Arizona poet laureate to open Behrend's spring literary series

The poet Alberto Rios stands in front of a bookcase.

Former Arizona Poet Laureate Alberto Rios will open the Smith Creative Writers Reading Series at Penn State Behrend with a Jan. 28 reading on Zoom.

Credit: Contributed photo

At home, the poet Alberto Rios spoke Spanish. That’s common in the town of Nogales, which straddles Arizona’s southern border.

At school, he was required to speak English. As he toggled between the two languages, he developed his own dialect, which hop-scotched elements of both cultures.

“I have too often thought of the act of translation as simply giving something two names,” Rios, Arizona’s first poet laureate, once said. “It is not so. Not at all. A second name for something pushes it forward, forward and backward, and gives it another life.”

Rios will read from his work, which includes 13 books of poetry, when he opens the spring program for Penn State Behrend’s Smith Creative Writers Reading Series on Jan. 28. Readings will continue through April, featuring award-winning poets, prose writers and the work of students in Behrend’s creative writing program.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all readings will take place via Zoom.

The Smith Creative Writers Reading Series is produced by the college’s B.F.A. in creative writing – the only program of its kind at Penn State – with support from the Clarence A. and Eugenie Baumann Smith Fund. All readings begin at 6 p.m.

The spring readings will feature these writers:

  • Jan. 28: Alberto Rios, Arizona’s first poet laureate. In addition to his 13 books of poetry, Rios has written three short-story collections and a memoir, “Capirotada.” He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts and won the Walt Whitman Award. His talk can be viewed at
  • Feb. 4: Erin Pringle, author of the novel “Hezada! I Miss You” and two short-story collections: “The Whole World at Once” and “The Floating Order.” She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and was a finalist in the Kore Press Short Fiction Contest. Her talk can be viewed at
  • March 4: Emily Skaja, whose first book, “Brute,” won the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. Her poems have been published in “Best New Poets,” “Blackbird,” “Crazyhorse” and the New York Times Magazine. Her talk can be viewed at
  • March 18: Tom Noyes, the author of three story collections, including “Come by Here: A Novella and Stories.” His first novel, “The Substance of Things Hoped For,” will be published later this year. Noyes directs the creative writing program at Behrend; his talk can be viewed at
  • April 1, “Behrend Reads.” Faculty and staff from across the College will read selections from their poetry, fiction and non-fiction work. This reading also will be hosted on Zoom, at
  • April 8, George Looney, distinguished professor of English and creative writing at Penn State Behrend and the translations editor at Mid-American Review. He has written 12 books of poetry and three books of fiction. His book “The Worst May Be Over: Stories” – one of two collections he published in 2020 – won Elixir Press’s Fiction Award. His talk can be viewed at

To learn more about the Smith Creative Writers Reading Series and Behrend’s B.F.A. in creative writing, visit or call 814-898-6108.