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WESTERN SLOPE & SAN MIGUEL COUNTY

POET LAUREATES

Honoring Outstanding Poets & Performers

Western Slope Poet Laureate: A project of the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds poetry program honoring an outstanding poet/performer who has helped promote the practice of poetry on the Western Slope of Colorado. In collaboration with a committee of poets and poetry organizers from around the Slope, Talking Gourds selects poets who have performed and/or published widely and to acclaim in the region. Its purpose is to support the work of poetry in and around the Western Slope — teaching, reading, writing and building literary communities in Colorado.

San Miguel County Poet Laureate: Based on biannual recommendations from the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds Poetry Program, the San Miguel County Board of County Commissioners created the position and has named new laureates every two years as a way to honor a member of the local community who has demonstrated significant literary achievement. The Laureate is honored for providing leadership in the literary community, creating opportunities to expand poetry’s presence, and educating the young in the community-building powers of the arts to provide vision as well as beauty and entertainment to the people of the county.

Western Slope Poet Laureates

Started at the Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival in Carbondale, the naming of a Western Slope Poet Laureate moved in 2014 to a project of the Talking Gourds program. Poet Laureates are listed below, along with the collaborating agencies.

Wendy Videlock (2023-2025) … of Palisade
Grand Valley Creative Alliance, Grand Junction Center for the Arts and the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds Poetry Program

L. Luis López (2019-2022) … of Grand Junction
Telluride Literary Arts Festival / Between the Covers Bookstore, Wilkinson Public Library, Ah Haa School of the Arts; the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds Poetry Program

David J. Rothman (2017-2019) … of Crested Butte
Telluride Literary Arts Festival / Between the Covers Bookstore, Wilkinson Public Library, Ah Haa School of the Arts; the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds Poetry Program

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer (2015-2017) … of Placerville
Telluride Literary Arts Festival / Between the Covers Bookstore, Wilkinson Public Library, Ah Haa School of the Arts; the Telluride Institute

Aaron Abeyta (2013-2015) … of Antonito
Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival / Thunder River Theatre Company

Art Goodtimes (2011-2013) … of Wrights Mesa / Norwood
Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival / Thunder River Theatre Company

San Miguel County Poet Laureates

San Miguel County has posted its own page on the county website honoring the County Poet Laureates that have been named since 2006.

Joanna Spindler (2022-2024)

Daiva Chesonis (2019-2021)

Elissa Dickson (2016-2018)

Peter Waldor (2014-2016)

Ellen Marie Metrick (2011-2013)

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer (2006-2010)

Program History

History of the Western Slope Poet Laureate Program

The Thunder River Theatre Company — operating as the Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival under the direction of Valerie (Haugen) Nuzzo — made the first presentation of the Western Slope Poet Laureate title in the festival’s second year. When the Chamberlain Festival shut down in 2014, the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds Poetry Program took on the project and made the biannual award at the Telluride Literary Arts Festival – a collaboration of several arts groups (public & private). That festival ended in 2019 and now the selection is made by the Talking Gourds program in collaboration with a committee of poets and poetry organizers around the region and presented in Grand Junction, the Western Slope’s capitol city.

Covid put us on hiatus, and our laureate at the time, L. Luis López, agreed to add a year to his term. In 2023 we partnered with the Grand Valley Creative Alliance to present the award in Grand Junction at the Center for the Arts.

History of the San Miguel County Poet Laureate Program

From the County Website:

The San Miguel County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) created the honorary position of Poet Laureate of San Miguel County in 2006 in accordance with the authority granted by Section 30-11-107 (1) (cc), C.R.S. The Poet Laureate of San Miguel County will run for two years, and the office of Poet Laureate of San Miguel County will be a way to honor a member of the local community who has demonstrated significant literary achievement.  The Poet Laureate will provide leadership in the literary community, create opportunities to expand the literary community in the county, and educate the young in the community-building powers of the arts to provide vision as well as beauty and entertainment to the people of the county.

Poet Laureate News & Events

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Esther Belin Durango’s First Poet Laureate
Esther Belin Durango’s First Poet LaureatePoet LaureateTalking Gourds

Esther Belin Durango’s First Poet Laureate

Congratulations to Esther Belin of Durango for being named the city's first Poet Laureate," said Talking Gourds Director Art Goodtimes.…
December 14, 2023
Joanna Spindler: Poetry ‘A Bridge to Community Building’
Joanna Spindler: Poetry ‘A Bridge to Community Building’CommunityPoet LaureateTalking Gourds

Joanna Spindler: Poetry ‘A Bridge to Community Building’

FROM THE TELLURIDE DAILY PLANET: By Suzanne Cheavens, Associate Editor / Jan 18, 2022 The San Miguel Board of County Commissioners…
January 19, 2022
A Western Slope Poem from Luis López
A Western Slope Poem from Luis LópezCommunityPoet LaureateTalking Gourds

A Western Slope Poem from Luis López

el rio dolores (1765) down the desert’s rugged canyon slope horses, men, mules hot burdened slipping, sliding, horrid descent towards…
June 14, 2020
Chesonis San Miguel County Poet Laureate 2019
Chesonis San Miguel County Poet Laureate 2019CommunityPoet LaureateTalking Gourds

Chesonis San Miguel County Poet Laureate 2019

Congratulations to Daiva Chesonis named San Miguel County Poet Laureate for 2019-2021! Ms. Chesonis has lived in San Miguel County…
January 29, 2019
Dr. David J. Rothman Named 2017 Western Slope Poet Laureate
Dr. David J. Rothman Named 2017 Western Slope Poet LaureatePoet LaureateTalking Gourds

Dr. David J. Rothman Named 2017 Western Slope Poet Laureate

Crested Butte’s Dr. David J. Rothman Named Western Slope Poet Laureate. The Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds Program named David J.…
September 1, 2017