called "Toto's Say," and on an EMI release, "Away from Home." He was also featured in the documentary "Birthwrite: Growing Up Hispanic."

Ríos is the author of several books of poetry and short stories, including "The Theater of the Night, (2005)" "The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body" (a finalist for the 2002 National Book Award), "Teodoro Luna's Two Kisses" (1990), "The Lime Orchard Woman" (1988), "Five Indiscretions" (1985) and "Whispering to Fool The Wind" (1982), which won the 1981 Walt Whitman Award.

Other books by Ríos include "Capirotada: A Nogales Memoir" (1999), "The Curtain of Trees: Stories" (1999), "Pig Cookies and Other Stories" (1995), and his book of short stories "The Iguana Killer" (winner of the 1984 Western States Book Award in Short Fiction).

Ríos' work has also appeared in more than 175 national and international anthologies, including the "Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry."

As well as fellowships from both the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, Ríos' honors include six Pushcart Prizes in both poetry and fiction, the Arizona Governor's Arts Award and the Western Literature Association's Distinguished Achievement Award. Since 1994 he has been Regents Professor of English at Arizona State University, where he has taught since 1982. He lives in Chandler, Ariz.

Tickets to the reading are $10. Tickets are available in Medford at A Rug for All Reasons; Grants Pass at OregonBooks; and in Ashland at Tree House Books, Bloomsbury Books and The Bookwagon.

The award-winning poetry of Alberto Alvaro Rios will be celebrated this Tuesday.