Colorado Poets Center E-Words Issue #8

James Tipton at Greeley

James Tipton is a presence, no matter the situation, and in September the winner of the Colorado Book Award in 1999 for Letters from a Stranger, was a presence with an overflow crowd of mostly students at the Univ. of Northern Colorado.

A former bee-keeper from Grand Junction, Tipton has lived for five years in Chapoles, a small Mexican town south of Guadalajara. He read from his most recent books All the Horses of Heaven (Modern English Tanka Press, 2009) and Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village (Ediciones del Lago, 2009). Hale, hearty, white-bearded and with an apparently eternal twinkle in his eye, Tipton also hawked some wares—necklaces, bracelets, and sandals, made by Indian friends in Chapoles.

James TiptonMany of the poems are tanka or haiku but in a non-standard mode. He said he feels some current haiku in English are too airy, too light, and one suspects his actual feelings are even stronger. He asked for a random number, turned to that page in a haiku anthology, and proved his point.  He is very interested in the poetic turn a tanka can take after the 3rd line and delights in introducing humor—remarking that “Short poems historically have some humor in them.” He quoted approvingly a friend’s remark that these were “haiku on testosterone.”

Tipton feels he writes in the ecstatic tradition of Rumi and Hafiz and he carried the student audience with him as he glanced at a manuscript and then stepped forward to deliver a few lines, then rocked back for another look and forward for the next declarative and affable lines. Hearty and sly, lusty and yet seeking “to imbue my life with a feminist spirit,” Tipton’s perfectly mastered reading was a joy for the local Greeley audience.