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Friday, April 12, 2013

Aaron Abeyta Named New Western Slope Poet Laureate

Aaron Abeyta reading at the Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival, 2012

Colorado, Denver, the Pike’s Peak Region, San Miguel County – many regions and jurisdictions have begun honoring poets by naming them to the honorary position of poet laureate. San Miguel County has Elle Metrick of Norwood as its laureate, the Pike’s Peak Region has Price Strobridge, Chris Ransick’s term as Denver’s laureate ended in 2010 but funding cuts have precluded the naming of another so far, and Colorado College poet/prof Dave Mason is the state’s much-esteemed laureate.
Elle Metrick

Western Colorado has always been a long ways from the urban centers of the Front Range, and has sometimes been overlooked in the field of arts. But poetry has been a vibrant and powerful practice on the Western Slope – hosting a number of poetry festivals over the years: Talking Gourds in Telluride, Sparrows in Salida, the Festival of the Imagination in Del Norte, and now the Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival in Carbondale.
Chris Ransick

By way of celebrating that fact, the festival named a Western Slope Poet Laureate two years ago. In a stealth move that caught me by surprise, I was honored with that title. And now, the laurels pass over to a new Western Slope Poet Laureate – Aaron Abeyta. Award-winning poet and professor at Adams State College in Alamosa, Aaron’s family hails from many generations in the San Luis Valley’s Antonito community.
Dave Mason

Here's a letter poem for Aaron that I read at the festival when we made the laureate announcement.

a letter to Aaron
as the sun rises en nuestros corazones

let us begin with a prayer
because everything we invite into our lives
sits at the table of the sacred

in nomine madre tierra
et padre cielo
et spiritus pueblo

here at Cloud Acre
on the cusp of the San Juan Mountains
and the Colorado Plateau
the grass still sleeps in its gray and gold
though change is in the air
the wild punishing winds
that test our allegiance to spring
gusts that sweep the mesa clean
like a mad dowser searching for water
the flowering we can’t see yet
but that we wind-blown ones
believe will come
and humbly share as a ray of hope

this is the time of year
when our eyes search for anything green
some sign of life born of water
and sun
that golden orb of all our inspirations
reflected in the light that pours
from our body’s solar plexus
to protect us from the harm
that spins its devils in the dust
and to warm the world
into yielding us its cornucopia of gifts

the mantle of this award comes
from just such a gifting
the promise of Colcha you wove
into our minds as a cape of many colors
a path of many ways
a multi-ethnic design flourishing
out of the fabric of many craftings

Aaron, I have seen a horse’s eye
the galaxies and nebulae
in that deepest brown
that is skin and mud and the land
that we love
married as we are to earth
to each other
to this place called Colorado
its ancient reds its skies beyond blue
and the invading whites of winter

your voice is la primavera
four syllables that inspire us
to bud
to bring our best green into being
yours are the seeds our love is made of
in the sunlight of your lyric valuables
in the poems you fashion for us
like a child’s mud cakes
on the banks of the San Miguel
we grow playful
and are inspired to work
at what is most important
the messy pigments of truth-telling
those lessons nature affords us
the real opportunity to learn

and so we share this honor with you
that you may go on inspiring
the many adams and eves
longing for los colores en sus ojos
the fire in your belly

and this green we set above your brow
is meant not so much as crown
but as beacon
un rayo de esperanza


EUPHEMISMS … Hey, CDOT, what was wrong with those old “Deer Crossing” signs? … Okay, maybe “Wildlife Crossing” -- if it had to change … But did we really need the yellow hazard sign outside Colona that reads “Wildlife Detection Zone”?

SPEAKING OF SIGNS … Had to smile near San Luis Valley’s Casita Park heading east of Moffat at the highway sign for the White Eagle Lodge atCrestone: “Lodging/Tarot”. In Crestone I guess getting a room and a reading pairs like chicken and white wine.

SPEAKING OF FOOD … If you do find yourself at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Range, wandering Sedona North in search of sustenance, let me recommend the Bliss CafĂ© … Delicious food, simple setting, welcoming service. Highly recommended.

Monday, April 8, 2013


A Portland-based “Journal of Poetry of Place” offered a critique of modernism in their spring 2009 issue, which I just happened upon in my midden heap at Cloud Acre.

Editors Bill Silverly and Michael McDowell include an Afterword with each issue, and this one was entitled: “Gardener Poets.” I loved Windfall, subscribed for a year, and was only disappointed in that they limited their submissions to poets of the Pacific West Coast states. Though hardly a fault. Best to keep things regional and not try to get too big – that’s my resiliency model these days.

But I’m a gardener poet. I wish the Southern Rockies had its own Journal of Poetry of Place, or maybe it does and I just haven’t learned of it yet.

Anyway, lot of the theoretical underpinnings for the Windfall critique rest with Robert Pogue Harrison’s Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition (Univ. of Chicago, 2008).

As Harrison puts it, “Modernism found its objective correlative in the wasteland rather than the garden”.

Here’s some short excerpts from Silverly and McDowell’s Afterword … Harrison also contrasts the gardener’s perspective with the cult of consumerism that has seemed to dominate life from mid-twentieth century until now. Harrison borrows the phrase “more life” from Lionel Trilling to characterize our craving to turn the earth into “a consumerist paradise where everything is given spontaneously, without labor, suffering or husbandry”.

Then Silverly and McDowell quote Harrison directly – and I find it a quite serviceable rationale why I continue to grow 50+ varieties of potatoes in a busy public and private life… Our attempts to re-create Eden amount to an assault on creation. That is the danger of the era. Precisely because our frenzy is fundamentally aimless while remaining driven, we set ourselves goals whose main purpose is to keep the frenzy going until it consummates itself in sloth … If at present we are seeking to render the totality of the earth’s resources endlessly available, endlessly usable, endlessly disposable, it is because endless consumption is the proximate goal of a production without end … Or, better, consumption is what justifies the frenzy of production, which in turn justifies consumption, the entire cycle serving more to keep us busy than to satisfy our real needs

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Reg Saner Receives first Chamberlain Award in Carbondale Aaron Abeyta named second Western Slope Poet Laureate

        Thanks to the dedication and drive of Valerie Haugen and Lon Winston of the Thunder River Theatre Company, Carbondale hosted its third annual Western Slope poetry festival this past weekend. Named for Karen Chamberlain, the event celebrates the continuing inspiration that Karen provided for many poets – not only in the Roaring Fork Valley where she made her home, but around Colorado and the region.

Uche Ogbuchi leads workshop outside

       Karen was founder of the Aspen Writers’ Foundation, coordinator of the Canyonlands Field Institute Desert Writers Workshop near Moab, winner of the 1983 The Nation Discovery Prize and the 1989 Colorado Council on the Arts Poetry Fellowship, and poetry editor of the Mountain Gazette for five years. She was often a visitor to Telluride, as well as a colleague and personal friend of mine. As Valerie is quoted in the Aspen Times as saying, ““What struck me about Karen was how wise she was and how kind she was. She thought everyone should write. In the last week of her life, she even helped someone finish his book”
Judyth Hill

       This year's fest squeezed in lots of performance slots for established veterans and all ages of newbies. While of course there were stand-outs, the reigning ethos honored everyone willing to perform, and the audience listened attentively to each and every diverse voice.

       It was great to catch the dazzling wobble that is Judyth Hill of Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende, the trickster/heckler/sage Jack Mueller of Ridgway, fellow emcee Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer of Placerville,  Stewart Warren of Albuquerque, Wendy Videlock, Uche Ogbuchi, Rachel Kellum, Kit Muldoon, Trinity La Fay, Danny Rosen, Bob King, Jimi Bernath, Airica Parker, M.D. Friedman, Laurie James, Jared Smith, Erika Moss Gordon, Valerie Szarek, Debbi Brody, SETH, Jeff Spahr-Summers, Roseanna Frechette, Eric and Jacob Walter, Bill Kight, Sandra Dorr, Rick Kempa, Mark Todd, Word Horde, Patrick Curry, and more.

Young performer

I could spend the rest of the column just naming names. It was an amazing collection of state and regional poets -- all of whom gave short but spirited presentations.

And the Gourd Circle finale on Sunday morning was among the more powerful listening and shining sessions I’ve ever participated in. For poetry on Colorado's Western Slope, this was a landmark event.
New Western Slope Poet Laureate Aaron Abeyta


       I’ve long admired Reg Saner. He’s published widely in national and regional magazines, been invited to international poetry festivals, and won lots of awards already. I’ve been wanting to bring him out to the Western Slope for years. In fact, almost 30, since I first heard him read from So This Is The Map (Random House) at the former Mesa State College in Grand Junction in 1984, the year my oldest daughter was born.
Reg Saner

       His poetry has been a powerful influence on me and those familiar with his work. His books of poetry and essays employ a rich forest of language tossed into the furnace of the natural world to bring us heat, and warmth, and insight. It was a great honor to be able to award him the first Chamberlain Award for Lifetime Poetic Achievement here in Colorado.

       On top of everything, Reg is an exceedingly kind, genuinely humble, wisely humorous elder who spent more time listening to the young and old others at the festival than in shining himself, although when he read, he really did shine. There’s a lot of Reg's friends who will be lobbying the Governor to appoint him as Colorado’s next state Poet Laureate once the wonderful term of current PL Dave Mason has expired. I would encourage you to join us in that effort. 
Valerie Szarek and Jimi Bernath doing flute and haiku

Monday, April 1, 2013


this is not a joke

my term as western slope poet laureate has changed
with the announcement of aaron abeyta's selection
as colorado's new western slope poet laureate
at the karen chamberlain poetry festival in carbondale
this past weekend...

so i'm planning on a new blog addy
changing this site from
or maybe
or maybe even

stay alert
things will change

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

UBC1313 .... Spring Hoedown in Mancos

SPRING HOEDOWN … Tami Graham of Mancos sure knows how to put on a great show. Her family-friendly benefit for the Montezuma County School-to-Farm Project (and her own non-profit The Pay It Forward Fund) packed the Mancos Opera House March 16th.

As emcee, I got to auction off two live humans (for three and a half hours of gardening work). A neophyte as auctioneer, the calling was slow but the bidding was spirited – Farm Boy Harrison went for $70 and Farm Girl Blaize for $88.

We square-danced up a storm with Carla Roberts and the Wild West Squares. My Rainbow buddy (and former Durango Mayor) Michael Rendon led his Caruta Roma Gypsy Band in a slurry of rousing dance tunes. Ashley Edwards of Hello Dollface delighted the crowd with indie soul, and Robby Overfield and the Breaks did their soulful music for the late-evening dancers.

MANCOS … I have to say, this is the second time I’ve been down to Mancos for a great party and huge turnout of tykes and crones, steers and queers, and everything in between – rural Colorado as it moves from red to blue. Some of this energy seems to be La Plata County spillover – Mancos playing Carbondale to Durango’s Aspen. But some of it seems targeted to this rural pocket of Montezuma County, with its back up against Mesa Verde and the San Juans in the distant north. What used to be very conservative, predominately Mormon country, and has now become a haven for alternative lifestyle folks from all over – Santa Cruz to Abilene.

Absolute Bakery in Mancos

Check out Zuma’s the next time you’re passing through on the highway, or maybe make a little detour for breakfast at the Absolute Bakery.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Up Bear Creek 1313 ... The musical Hair

Sixties extravaganza draws crowds
to Telluride's Palm Theatre

HURRAY FOR HAIR … Sasha Sullivan has done the unbelievable. She’s pushed Telluride theater into the next generation … A friend confided in me before the play, “I hate musicals.” But there was nothing to hate in the finale production of Telluride Theatre’s Hair Sunday night, and everything to like. Especially for a long-haired paleohippie like me … Heavy doses of peace and love, some unbelievable singers, marvelous dancing and acting, great staging, lighting, live music, and choreography that was over the top … To single any one person out would be unfair to an amazing cast, top to bottom. And truly, Hair is an ensemble piece, a puzzle in which – if all the pieces fit – it works beautifully … Suzan Beraza was in the audience the night I saw it. She’d played a big part a dozen or so years ago in Telluride’s first production of this paean to “Hippie Power” (which, as a bumper sticker, still flies its flag on my 300,000+ mile Honda Civic) … “It was wonderful to sit in the audience,” she laughed. “I felt like I was watching the torch pass” … Some of us were still dancing coming out of the Palm, and I was whistling show tunes all the way up Norwood Hill.

Monday, March 25, 2013

UBC1113 The Talking Gourd

Lois Hayna

LOIS BEEBE HAYNA … Speaking of Phenomenal Women, this grand dame of Colorado Springs poets is still observing nature and creating lyrics at 100 years of age. You can find a video of her 100th birthday party this past January on YouTube. An amazing woman, I met her through Poetry West – the largest community of poets and writers in the Pikes Peak Region.

Regis University maintains an archival collection of Hayna’s papers. As the site explains, It begins with poetry from her college days, and … essays and short stories she wrote in the 1970 -- 1980s. Of significance is a very comprehensive collection of her poems from the 1970s to the present. Also among her writing are drafts for an unpublished book on herbs, entitled “The Casual Herbist,”  as well as her notes on herbs and a bibliography … Her poetry books include Never Trust a Crow (1990), Keeping Still (2008), and her latest The Praying Mantis(2012) – published when Lois was 99 years old!

A mutual friend, Liz Lewis, has written a lovely tribute to her, appearing this week as the Talking Gourd.

Dirt, Sky and Things Between

-for Lois Hayna at 100

A birder must watch her foot’s
solid placement between roots, prickly pear.
It’s slow progress through poplars,
willows so leaf laden each twig
holds silver/green birds
in a pre-Audubon hallucination.
Real warblers escape the lens,
magpies klatsch in ponderosa tops
and heat distilled sandalwood scent rises
above the ant-chewed underworlds.
She stumbles on a cedar branch, loses
her footing, her binoculars, language:
place and birds, coyote slipping into shadow,
no words for this desperate joy.

-Liz Lewis
Colorado Springs

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Violence Against Women Act

Pres. Obama speaks at signing of VAWA in D.C. (U.S. News & World Report)

UBC1013 ... There’s a big push on right now to support the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The Senate has voted strongly in favor (thank you Bennet and Udall), but the House is dragging its feet, and I can’t imagine Tea Party Tipton voting on anything progressive, let alone in favor of women.

UBC1113… Okay, time for me to eat crow … My friend Kevin Kell pointed out that most of his fellow Republicans in the Colorado delegation, including Scott Tipton (our Third District U.S. Representative), Mike Coffman and Cory Gardner, voted FOR reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in the House. Only Tea Party Repub Lamborn voted against the act … I admit to being prematurely dismissive of Tipton’s willingness to entertain this piece of progressive legislation … So, let me apologize, and hope that U.S. Rep. Tipton and his staff continue to find common ground with Democrats (and Greens) on select issues, as citizens of his district so earnestly hope for.

UBC1113 ... Western Slope Native Seed meet

Jim Garner leads Native Seed meet

SUPPORTING THE NATIVES ... For many years the Public Land Partnership, centered in Montrose and under the leadership of Delta’s Dr. Mary Chapman, provided a table of trust forum for public land stakeholders of all sizes and shapes in four of the counties surrounding the Uncompahgre Plateau. Alliances were formed, and projects spun off from this innovative forest collaborative. Those projects included our own Burn Canyon Monitoring Committee and what has now become the Uncompahgre Partnership (UP).

One of UP’s most successful projects was its Native Plant effort. For years it has coordinated native seed collection and production for use in regeneration seed mixes on public lands -- not only in Colorado but in multiple Western states. Thanks to a recent grant, UP is hiring a Native Seed coordinator. Last month they held a two-day Native Seed Summit in Grand Junction at the Doubletree Inn, pulling together land agency managers, seed producers, botanists, enviros and a lone country government representative to try and see what this new coordinator could be doing to help forest restoration efforts in the Four Corners region using native seed in place of introduced forbs and grasses.

Locally collected native plants are usually best adapted to local regeneration projects, but the seed is often difficult to collect, harder to grow and rarely available in sufficient quantities to treat large landscapes, particularly after a forest fire. Jim Garner of Colorado Parks & Wildlife had great news, as reported in the Telluride Watch earlier this year – his state agency is building a native seed warehouse, where rare seeds will be able to be stored and research can be done on unique seed strains and cultivars.

 My interest was piqued because one of the primary recovery efforts for the Gunnison Sage Grouse is restoring critical areas to the kinds of sagebrush flats -- with an understory of succulent native forbs and grasses -- that the bird depends on for habitat. I’m hoping to see if San Miguel County can provide support to private landowners in our boundaries by paying them to do this kind of native plant recovery – a win for the bird, the private landowners and the community if we can increase critical habitat and, hopefully, increase the bird’s numbers in our county. The Native Seed folks had lists of native seed known to provide the best habitat for the Gunnison Sage Grouse. I’m hoping the county will be able to ease the burden to private landowners with money to help in habitat restoration.

UBC1013 ... The Talking Gourd

Rosemerry at Shroomfest (photo by Matt Stits)

Text scraping the ink
off my pages, sending it
for biopsy

-Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

3rd Karen Chamberlain Poetry Fest ... Mar. 29-31, 26013

Uche Ogbuji performing last year (Goodtimes)

The Thunder River Theatre Company's pleased to announce the third annual Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival to be held in Carbondale, March 29 - 31, 2013. Poets, performers and listeners are invited to join us as we honor the inspiring life of Colorado poet Karen Chamberlain, who passed away in September 2010. 
Festival organizer Valerie Haugen    

This year's theme is "Poetry Everywhere!” The first evening of the festival will feature an award ceremony naming a new Western Slope Poet Laureate. On Saturday evening, honored Colorado poet Reg Saner will be presented the Chamberlain Award for Lifetime Poetic Achievement. 

Performers this year include current Western Slope Poet Laureate Art Goodtimes, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Trinity Lafey, Jared Smith, SETH, Uche Ogbuji, Kit Kalriess Muldoon, Roseanna Frechette, Eric and Jacob Walter, MD Friedman, David Rothman, and more

Performances and open mics will take place Friday and Saturday evenings. Sunday morning’s program includes a continental breakfast, followed by a Gourd Circle led by Goodtimes. 

Colorado Poets Center's Bob King

Saturday workshops, more than a dozen of them, include Ogbuji’s "Poetry from the Heart's Far-Flung Places"; "Contemporary Music and Poetry: Creative Connections" taught by Richard Kempa; "Writing the Political Poem" with Debbi Brody, and Stewart Warren’s “Collaborations: the muse everywhere,” among others. 

Don't miss this incredible opportunity to honor a great lady, to celebrate the Western Slope's vibrant poetry community, and to find the poetry growing wild in your own soul's garden

Tickets are available online at <> . For more information, e-mail <>

UBC913 ... Ken Salazar Comes Home

Ken and Art at Center of the American West conference, 2012

The Denver Post opined that Salazar, stepping down from his post as Interior Secretary for the first term of the Obama administration, was in a good position for any number of future possibilities. The headline Feb. 17th read, “Ken Salazar returns to Colorado with image intact and many options.”

According to co-writers Karen Crummy and Bruce Finley, “Some see Salazar as governor. Others see him as a high-level envoy or ambassador. A few consider him a good pick for a presidential ticket down the road.”

But for now, Salazar says he’s going to focus on finding a money-paying job and spending more time with his family.

Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt touted Salazar's "consensus-building magic" in many of his accomplishments over the past four years. "The environment he stepped into was impossible,” insisted Babbitt. “The economy was really struggling. He was trying to figure out how you get anything done when everyone's attention in Congress and the administration was on economic issues and jobs. And he set in motion things that are quite powerful."

Added Gov. John Hickenlooper, "He brings integrity everywhere he goes. He's always going to do what is right for the country, right for Colorado, before he does something that will benefit himself. He is, by nature, someone who thinks of others. His default position is to help someone else."

Monday, March 4, 2013

UBC1013 ... The Talking Gourd

Text scraping the ink
off my pages, sending it
for biopsy

-Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Sunday, March 3, 2013

UBC1013 ... Catching Up on Our Neighbors to the South

DOVE CREEK PRESS … Living in the upper watershed of the San Miguel River, our newspapers have a very hip upscale look separating us from this more traditional rural weekly. And the prevailing community attitudes and op-ed spins are often diametrically opposed … I’ve written about Linda and Doug Funk’s DoveCreek Press. The newspaper serves the county seat of Dolores County, our neighbor to the southwest (Rico having once been the county seat, until dryland farmers and uranium miners wrested it away from hard rock mining-camp-gone-bust holdouts back in the Fifties). Folks over in San Juan County, Utah (Blanding and Monticello) read it. The Press also serves as local news organ for San Miguel County’s far West End: Egnar, Slick Rock, Disappointment Valley -- all of it located in the Dolores River watershed and San Miguel County Commissioner District #3 … I subscribe. It helps keep me in touch with all the different perspectives that make up citizen views in my bifurcated constituency. And last week’s issue couldn’t have showcased those differences more.
Gunnison Sage Grouse

SAGE GROUSE LISTING … Usually sporting a local snapshot of some rural landscape scene, the Funks’ front page for Feb. 21st featured a color (rare) map of proposed U.S. Fish & Wildlife’s Gunnison Sage Grouse Critical Habitat – both occupied (40,000 acres) and potential (108,000 acres). The front page headline, below the fold, told the story: “County hires experts to fight sage grouse designation as endangered” … Dr. Rob Ramey was granted a $6,000 contract to help oppose listing, and “a GPS company” $5,000. Here’s some direct quotes from Doug Funk’s article … Commissioners lamented over the fact that Dove Creek/Monticello has few birds but a huge area of critical habitat… [County Attorney Dennis] Golbricht said he talked to a big wig in Kinder Morgan and was told that if sage grouse are designated endangered, drilling in Dolores County will cease“Without oil and gas and farming, we’re done,” said [Commission Chair Doug] Stowe …As I understand it, some sixty percent of Dolores County revenue comes from oil & gas extraction. Depending on how the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service meshes with local farmers and how much truth there is in Golbricht’s rumor, listing could shut things down in Dolores County worse than the Bush-era Banking Collapse … In the Letters to the Editor section, Corinne Roring of San Juan County (UT) explains how her family has for years tried to protect the grouse, never killing them, and how they’ve worked with Utah Fish & Game to transform their windmill into a solar bird watering facility. But she believes, like many farmers and ranchers, that predation is the root cause of grouse declines. Roring writes, “It is a losing battle if the Fish and Game does not manage the predators, especially the raptors, with eagles at the top of the list.”

SHERIFF’S PERSPECTIVE … An occasional columnist, Dolores County Sheriff Jerry Martin weighs in, later in the paper, on gun control … “I am sure the potential terrorists will only show up with weapons and ammunition clips allowed under the new law. This makes about as much sense as buying a guard dog and then having his teeth extracted”“Chicago and Washington D.C. have some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation and also lead the nation in homicides. Is there a lesson to be learned here?”“I support the recent decision by the school board to designate select school employees as school source and protection employees and will work closely with them to see that they are trained and able to respond.”

FRONT PAGE NEWS … One of my favorite regular features (along with Doug Funk’s own rural life column, Phunque’s Desk) is this summary of regional stories from newspapers in other communities. Telluride doesn’t make it very often, but the Cortez Journal, Dolores Star, San Miguel Basin Forum, Pine River Times (Bayfield), the Palisade Tribune, and the San Juan Record (Monticello) are all regulars … Here’s the Funks’ take on a Record story: … “Sally Jewell has been nominated to replace Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar. San Juan County residents fear she may be in favor of more National Monument designations.”