RESTRUCTURING: Under Construction



ANNOUNCING the 2022 San Miguel Poet Laureate:  Joanna Spindler


From the Telluride Daily Planet:

Joanna Spindler: poetry ‘a bridge to community building’

The San Miguel Board of County Commissioners will officially name Joanna Spindler the county’s new poet laureate at today’s (Wednesday) meeting, a mantle she will assume from outgoing laureate, Daiva Chesonis. Spindler, who is a Wilkinson Public Library adult programs specialist, was nominated by the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds Poetry Program.

Former county commissioner, Talking Gourds co-director and Wright’s Mesa resident, Art Goodtimes, is pleased to have Spindler represent the county.

“We’re delighted to have another wonderful bard to serve in this honorary capacity for the next several years,” Goodtimes said. “Joanna has inspired us with her poems, performances and her recent hosting of the Bardic Trails monthly virtual poetry nights on the first Tuesday of every month. She has many new ideas on how to use the platform of being a laureate to actively promote the literary arts in the region.”

Spindler comes to her new role with an eye toward creating a community through poetry and has been mining the wisdom and experience of her predecessors for their insights. She’s currently talking to, not only Chesonis, but also Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Norwood’s Ellen Marie Metrick, and Telluride’s Peter Waldor and Elissa Dickson.

“I’m also researching grants to catalyze outreach and working on public poetry events in the vein of the wonderfully sassy Poetry Brothels hosted by the Steaming Bean,” Spindler said. “I’m dreaming up site-specific poetry and writing retreats and workshops throughout our watershed and continuing with the Bardic Trails online poetry series co-hosted by the Talking Gourds and the Wilkinson Public Library.”

If there is a common thread in her vision for the role, it’s one of community and sharing.

“The role of poet laureate, to me, isn’t about being the best poet, it’s about bearing community witness, shining a light, and opening conversations,” she said. “It’ll be my challenge and gift over the next two years to magnify the literary arts throughout our county in whatever ways I can, so this is an open invitation for ideas.”

Spindler’s early path to poetry was somewhat subversive.

“I was raised in a forcefully fundamentalist family in which boldness and expression by women wasn’t welcomed,” she said. “I took my opinions underground out of survival, and particularly into books, where I met a multitude of kindred souls. I found a special resonance in poetry, which I began reading, memorizing and writing at a very young age. It taught me freedom. I’ve been chasing it ever since.”

Perhaps because her first excursions were cloaked, her belief in poetry as a way to build bridges is borne of her once solitary pursuit of the art form.

“Poetry exists so everyone can have a voice; there’s no one way to be a poet. The stories that you share or feelings you evoke in poetry are yours to own, and poetry celebrates your unique voice,” Spindler said. “Because of this, poetry writing — and sharing — has the capacity to be immensely welcoming, and a bridge to creativity, expression, and community building.”

Her influences reflect a broad range of styles and eras and include classic word painters such as Shakespeare, Homer, Rumi and Hafiz. There are contemporary influences, too.

“I’ve been deeply influenced in the last few years by the poet Ross Gay, who entwines pain and total wonder with so much grace,” Spindler said. “Joy Harjo, our brilliant national poet laureate, has inspired me deeply, along with folks whose works hover in the delightful grey area between poetry and prose … Ellen Meloy, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Barry Lopez, Cormac McCarthy. And, of course, I’m loving everything that Amanda Gorman creates. I can’t wait to see what she makes next.”

Spindler takes her place among the creators and poets at Talking Gourds, who, of late, have been “reorganizing after two years of Covid-curtailed activities and some personal challenges for the program directors,” according to a news release.

Placerville’s Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer has stepped down as a co-director but will become the newest member of the program’s advisory board. Emma Youngquist of Telluride will take on the role of the institute’s program director for the Talking Gourds program, while Goodtimes will continue on as projects director. He plans to introduce Youngquist to the commissioners at today’s meeting and Spindler hopes to recite an original poem in her new position as county poet laureate.

Talking Gourds also conducts the annual national Fischer Poetry Prize ($1,000) and the state Cantor Poetry Prize ($500).

The commissioners will consider a draft resolution naming Spindler to the post Wednesday at 12:24 p.m. To attend via Zoom, go to and click on “agendas” under the “Government” tab. All agenda times are approximate except for public hearings.

Sign up for Bardic Trails online poetry series the first Tuesday of every month at

<Story here at Telluride Daily News>

Western Slope Poet Laureate

The naming of a Western Slope Poet Laureate is a project of the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds program. It honors an outstanding poet/performer who has helped promote the practice of poetry on the Western Slope of Colorado and around the state. The TG program selects poets who have published in the region and performed widely and to acclaim. Its purpose is to support the Laureate in continuing the work of poetry in and of the Western Slope, teaching, reading, writing and building literary community across the region.

Started at the Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival in Carbondale, the naming of a Western Slope Poet Laureate moved to Telluride Literary Arts Festival in 2014. Art Goodtimes of Norwood (2011-13) served as the first Laureate, Aaron Abeyta of Antonito (2013-15) the second, and Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer of Placerville (2015-2017) the third.

The tradition has continued with David J. Rothman of Crested Butte (2017-2019) and the current laureate L. Luis López of Grand Junction (2019-present). Because of Covid, a decision was made to continue the position with the current laureate until 2022.

San Miguel County Poet Laureate

Here is a Western Slope poem from Luis:

el rio dolores

down the desert’s rugged canyon
slope horses, men, mules
slipping, sliding, horrid descent
the river’s rush

reach it
too deep
too swift

along it banks

no foot

for beast for

seeking silver ore
oro de plata
to satisfy the governor de santa fe


seeking legends strange
bearded people
somewhere beyond este rio

loss of horses, men, mules, so many
prompting the leader, man
with many names

juan antonio maria de rivera
to call upon
the virgin mary for help
ayuda nos
nuestra seῆora de los dolores

horses, men, and mules
so el nombre del rio
our lady of sorrows—-dolores

March 2021
L. Luis Lopez



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