Dora Zúñiga with longtime friend Oscar Mireles

As part of National Poetry Month, City of Madison Poet Laureate Oscar Mireles will kick off a flurry of activities this weekend designed to highlight the impact of poetry in education, incarceration issues, the arts, celebrating the African American culture, and honoring our mothers.

Mireles, the first Latino Poet Laureate of Madison and the executive director of the Omega School for adults seeking to complete their GED/HSED, should probably not be planning too many backyard projects this weekend.

“It’s a busy, busy weekend for me,” Mireles tells Madison365. “But it’s really exciting.

“I’m excited about all of these great events, but I’m especially excited about ‘Faces of Incarceration’ at Winnebago Studios Gallery,” Mireles adds. “There will be some great artwork and we will be putting a face to the issue of incarceration. There will be spoken-word and rap. I will be reading a poem about incarceration.”

This art event aims to shift the dialogue around mass incarceration and the perceptions we have about people once or currently caught up in the systemic policies that result in disproportionate incarceration of people of color.

Mireles has been enjoying his time as City of Madison Poet Laureate. “Overall, it’s been an incredible experience. It’s been a lot more than I anticipated, but everything has been great,” Mireles says. “I’ve gotten a chance to meet with a lot of the community and to work with young people.”

The following is an overview of Mireles’ tour this weekend.

“Building Community” Nuestro Mundo
Friday April 8, 2016 at 5:00 pm

“Building Community Through Language: An Oral History of Madison’s Dual Language Immersion Program” is an oral history project exploring the importance of language in identity and community formation among students and their families. These oral histories will be preserved at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives as a historical repository of one of Madison’s most recently successful community-led educational initiatives.

After a busy quarter learning oral history methods and conducting interviews among families and community members, the students of La Follette High School invite the community to join them for a presentation and celebration at Nuestro Mundo Community School on Friday, April 8. Oscar Mireles, Madison’s Poet Laureate, will join in opening the festivities

FACES OF INCARCERATION: New Opening Show Location: Winnebago Studios Gallery
2046 Winnebago Street. Friday, April 8, 5-9.

In addition to the amazing composite of great faces of people living within or changing Wisconsin’s prison system, FACES of INCARCERATION will feature “Captured,” visual and audio stories of children coping within Dane County’s Juvenile Detention Center thanks to Ali Muldrow and the people at GSAFE. Poet Laureate Oscar Mireles will read a poem about incarceration.

"Faces of Incarceration: Changing the Narrative"
“Faces of Incarceration: Changing the Narrative”

“Poetry Speaks” Madison Museum of Contemporary Arts (MMOCA)
Friday, April 8, 2016 8 pm

The year 2016 marks MMoCA’s 115th anniversary and 10th year in its Cesar Pelli-designed building. To celebrate the occasion, poets from across Wisconsin were invited to submit poems that animate, celebrate, and deliberate on the value of the arts.
Sarah Sadie Busse and Wendy Vardaman, proprietors of Cowfeather Press and Madison’s fourth Poets Laureate, selected the poems for Poetry Speaks.
Participating Poets include:
-Kimberly Blaeser, Of Fractals and Pink Flowering Wisconsin Poet Laureate
-Bruce Dethlefsen, Artists Wisconsin Poet Laureate (2010–2012)
-Fabu, Romare Bearden Takes the Long Way Home Madison Poet Laureate (2008–2012)
-Oscar Mireles, Poetry Can Be Hard on Your Hands Madison Poet Laureate
-Marilyn L. Taylor Glass Under Glass Wisconsin Poet Laureate (2008–2010)

The National Association for the Advancement of Color People (NAACP) ACT-SO Competition
Saturday, April 9, 9 a.m. at Edgewood College.

Oscar Mireles, City of Madison Poet Laureate, will serve as judge the Poetry Written competition. The NAACP’s Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics is a yearlong achievement program designed to recruit, stimulate, and encourage high academic and cultural achievement among African-American high school students.

ACT-SO includes 26 categories of competition in the sciences, humanities, business, and performing and visual arts. More than 260,000 young people have participated from the program since its inception.

Hector Aristizabal
Hector Aristizabal

Hector Aristizabal
Saturday, April 9, at the Madison Memorial High School auditorium

Mireles will help welcome one of the most important social justice theater artists in the world, Hector Aristizabal, who hails from Colombia and will be working with a group of high school students from Memorial that are part of the BSU and are currently on a trip to Atlanta to visit HBCU’s. Aristizabal will work with a group of the returnees on developing a performance piece that will reflect their life changing experience. UW-Madison First Wave will also be part of this process.

Dress rehearsal for the May 8th Madison show of Listen to Your Mother
Sunday April 10, 2 p.m. at the Barrymore Theater

Mireles will participate in a dress rehearsal for the May 8th Madison show of Listen to Your Mother, which aims to support motherhood creatively through artistic expression as well as financially — through contributions to non-profit organizations supporting families in need. To date, LTYM has raised over $80,000 for local causes.