U2's world tour features 'border' poetry by ASU professor

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Fans at U2's current world tour are being treated to some poetry by ASU professor Alberto Rios (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Fans at U2's current world tour are being treated to some poetry by ASU professor Alberto Rios (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

They are the most successful touring band in music history and before every U2 show on their current world tour, fans are treated to some poetry by an Arizona State University professor.

“The Border: A Double Sonnet” by Alberto Rios is one of several poems projected on a screen while the crowd waits for the band to take the stage.

Rios said he was not aware the band was using the piece until his son’s friend texted an image of the poem at a concert three weeks ago in Los Angeles.

A few days later, Rios said his editor called to inform him that U2 had sent over a licensing agreement and he would be making a small licensing fee.

“I said, ‘Oh no! There goes my pro-Bono joke,'” Rios quipped.

Rios originally wrote the piece for use in a play that debuted at the Mesa Arts Center in 2011. He re-published it as a poem in his book, “A Small Story about the Sky,” in 2015.

Recently, however, he says the poem has taken on new life and meaning with all the political focus on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“What I'm trying to say [in the poem] is that the border means many things. It is never reducible to one definition or one person's version of what the border is,” Rios said.

The poem is in the style of a Spanish "Greguería," with short, often humorous lines that constitute individual thoughts.

The title, "The Border: A Double Sonnet," suggests that "two sides equally bring a history and an elegance and a meaning to that meeting place," Rios explained. "When I say a 'double sonnet,' it's not one side that writes the sonnet; it's both sides."

How U2 found the poem is still a mystery to Rios, but the band was vocal in its opposition of President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall during the campaign.

Rios, Arizona’s first poet laureate, shares that opposition. He grew up in Nogales near the U.S.-Mexico border with family on both sides.

“When I was young, I could walk through different worlds. That was an elevation of the spirit,” he said in an interview. “I could walk from here to there. Different set of rules. Different set of colors. Different set of fruits in the market.”

“There was something transformational about that,” he continued. “It meant that there was not one way to think about the world, ever.”

Rios’ poem will be projected throughout U2’s 15-country tour, which commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Joshua Tree Tour. The original 1987 tour started and ended at Arizona State University.

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Derek StaahlDerek Staahl is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and fill-in anchor who loves covering stories that matter most to Arizona families.

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Derek Staahl

This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

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