If you have the words, there’s always the chance that you’ll find the way.
– Seamus Heaney
The world lost one of its most gifted men of letters last week. The Irish poet Seamus Heaney was a Nobel laureate, a respected teacher, and an esteemed writer. He was also warm, witty, down to earth – a great man as well as a great poet. Despite his fame, Heaney never took himself too seriously. He described winning the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature as “being caught in a mostly benign avalanche. You are totally daunted, of course, when you think of previous writers who received the prize. And daunted when you think of the ones who didn’t receive it.” He gave the Fordham University commencement address in 1982 – he wrote it in verse – and towards the middle of it, he wondered
How do we justify our fates
As an upper crust
With handfuls of credit cards and dollars
In hands as pale as our white collars?
The question makes me want to holler
All flesh is dust
It makes me say such status symbols
Are trivial as sewers’ thimbles
And just as hard
For they can form a callous shell
Against the little pricking needle
Of other peoples’ need, and kill
The feeling heart.
Heamus died suddenly. He fell one evening, and was awaiting a hospital procedure the next morning. He never made it. He’d made light of medical issues in the past: “Blessed be the pacemakers,” he told one friend after being fitted with a heart monitor. He greeted another with “Different strokes for different folks.” Perhaps befitting a poet, however, his last words were written instead of spoken, in a text he sent his wife shortly before he passed away. Noli timere, he wrote – Latin for Do Not Be Afraid.
With Heaney as inspiration, poets will continue to take up the mantle, and three of the finest from this region – Beth Paulson, Kierstin Bridger and this paper’s own Samantha Wright – will read from their work in Ridgway next week. They’re all award-winning writers: Paulson’s work has appeared nationally in over 100 journals and anthologies. She’s received three Pushcart Prize nominations; her poem, “Chance,” recently won Honorable Mention in the 2013 Passager Poetry Contest. As for Bridger and Wright, they’ve been honored in the Mark Fischer Poetry Award contest, named for the late Telluride raconteur and local wit. Bridger won the award in 2011; Wright has been a runner-up repeatedly (her poem took Second Place this year). She’s also won numerous awards from the Colorado Press Association. “Writing poetry is the purest form of creative expression,” she says. “It gets at the essence of things, and lets me see the world through a different lens.” Wayne Lee, the judge of this year’s Fischer prize, praised Wright’s entry for its celebration not of what separates us, but what binds us together. He said, “This is a poem Walt Whitman would have loved.”
The Darkness, Before the Light
“Not one pore of Venus will be left untouched.” – Cerena Childress, astrologer
In Italy, the clouds decided to keep this gift from us.
But we gathered, in our millions,
at the ski hill in Ouray,
the ragged sidewalk in front of
Silverton’s United Church of Christ,
a tidy Telluride school yard,
and west-facing skyscraper windows in New York;
Atop Mt. Wilson, and the Warrumbungle Mountains
near Coonaburabran, New South Wales;
In the white night of Svalbard, Norway,
and on Easter Island’s grinning shores;
to observe through squinted eyes, welders’ masks,
and telescopes equipped with hydrogen alpha solar filters
a small dark beauty mark
sliding across the skin of the Sun.
In Colorado, we noted the moment – 4:08 p.m. –
when the rocky planet kissed the Sun’s limb
and nudged herself like a black teardrop
into the spectral dance of hydrogen and helium.
With our heads tilted up
into the bowl of blue,
we watched that astral tourist, Venus,
bisect a seething sphere of fire and light,
leaving blaze in her wake,
and a brief interlude of wonderment.
Deadlines were pushed aside.
Grudges went up in flames.
Hidden truths were bathed in solar radiation,
demon fears torched in the white
heat of thermonuclear reaction,
and mantras were chanted in the gardens.
We spun like sufis, each
with our own place in the heavens
as the ancient sun-ball swan-dived
toward the edge of night.
– Samantha Wright
Poets Paulson, Bridger and Wright will read from their work next Friday, Sept. 13 at Cimarron Books and Coffee at 4:30 p.m.
In Montrose: Annual Musicians’ Day
Montrose music impresario Dave Bowman, the owner of Blue Sky Music Presents, intended the first Montrose Musicians’ Day as an act of defiance: a so-called ‘Montrose Music Festival,’ staged by a Grand Junction radio station was about to be staged and – this part truly rankled – the playbill was comprised solely of Grand Junction musicians. To Bowman, that was wrong. He petitioned the Montrose Association of Commerce and Tourism, who worked with him to stage a real Montrose musicians’ get-together with actual Montrose musicians.
That was four years ago, and today the festival is thriving. Eleven acts will take the stage from 11 a.m., when the concert begins, to dusk. The event will be held outside of the Montrose Elks’ Lodge, where there are a couple of acres of grass, a covered pavilion under which the bands can play, a shaded area for audience seating and, importantly, a stage and sound system inside the Elks’ lodge in case of rain.
The lineup spans all ages and style: musical phenom Taylor Malone, age 13, opens with a short set, to be followed by the high school rock band Skinnier When Standing. From then on, the musical progression is “pretty chronological,” Bowman said, and includes the Brown Family (Country/Americana), the Chris Mullen band (indie rock), Social Behavior (classic rock), Gotta Be (original folk music) D&G Railroad (local celebrity Donny Morales and Glenn Patterson) and Triptihkal (progressive jazz). At dusk, the concert moves to the R&R Bar, where jams will continue until around 1 a.m. That’s 14 straight hours of music, for those keeping track, all from local musicians, and all of it free. The roster continues to swell. At press time, Bowman learned that local hip hopper AK would be rhyming with Triptihkal. “So I guess,” he said, “we continue to expand eclectically.” Montrose Musicians’ Day begins at 11 a.m. Admission is free, and food and beverages will be available for purchase. Bring your armchair.