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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