The Colorado Poet, #24,Fall 2013

Pandora’s Box
A Lyric Scan from the San Miguel Watershed

By Art Goodtimes

NEW NAME … While I used to think I had a great grip on the entire Western Slope poetry scene, it’s just not so. Living in rural Norwood, far from any urban center, my view is decidedly myopic. But it’s a great view. Just a more limited one. So I’m not going to pretend I speak for the entire Western Slope. Instead, I’m going to take a cue from the headwaters of the San Miguel Watershed, which is the river drainage that I live along. Even before the town of Telluride, the miners started a town called Pandora, and since they did so in a box canyon, it seems appropriate to call this column Pandora’s Box … Now some of you may think it a pejorative, having heard Hesiod’s version of the Pandora tale. But that was a patriarchal reinvention (circa 650 B.C.) of a much older agrarian myth.

Pandora means “all gifts” in Greek, and was an archetypical Earth Mother goddess. .

Pandora means “all gifts” in Greek, and was an archetypical Earth Mother goddess. Rather than opening a box (or jar, as Hesiod imagined it) that let loose all the ills on the world, she was the harvest queen who bore all the gifts of the field … So, the name plays on the watershed’s box canyon, Hesiod’s overlay and the original fructifying image of nature’s cornucopia … And the intention is to share my pagan take on the poetry world of the Western Slope (the Latin word, paganus, by the way, means “rural person”)

MICHAEL ADAMS … My good friend and master poet, Mike passed Friday after a year’s struggle with cancer. Dolores LaChapelle had bound us together – both of us devotees of her brand of deep ecology and bardic poetry… He was one of the Fire Giggler clan – a group of poets I’d met years ago who admired the metrics of Lew Welch, a legendary San Francisco poet pal of Gary Snyder and Phil Whalen who’d brought American cadence and Pacific Rim savvy to his verse. I’d gotten to hear Welch read once, and it was electrifying. His was a performance where the sea crashed, the sky boomed and giant redwoods swayed in the breeze. Nobody understood the percussive sing-song boomalay of American English better than Welch … Mike came from that tradition. Of Czech ancestry, his fine-tuned ear ran from the molten steel beds of his native Pittsburgh to the “black rock, sky pilot and Parry’s Primrose” of Broken Hand Peak … He joined many a Talking Gourds poetry gathering in San Miguel County at Windy Point and Faraway Ranch and down in New Mexico at Rockmirth. And he held his own annual corroboree at his hideaway in the Wet Mountains … We hiked together – most recently last year on the Woods Lake Trail to the Dolores Peaks – but in the West Fork Cimarrons with LaChapelle and up to Courthouse Rock ... We read together – most recently at a Gourds Circle in Norwood and before that in Boulder’s Innisfree Bookstore as part of a group of “outlaw poets” … He published an anthology about 9/11 that featured poems from a lot of us, including one by Judyth Hill that went viral and was reprinted all around the world. He’d come visit Cloud Acre and stay for a week. I’d go visit him and his wife Claire in their Lafayette digs, and before that in a trailer park outside Boulder, when he lived alone and worked for the City’s Parks & Rec Dept … So many stories. So many memories. Hard to let go of this good man.

JACK MUELLER … The inimitable Jack Mueller, a legend from San Francisco’s North Beach, former president of the World Poetry Association, and now a Colorado hermit living outside of Ridgway in the San Juan Mountains, has come out with a new book from Lithic Press of Grand Junction, Fati Amor (Latin for “love of fate” and signaling an acceptance of everything that happens in one’s life, good and bad, as the way it’s supposed to be. Originally called Boxwork, the book includes incredible line drawings by the poet … Highly recommended.

THE DARK GNUSubtitled And Other Poems by Wendy Videlock (Able Muse Press, San Jose CA, 2013), this is a dazzling book, illustrated by the poet in the most amazing alcohol ink illustrations. The poems have the jaunty rhymes of Mother Goose with the wisdom of Laozi chiseled into them, like bas relief koans … Wendy is a master of the unexpected lyric that pleases and teases and blows your house down … This is one of those great volumes that makes an unrivaled gift – beautiful almost beyond belief and perfect for reading aloud to a pack of young animals or meditating on quietly under a tree in your backyard … “And odd little book for drifters and dreamers, the tygers and sages, and the children of all inconceivable ages” … Highly recommended.

EXOTICA … There’s a lot of exotica in Fruita geologist-astronomer-poet Danny Rosen’s new chapbook, Ghosts of Giant Kudu (Kattywompus Press, Cleveland Heights, OH, 2013). Having spent several tours as resident stargazer in a Dutch wildlife camp in Namibia, Rosen takes us on a lyric tour of this former German protectorate in Southern East Africa dominated by the Nabib desert, thought to be the oldest in the world. We learn of thorntrees, wet red sand dunes, dassie rats, koppies (Afrikaans for a small hill rising from the veld), klipspringers and kudus. But more, we feel as Rosen felt the “bowl of your soft dark belly / hanging above me every night, tucking me in, / rolling me over and over until I’d been rolled / into the arms of your African fold” … Marvelous poems that trek and travel and stand their ground, taking you in to a place wholly foreign and yet alluring, familiar. As one poem ends, “I’m stranded in the Hoanib, / under the canyon moon. / If they ever find me, / it will be too soon” … Highly recommended.

KYLE HARVEY … Lithic Press is also offering a first book from Fruita’s gallery owner and poet, Kyle Harvey, who won the 2013 Mark Fischer Poetry Award in Telluride. Awarded annually to a poet trying to extend language in new ways, the Fischer Prize remembers a brilliant polyglot, lawyer, masseuse and poet who died young … Harvey’s new book is called, Hyacinth. My blurb on the back says:  "The curvature of these poems pulls you in, like gravity -- waking up in bed wearing hip waders, holy static, Coho salmon pink brassieres and the tight black leather of night. Cast after cast, Kyle Harvey bends his pole to the magnet of Monet's sunrise and reels in fresh catches, clenched fists, the ricochet of ravens at play." … Recommended.

FRANK COONS … Danny Rosen’s Lithic Press has been very busy, and has brought out another first book by Grand Junction poet and veterinarian Frank Coons. Finding Cassiopeia is filled with his experience as an animal doctor as well as memories of family life and general thoughts on the nature of the world … Recommended.

KOFI AWOONOR … The world was held hostage in Nairobi earlier this fall as al Shabaam gunmen killed, tortured and destroyed, all in the name of Allah (as twisted an ethic as can be imagined). Among the collateral damage – revered Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor … One of the pioneers of African literature who used literature as a tool of emancipation, of independence and of African unity, he was known worldwide for his innovative style that translated the rhythms of his Ewe language into English. Having studied at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, he taught at universities in Ghana and the United States and also had served as Ghana's ambassador to Brazil, Cuba and the United Nations. His works are taught in high school English literature classes across the African continent … According to Malian writer Manthia Diawara who teaches at New York University and heads up the Institute of Afro-American affairs, Awoonor sought to create a new form of African poetry that mirrored the style of the African griots, or traditional storytellers. "He used both the rhythmic form, and sometimes used the same words as in the local language. He took sayings, funeral dirges or wedding celebrations, and put them into English, in a well-worked manner.” … His latest book, Promises of Hope: New and Selected Poems," is due out next year. Recommended.

TALKING GOURDS … For the past several years, a partnership of groups in Telluride have been sponsoring a monthly gathering, the Talking Gourds Poetry Club. The Telluride Institute, the Wilkinson Library, Between the Covers Bookstore, Arroyo Telluride (the host site) and local poets have made the first Tuesday of every month poetry night in Telluride … Peter Waldor of Telluride and New Jersey read in August. from his marvelous collection of wilderness poems that one author has called “spare, trenchant, whimsical.” Myself and Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer were featured in September. John Nizalowski of Grand Junction in October, and Uche Ogbuji in November … For more info, contact me.

OPEN BARD … The celebrated poet performer and alcohol ink artist Wendy Videlock of Grand Junction kicked off a new Open Bard reading series in Ridgway’s Sherbino Theater on Thursday, Oct. 3rd, sponsored by the Ridgway Chautauqua Society and the Ouray County Performing Arts Guild. Doors opened at 6:30 p.m. for sign-ups for the open reading part of the show, performance started at 7 p.m. Future readings are planned on the first Thursday of every month … For more info, contact Beth Paulson or Kierstin Bridger.

WORD SHARKS … Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, David Feela and myself have performed several times as Word Sharks. In October we held a reading called Word Sharks Resurface in Dolores (Montezuma County) at the Sideshow Emporium & Gallery (411 Central) starting at 7 p.m. A good turnout complemented the wild show.

AARON ABEYTA … The 24th Annual Headwaters Conference at Western State Colorado University in Gunnison featured Western Slope Poet Laureate Aaron Abeyta reading his annual Letter to the Headwaters. For many years he’s been writing these lyric epistles, and word has it that WSCU may be collecting them into a chapbook form … Stay tuned.

KAREN CHAMBERLAIN … The Carbondale poetry festival is set for its fourth year, thanks to the Thunder River Theatre Company, at the end of March. Stay tuned for info, or check the Thunder River website.

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Never wish you were there. Wish you were here.

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Don’t think new is better. Don’t think new is not better. Don’t think, read. Don’t think, ink.

--William Logan, from “The Nude That Stays Nude,” Poetry, April, 2013