The Colorado Poet, #22, Spring 2013

The Slope By Art Goodtimes

Western Slope Poet Laureate (2011-13)

Reg Saner and Aaron Abeyta honored at Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival

THIRD YEAR … Thanks to the dedication and drive of Valerie Haugen and Lon Winston of the Thunder River Theatre Company, Carbondale hosted its third annual Western Slope poetry festival this past weekend. Named for Karen Chamberlain, the event celebrates the continuing inspiration that Karen provided for many poets – not only in the Roaring Fork Valley where she made her home, but around Colorado and the region … Karen was founder of the Aspen Writers’ Foundation, coordinator of the Canyonlands Field Institute Desert Writers Workshop near Moab, winner of the 1983 The Nation Discovery Prize and the 1989 Colorado Council on the Arts Poetry Fellowship, and poetry editor of the Mountain Gazette for five years. She was often a visitor to Telluride, as well as a colleague and personal friend of mine. As Valerie is quoted in the Aspen Times as saying, ““What struck me about Karen was how wise she was and how kind she was. She thought everyone should write. In the last week of her life, she even helped someone finish his book” … The fest squeezed in lots of performance slots for established veterans and all ages of newbies. While of course there were stand-outs, the reigning ethos honored everyone willing to perform, and the audience listened attentively to each and every diverse voice … It was great to hear and see the dynamic Judyth Hill of Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende, the incomparable Jack Mueller of Ridgway, fellow emcee Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer of Placerville,  Stewart Warren of Albuquerque, Wendy Videlock, Uche Ogbuchi, Rachel Kellum, Kit Muldoon, Trinity La Fay, Danny Rosen, Jimi Bernath – I could spend the rest of the column naming them all. An amazing collection of state and regional poets … And the Gourd Circle finale on Sunday morning was among the more powerful listening & shining sessions I’ve ever participated in. On whole, a most amazing event.

CHAMBERLAIN AWARD … I’ve admired Reg Saner for a long time. He’s won lots of awards already, but I’ve been wanting to bring him out to the Western Slope for years. In fact, almost 30, since I first heard him read from So This Is The Map (Random House, 1981) at the former Mesa State College in Grand Junction … His poetry has been a powerful influence on me and all Colorado poets who know him. His work takes us through the dazzle of language into the furnace of the natural world … It was a great honor to be able to award him the first Chamberlain Award for Lifetime Poetic Achievement here in Colorado … On top of everything, Reg is a very kind, humble, humorous poet who spent as much time listening to others at the festival as shining himself … There’s a lot of us who will be lobbying the Governor to appoint Reg as the Colorado’s next state Poet Laureate once the wonderful term of current PL Dave Mason is up.

WESTERN SLOPE… Colorado, Denver, the Pike’s Peak Region, San Miguel County – many regions and jurisdictions have begun honoring poets by naming them to the honorary position of poet laureate. San Miguel County has Elle Metrick of Norwood as its laureate, the Pike’s Peak Region has Price Strobridge, Chris Ransick’s term as Denver’s laureate ended in 2010 but funding cuts have precluded the naming of another so far, and Colorado College poet/prof Dave Mason is the state’s much-esteemed laureate … Western Colorado has always been a long ways from the urban centers of the Front Range, and has sometimes been overlooked in the field of arts. But poetry has been a vibrant and powerful practice on the Western Slope – hosting a number of poetry festivals over the years: Talking Gourds in Telluride, Sparrows in Salida, the Festival of the Imagination in Del Norte, and now the Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival in Carbondale … By way of celebrating that fact, the festival named a Western Slope Poet Laureate two years ago. In a stealth move that caught me by surprise, I was honored with that title. And now, the laurels pass over to a new Western Slope Poet Laureate – Aaron Abeyta. Award-winning poet and professor at Adams State College in Alamosa, Aaron’s family hails from many generations in the San Luis Valley’s Antonito community …

TALKING GOURDS … Having gone through many permutations over the years, Talking Gourds began as a Telluride-based festival, moved to Faraway Ranch in the Nineties and then out to the wilds of the Uncompahgre Plateau, only to return to Telluride as a library-based performance series and now a monthly poetry club at Arroyo’s Wine Bar & Fine Art Gallery … Conifer’s Julie Cummings charmed the crowd as featured poet for the March meeting of the club (on the month’s first Tuesday at 6 p.m.). Organizer for Ziggies reading series and August poetry fest in Denver, Cummings chose as her theme “Phenomenal Women.”… So far this year the club has drawn audience/participants for the Sacred/Obscene poems of Lenore Kandel and Rumi, led by hosts Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer and yours truly, as well as the love poems of Pablo Neruda and Sappho. Audience members bring poems of their own or their favorite authors to share, focused around the month’s theme … Talking Gourds Poetry Club is a joint venture of the Telluride Institute, Wilkinson Library, Between the Covers Bookstore, Telluride Arts and San Miguel County poets.

LOIS HAYNA … Speaking of Phenomenal Women as Julie Cummings did in Telluride, this grand dame of Colorado Springs poets is still observing nature and creating lyrics at 100 years of age. You can find a video of her 100th birthday party this past January on YouTube. An amazing woman, I met her through Poetry West – the largest community of poets and writers in the Pikes Peak Region. … Regis University maintains an archival collection of Hayna’s papers. As the site explains, It begins with poetry from her college days, and … essays and short stories she wrote in the 1970 -- 1980s. Of significance is a very comprehensive collection of her poems from the 1970s to the present. Also among her writing are drafts for an unpublished book on herbs, entitled “The Casual Herbist,”  as well as her notes on herbs and a bibliography … Her poetry books include Never Trust a Crow (1990), Keeping Still (2008), and her latest The Praying Mantis (2012) – published when Lois was 99 years old! … A mutual friend, Liz Lewis, has written a lovely tribute to her, appearing as this issue’s Talking Gourd.

DAVE MASON … Colorado’s accomplished Poet Laureate and his dynamic Aussie wife, Calley Conan-Davies, were the featured readers at a well-attended poetry reading at the Cortez Library earlier this year. Montezuma County residents turned out in force to hear the duo alternate readings as they inspired the crowd with personal vignettes, narrative delights, lyric love poems and playful interactions … Kudos to librarian Kathy Berg for once again making Cortez a magnet for poetry performance in the Four Corners.

ERIKA MOSS GORDON … Speaking of new writers, this intriguing Ridgway poet with a similar first name has a great website, “unlearning through poetry”, and is coming out with a chapbook soon, Of Eyes and Iris … Watch for it.

WINDFALL … A Portland-based “Journal of Poetry of Place” <> offered a critique of modernism in their spring 2009 issue, which I just happened upon in my midden heap at Cloud Acre … Editors Bill Silverly and Michael McDowell include an Afterword with each issue, and this one was entitled: “Gardener Poets.” I loved Windfall, subscribed for a year, and was only disappointed in that they limited their submissions to poets of the Pacific West Coast states. Though hardly a fault. Best to keep things regional and not try to get too big – that’s my resiliency model these days … But I’m a gardener poet. I wish the Southern Rockies had its own Journal of Poetry of Place, or maybe it does and I just haven’t learned of it yet … A lot of the theoretical underpinnings for the Windfall critique rest with Robert Pogue Harrison’s Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition (Univ. of Chicago, 2008) … As Harrison puts it, “Modernism found its objective correlative in the wasteland rather than the garden” … Here’s some short excerpts from Silverly and McDowell’s Afterword … Harrison also contrasts the gardener’s perspective with the cult of consumerism that has seemed to dominate life from mid-twentieth century until now. Harrison borrows the phrase “more life” from Lionel Trilling to characterize our craving to turn the earth into “a consumerist paradise where everything is given spontaneously, without labor, suffering or husbandry” … Then Silverly and McDowell quote Harrison directly – and I find it a quite serviceable rationale why I continue to grow 50+ varieties of potatoes in a busy public and private life… Our attempts to re-create Eden amount to an assault on creation. That is the danger of the era. Precisely because our frenzy is fundamentally aimless while remaining driven, we set ourselves goals whose main purpose is to keep the frenzy going until it consummates itself in sloth … If at present we are seeking to render the totality of the earth’s resources endlessly available, endlessly usable, endlessly disposable, it is because endless consumption is the proximate goal of a production without end … Or, better, consumption is what justifies the frenzy of production, which in turn justifies consumption, the entire cycle serving more to keep us busy than to satisfy our real needs.”

Query Received--Anyone?

I have searched for this poem for months now, and you [Colorado Poets Center] seemed like the last and best resort. In 2009, I went to the Denver Museum of Art and was encouraged to take one of a number of cards. On mine was a poem excerpt from a Colorado native saying something about scorched plains and rugged mountains calling him home. As a native who often dreams of returning, I kept it on my dash for ages. I lost it but would love to know if you could point me in the right direction. I believe it was a deceased male poet.

Art is not sufficiently understood as a meaning-making structure which might provide a given culture with nonviolent introduction to alternative modes of thinking about our world, and which furthermore might offer forms of redemption, solace, compensation, and critique for individuals that inhabit that world.

Ann Lauterbach