FEB. 4 … First Tuesdays are poetry night in Telluride. Six o’clock at Arroyo’s, where flamboyant paintings and fine wine make a winning combination for enjoying the spoken word. Featured readers this month are three North Fork poets, two of whom are long time familiars and one a “secret poet” about to come out of the lyric closet … Tara Miller is a stalwart of the region, who’s come to many a poetry event in San Miguel County and even hosted special Talking Gourd events at Dreamtime gatherings over in Delta County. A graduate of the University of Oregon, she and her partner Sam Brown have parlayed a pottery hobby into a full-time business … Ask about the time lightning struck their Paonia studio/home. Twice even. And how they managed to arrive in the nick of time to put the flames out … They have also become cultural ambassadors from the Western Slope – traveling almost yearly to Taquile Island in Peru’s Lake Titicaca to promote their passion for solar cooking and to serve as ceremonial godparents for families there. Tara’s performance piece, Embracing Tiger, is one of my favorites. Her chapbooks from Intitquile Press include Musical Seashell Poems (1976) and Anything is Possible (2001/2005) … Jane McGarry has been a long-time poet, writer and teacher, although she is one of those charming people for whom fame and ego are less important than truth and craft. She has performed at Talking Gourds poetry festivals in the past, and come to Telluride on more than one occasion to share her work … I’ve never met Sarah Gilman. I’ve seen her name on the masthead of High Country News, where she’s served as associate editor since 2008 (15008 NW). She calls herself a “secret poet.” But with this appearance, not so secret any more … After the performances, there will be short break and then the passing of the gourd, where club members and guests can share their own work or that of their favorite authors. Theme for this Valentine month is “Sex” … Talking Gourds Poetry Club is a collaboration among the Telluride Institute, the Wilkinson Library, Between the Covers Bookstore, Arroyo’s, Telluride Arts and San Miguel County poets … For more info, call or text 970/729.0220.
POT SHOTS … Kudos to the Rico Hotel for advertising “marijuana friendly rooms.” It’s difficult to find a safe and legal place to partake of legal cannabis, if you don’t live here. So, it’s nice to see regional merchants recognizing the value of providing safe venues for enjoying Colorado’s newest attraction … Disappointing to find some cannabis edibles with artificial flavors, corn syrup and other unsavory ingredients. What sense in having “organic” grow operations and then bad food compounds mixed in with one’s delectables. Bad form, really … Ron Bain of Delta, whose Western Slope Watchdog has been a local media creation for several years, was around town introducing his new mag, Western Slope 420. We’ll see if the end of cannabis prohibition will support an advertising niche for a cannabis magazine in rural Colorado.
ZEN TOOLS … If you missed Ah Haa’s first Artist Lecture Series talk of the winter last Thursday night, then you don’t really know why John Mansfield has been such a popular artist in these parts for the last 40 years. Not many sculptor/painters can claim pieces in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian, but John has two there. And well he might. He’s always combined a Helen Frankenthaler attachment to sensual washes of watercolors with a sure hand at fine lines and a Mountain Buddhist’s sense of whimsy. The result has been paintings that catch our eye and entertain our intellect. Sculptures too. Like his paper and balsa wood handsaw cutting off slices of solid rock … In his Ah Haa talk he showed some slides but mostly discussed why he does art. It starts, for John, with play. Taking materials or watercolors and making shapes, negative space, letting the piece take him somewhere. In fact, losing himself in the process. And out of that comes a direction. It’s almost as if he’s overcome by the piece itself, and has to surrender to following along as it reveals itself. And then his fine drawing skills and sense of humor take up where inspiration leaves off. The result – finished pieces that for years have gotten snapped up by collectors and friends … And we got to hear some good stories about Telluride in the old days, when waiting for a post office paycheck while drinking coffee at Sofio’s was often the modus operandi for the handful of Telluride’s starving artists who came in the first wave of New West invaders to this Old West mining camp … These days John’s Buddhist practice has eased much of his drive to make finished art, and yet he told us his notebooks spill over with good ideas. It’s just that there’s not as much urgency to make things anymore. The world is amazing, and just enmeshing one in its revelations each day is a special kind of art of its own.
THE TALKING GOURD
Put yourself in my place; you’ve just seen a bird
never before recorded here with nobody else present
to vouch for your eyesight. Instead of frequenting
Mexico, or flying further south, it chose
the only bare tree in my evergreen city
for a perch: a gray hawk. You were dazzled by the pale plumage,
took careful note of the fine streaks on its breast,
and as it rose above the palms, counted the bands on its tail
until it fused with the sky. You’re convinced
of what you saw, but the record books turn you away
because you were alone. Doesn’t it feel
as if you stumbled onto a conspiracy
with no evidence to show? Maybe you finally
worked out why Iraq was invaded, where the pipelines will run
when the wars are over, and who profits
from first selling bombs to destroy Baghdad and then steel
to build it up again. You sleep on a bed of rumors,
wake up with fewer rights than you had when you turned out
the lights last night, and no longer trust
your telephone when it rings
with somebody calling to ask exactly what you saw
and when you saw it. All you can answer is that you stood
in awe of the occasion, that you’ve studied
every field guide, and concluded that truth
is so elusive as to become
light in the moment of its recognition.