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2024 Winner to be Announced at the Mountain Words Festival

The annual Mountain Words Festival  in Crested Butte — a multi-day literary celebration, featuring readings, workshops, kids’ events, parties, panel discussions, live theater, and more – will be held May 24-26, 2024. The Talking Gourds will be announcing this years’ winner of the Chamberlain Award!

About the Chamberlain Award

The Karen Chamberlain Award is named for the late poet from the Roaring Fork Valley who also worked tirelessly as a writer and a promoter of poetry events in Colorado. The award has been given out annually since 2014. Previous winners include the late Reg Saner of Boulder, the late Jack Mueller of Log Hill Village, the late Bruce Berger of Aspen, Mark Todd of Gunnison, Veronica Patterson of Loveland, the late Chris Ransick of Denver, Art Goodtimes of Norwood and Kate Kingston of Trinidad.

Past Winners & Award History

Marilyn Krysl: 2023 Award Winner

We awarded the 2023 Karen Chamberlain Lifetime Achievement Award to Marilyn Krysl of CU Denver in absentia at the Mountain Words Literary Festival in Crested Butte this past spring.

Aaron Abeyta: 2022 Award Winner

“For outstanding service to poetry in Colorado, a long history of building communities of poets & providing inspiration to us all by developing a body of powerful work”

The Crested Butte Center for the Arts and the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds Poetry Program gave this year’s Karen Chamberlain Award for lifetime achievement in Colorado poetry to teacher, poet, and mayor Aaron Abeyta of Antonito at a ceremony during the Mountain Words Literary Festival.

“Aaron won our hearts with his first book, Colcha (Univ. of Colo. Press, 2001), said Talking Gourds co-director Art Goodtimes who introduced Aaron Friday night. “Colcha won both an American Book Award and a Colorado Book Award in 2002.”

In introducing Abeyta, Goodtimes cited Aaron’s work as a teacher of poetry, professor of English, political leader, football coach, and a perennial presence at Western Colorado University’s annual Headwaters Conference in Gunnison each fall.

After receiving the award, Aaron performed a letter/poem in praise of books. The piece begins in the San Luis Valley where his family has lived for generations – writing as he was from the banks of the Conejos River.

“Language is water that carries me simultaneously forward and into the past,” read Abeyta. “The river becomes this mirror that is both truth and the shimmer of the half remembered; slow, flat water, which heals and forgives. The river is what I try to save. I believe the river is better than all of us; it knows how we love, and it urges the broken parts of us healed, and that is why I am writing this letter; I believe books, language, and the perfect word hold that same power.”

– The full text of the piece is available online here.

“We are delighted to name Aaron as this year’s Chamberlain Award winner,” noted Brooke Harless MacMillan, Center for the Arts Artistic Director. “He has been an inspiration and north star for many writers in Colorado and the West, and has worked long and hard in support of the craft of writing and literary arts. We are deeply honored to present the award to Aaron this year.”

Kate Kingston: 2021 Award Winner

Kate Kingston / Trinidad / 2021

Art Goodtimes: 2020 Award Winner


Art Goodtimes was awarded the 2020 Karen Chamberlain Award for lifetime achievement for his contribution to Colorado poetry at the Mountain Words Literary Festival at the Center for the Arts in Crested Butte on Aug. 29th.

“I’m deeply honored,” said Goodtimes. “We have a wonderful community of poets on the Western Slope, and I’m proud to be among them.”

As part of the virtual program at this year’s literary festival, Crested Butte’s David J. Rothman presented the award to Goodtimes, and the two of them engaged in an hour-long dialogue about poetry (watch the video below).

Goodtimes has recovered from his throat cancer after six months of treatment at St. Mary’s Cancer Center in Grand Junction. He has taken back the reins of the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds programming.



Past Winners: 2019 and Before

Past Winners:

Reg Saner / Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival / Carbondale / 2014
Jack Mueller / Telluride Literary Arts Festival / Telluride / 2015
Bruce Berger / Headwaters Poetry Festival / Gunnison / 2016
Mark Todd / Headwaters Poetry Festival / Gunnison / 2017
Veronica Patterson / Gunnison Valley Poetry Festival / Gunnison / 2018
Chris Ransick / Gunnison Valley Literary Arts Festival / Gunnision / 2019

History of the Karen Chamberlain Award


(Originally published in the Telluride Watch in Art Goodtimes’ column Up Bear Creek in May of 2015.)

Having stepped into the footsteps of the Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival in Carbondale, which ended last year (2014), the organizers of the Talking Gourds poetry program wanted to keep alive Karen’s name. She was a marvelous poet who won state awards, helped found the Aspen Writers Conference, and was a mentor to many poets around the state.

She also was an admirer of Telluride, which she visited often and where she had many friends. In that vein, the Telluride Institute has revived the Karen Chamberlain Award that was first given in 2013 to Reg Saner, one of Colorado’s most beloved poets and professor emeritus at the University of Colorado in Boulder. It currently makes the award annually in collaboration with the Gunnision Valley Literary Festival.

For more information about these programs visit: The Center for Arts in Crested Butte and Talking Gourds Poetry Program



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