Talking Gourds Plays Its 18th Season in Telluride | Up Bear Creek
by Art Goodtimes
Apr 24, 2007 | 1131 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PERFORMANCE POETRY … Recently I had a reviewer of my new book of poetry start out her critique upset that I identified myself as a performance poet. “Quite enough to cause some perspective readers to approach this volume with skepticism and suspicion,” wrote Virginia Simmons (Colorado Central, April 2007, p. 36) … As ludicrous as that sounds, I suppose there are some literary old maids and die-hard classicists for whom American poetry ceased being written when Robert Frost died. And for whom poetry was never meant to be performed, but merely read under gaslight in the privacy of some Victorian sitting room. Well, those people shouldn’t attend the 18th Annual Talking Gourds poetry festival at the Sheridan Opera House this weekend … The Telluride Writers Guild is committed to bringing all kinds of spoken word, sung word, hip-hop, slam, and performance art energy to 21st Century poetry in Colorado and on the Western Slope. And we’ve got a great show … Find at least one thing to check out among the three days of off-season events we have planned for folks unafraid of live performance. And I can promise you (unlike what sometimes passes for a “poetry reading”), you will not be bored.

BEAR CREEK WALK … We begin Friday the 20th at noon with an outdoor ceremony starting at the lower Bear Creek Falls beyond Town Park campgrounds – in honor and memory of our great mountain crone here in the San Juans, Dolores LaChapelle, who gifted us with ways to bring this koyaniskatsi culture back to an essential awareness of the importance of human/earth bonding for our own human survival … Dolores singled out bardic poetry as one of those ways. Bardic as in an ancient bioregional practice of speaking for one’s place, and for one’s tribe, both as poet and performer. Using voice in service of the ecological eye to align our communities back with the natural world. Not the only answer to the current crises, but one cultural tool in the seven Dolores identified in crafting a Way of the Mountain path … Those who join us will walk up Bear Creek into the big meadows in a kind of attentive (mostly) silent walk, stopping only to speak when nature speaks through us and you are moved to translate what you’ve been the opportunity to see into our imperial hip-hop tongue. Dolores modeled her ritual pilgrimages up Bear Creek in our early Talking Gourds gatherings on the Pawnee’s “Hako” ceremony, although she takes her exploration of this powerful exercise through personal, Roman and Japanese experiences as well in her book, Sacred Land Sacred Sex Rapture of the Deep (pp. 202-215, Kivakí Press, Durango, 1992).

MARK FISCHER PRIZE … Honoring a Telluride legend, each year Elaine Fischer and the Fischer family join with the Writers Guild to sponsor a poetry contest, now in its 10th Year. Last year Wendy Videlock of Grand Junction won the Fischer Prize. This year the winner is Michael Adams of Lafayette and Katie Kingston of Trinidad the runner-up. At 3 p.m. today the Fischer prizes will be awarded, with winning poets reading their winning poems at the Sheridan Opera House. That will be followed by the Opening Shots Show, with invited poets from Colorado and New Mexico giving short performances of their work. Included this year are traveling astronomy teacher Danny Rosen, the wild and earthy Kit Muldoon, avante-gardist Gianina Opris, Festival of the Imagination’s Stewart Warren, Santa Fe art queen Debbi Brody, the amazing Mary McGinnis, Aspen’s Kim Nuzzo of the Zele Café readings, North Fork ceramicist Tara Miller, our own country songwriter Bob Beer, photographer Kit Hedman, Western State professor Mark Todd, former Gourds headliner and slam champ Hakim Bellamy, and a dozen more. This is like the weekend’s hors d’ouevres – lots of dim sum samplings of poets you wish you could eat a whole meal of. And it’s probably the cheapest way to get a sense of the range of poetry embraced at Gourds. 3-5 p.m. at the Sheridan.

TELLUS PRIZE …This year Gourds is featuring a new award for the best poetry movie of the year, initiating the contest with a documentary film from New Mexico’s Ubuntuworks and Doggone Pictures, Committing Poetry in a Time of War. Check their website to learn about this wonderful production, … We’re lucky to have one of the fired Albuquerque teachers who appears in the film on hand for its Telluride screening, poet Bill Nevins and his poet wife Priscilla Baca y Candelaria. Award presentation and showtime is 6 p.m. at the Sheridan.

NATIONAL SLAM CHAMPIONS … Friday night we have two headlining shows, the lead-off features award-winning Colorado poet (should be laureate) Aaron Abeyta together with Adams State colleague Carol Murphy-Guerrero and their troupe of student poet/performers called the Grizzly Growlers. That show starts at 8 p.m. in the Sheridan. Then, after a short intermission, we’ll host three of the Denver Slam Team members who took the national slam championship title in 2006. Bianca Mikahn, familiar to local audiences as a terrific member of the performance troupe Roc’em Soc’em, Kenny Arkind, who wowed audiences at Gourds last year, and Jen Rinaldi. Expect a show full of verbal fireworks and startling insights.

INTERACTIVE WORKSHOPS … Saturday is full of workshops, starting with Tai Chi for Poets with Michael Adams and a Joan Logghe writing workshop – something you will not want to miss! That pair is followed Poetic Boot Camp with Roc’em Soc’em opposite a writing workshop with Miriam Sagan of Santa Fe Broadside fame … In the early afternoon you can choose between a lecture on one of the great poets of the Western tradition given by Denver scholar Phil Woods or a workshop on slam with the Denver all-stars Mikahn, Arkind and Rinaldi. Late afternoon New Mexico’s Renee Gregorio will give a workshop for those that want to focus on their writing but which include some movement, or you can meet with Jack Mueller and wander off to come local bar for an interactive talking poetry jam.

EAT MY WORDS … Noon on Saturday there’s an hour and a half of performances at the Sheridan with the incomparable David Seals, author of Powwow Highway and chronicler of the 1973 AIM battle with the FBI at Wounded Knee; internationally published Loveland poet Deborah Russell; a special performance by local Peggy Powell Dobbins and compatriot Kathy Barrett; and then a show from the Yoolgai Poetry Troupe from Shiprock, with Gourds favorites zoEy bEnally and Tish Ramirez along with new member Curt Yazza.

MOTHER EARTH SHOW … Saturday we have two great treats, and it’s the one show that if you’re even just vaguely interested in poetry, you might want to make a point of seeing. Tres Chicas opens the night with readings from three of New Mexico’s finest, Joan Logghe of Española, Miriam Sagan of Santa Fe, and Renee Gregorio of Corrales. Then, post admission, be prepared for pandemonium and precision, for explosive performance and crafted poetry, because last year’s Gourds hits Roc’em Soc’em is back on stage. That’s Mikahn, Day Acoli of Café Nuba fame in Denver, and the incomparable Oracle Speaks. If they don’t wow you, you must be comatose … And for true poetry junkies, after the big shows, there’s an open mike free-for-all at the Sheridan, that promises to last as long as there’s a poet standing.

DWELLING IN TENTS … Peggy Dobbins is bringing her dazzling new art installation to Telluride for Gourds this year, in the Aspen Street mini-park in front of the Sheridan, consisting of a tent with eight panels of Karankawan pictograms illustrating the Hebrew Genesis as revealed in Arabic to a 17th century Mexican nun. Got to check that out and it’s free.

GOURDS TICKETS … Buy them at the Sheridan door, for individual shows or the whole weekend, or you can check prices and get them online with

INSULTS & THREATS? … Brother Rob, you’re like a walking Iraqi War. I have to admire your fighting spirit. Lashing out in column after column … You take on all Delta, exorcising the demons of a not misplaced anger (if damaging some of our political alliances regionally); and now I find you excoriating the Telluride Town Council into some unspecified hail mary action on behalf of a cabal of dissonant local attorneys … It’s not that I disagree with your goal. At this point, the majority of us have been won over to preserving the valley floor from further development, period … Plus, I’m a faithful fan of Dispatches. Always have been. I read every column Rob writes (as well as his books [and even admire his zany sketches]) – something I can’t say about all the talking heads I’ve seen blow through Telluride … As for any moral high ground, don’t look to me. When incensed enough, I’m hardly above snippy literary put-downs and catfights (see above) … I just thought everyone understood, post Gingrich, that the medium is the massage. Denigrating and bullying are as disruptive in civic debate as they are on the school playground … Not as true, I think, in the public world of literary criticism, where sorry Charlie, anything goes. And being nasty to others, unfortunately, seems literary stock in trade … So, as op-ed journalists, I suppose it’s fair to say we stride both worlds. What makes Dispatches so liberating and such a great read is its no-holds-barred approach … But I think the jury is out on using it, mad dog, as a political tactic. Americans, I fear, grow weary of uncivil discourse.
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