Skip to main content

“Giving poets exposure to audiences in far-flung Colorado communities, and giving local audiences examples of performance poetry in action, has been the motivating impulse behind the Telluride Institute’s Traveling Gourds Tour,” explained Talking Gourds co-director, Art Goodtimes.

Following on the heels of a successful kickoff to the poetry program’s first Fall tour this year with Avon’s Jodie Hollander, one local Western Slope poet, Luis Lopez of Grand Junction, and one Front Ranger, Val Szarek of Louisville, will share the spotlight as featured guest poets in Telluride, Norwood, Paonia and Fruita, Oct. 24-27.

“There’s been a few adjustments to our schedule,” said Goodtimes. “We’ve moved our Norwood reading to Wednesday nights, while continuing Tuesdays in Telluride, Thursdays in Paonia, and Fridays in Fruita.

The monthly Tour begins at the Telluride Arts Gallery at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 24; moves to a new venue on Wrights Mesa outside Norwood at Million Miles Away, located at 1150 County Road Z42, starting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 25; appears at the Paonia Public Library beginning at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 26; and has its grand finale in Fruita, Friday, Oct. 27, in the Lithic Bookstore & Gallery at 7 p.m.

Last month the theme for the evening was “Family.” This month it’s “Friendship.” Bring poems of others or one’s own on this theme to read at the Gourd Circle after the featured poet at the Telluride, Norwood and Paonia readings.

Dr. Lopez is a professor emeritus from Colorado Mesa University, with a Ph.D. in Medieval English Literature. He taught English, Latin, Ancient Greek, Mythology, and was Director of the Academic Honors Program. A now retired publisher, he has five books of poetry to his credit. Each Month I Sing won the American Book Award and the Colorado Independent Press Association award for best in poetry in 2008. He also won a Writers Digest Award, and has been published in numerous literary magazines.

His most recent book is More Musings of a Barrio Sack Boy (Lithic Press, 2017). His other books include Musings of a Barrio Sack Boy, A Painting of Sand, and Andromeda to Vulpecula: 88 Constellation Poems. Lopez is currently the featured poet in the on-line poetry anthology, He lives in Grand Junction with his wife Maggie.

Originally from Michigan, Valerie Szarek has studied the craft of writing at Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and The Summer Writing Program for the past ten years, and gratefully considers herself a lifelong student. Her voice and native flute are familiar at open mikes and festivals in the Boulder/Denver area as well as on the Western Slope. She’s been a featured poet at the International Young Leadership Conference in 2013, at numerous Stage C performances, at the Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival in Carbondale, and won 2nd place as the Ziggies Denver Poet of the Year in 2015 and 2017.

She describes her poems as “human, political, and shamanic,” suggests they cross “between the seen and unseen worlds effortlessly,” and are “medicines for our world.” She likes to sponsor drum circles and rituals around her medicine wheel in her back yard in Louisville. Her poem “Letters to an Unknown God” won 1st place in the National Poetry Federation Winner’s Circle and was a Colorado Author’s League Finalist.

Her first book, Signs of Life (Breezy Mountain Press, 2014), received a Colorado Independent Press Association EVVY Award (named for the group’s first president Evelyn Kaye). As one reviewer wrote of Szarek’s book, “Lyrical, reverent, and giddy with paradox, this collection is fearless, an invitation to engage more wholly in the world.” Her other books include 13 Moons on Turtles Back, Gratuitous Beauty, and 14 Days and Nights in Prague. Her website is

San Miguel County’s first performance occurs Tuesday nights at the Telluride Arts Gallery and Offices, 135 West Pacific, across the street from the Wilkinson Library entrance. The second San Miguel County reading takes place Wednesdays at a private residence “Million Miles Away” on Wrights Mesa outside Norwood: 1150 County Road Z42. In Delta County the show opens at the Paonia Public Library at 2 3rd St. on Thursdays. And in Mesa County the event is held Fridays at the Lithic Bookstore & Gallery, which is located at 138 South Park Square #202 in Fruita (upstairs — enter through lobby door by the east side of the building on Mesa Street).

In Telluride, we follow Poetry Club announcements and the featured performance with a short break. Then the gourd is passed and everyone has a chance to read a poem or two (their own, or one from a favorite poet that speaks to the theme).

For info on the Norwood reading, contact Daiva Chesonis at 970-729-2210. For info on the Paonia event, contact Tara Miller at 970-527-6570. For info on the Fruita performance, contact Kyle Harvey or Danny Rosen at 970-858-3636.

The tour for 25017 (2017 CE) ends with these shows. For the rest of the winter, the Tour reverts to just events in Telluride. And the Traveling Gourds Tour may end in March of next year with Jennifer Rane Hancock of Grand Junction, unless a source of permanent funding can be found.

Leave a Reply