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Telluride Institute’s
Ettore Rella Awards for Local Youth

Thanks to a generous donation from the Bardwell Donachy Family Fund, Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds poetry program is proud to offer two $200 local student poetry awards, honoring the literary career of Ettore Rella — a Telluride native who became a poet and playwright in New York City.

One Rella Award will go to a poem submitted from a High School student, as selected by the Talking Gourd Poetry Club members. The other to a poem submitted by a student in Grades 1-8.

All students attending classes in the Telluride School District R-1 are eligible to enter the contest – that is, students rom the Telluride Public Schools, the Telluride Mountain School, or those who are home-schooled within the district.

Rella studied at the University of Rome, taught at Bennington College and eventually lived in New York City. But he came from a frontier mining town in the Rockies.

As he explains it in the introduction to one of his books:

“My most exciting times as a child in the mining camp up near timberline in the Rocky Mountains were those when I would get my first look at some species of wild animal – right there before me for that breathless moment. The animal, each time, was to me so incredibly and intolerably real that as soon as it had darted off I could hardly believe I had seen it. But I also knew that this animal was to be in my head forever – fabulous and in precise detail, as if I had seen it through a telescope…

“My intense reaction to these sudden discoveries in some open patch in the woods way up above the town has always been related, for me, to my recognition of poetry. It is also, I am sure, deeply related to my interest in the theater – and more completely, to my particular attitude to life as a whole. It was all already there to be seen and felt in those open patches in the woods: the tension of the amazing revelation in the concentrated light – and the claustrophobic coming in upon the light from the dark and inscrutable periphery.”

Rella wrote a large body of plays in verse. He received a Rockefeller Fellowship and grants from the Theatre Guild and the National Foundation for the Arts.  His first play, Please Communicate, was produced in San Francisco. Later works, Sign of Winter and The Place Where We Were Born were off-Broadway productions in New York City.

As the two-term U.S. Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz wrote, “Ettore Rella’s work is the courageous adventure of a rich and subtle mind through the labyrinth of our time.”

Contest Rules & Details:

All styles of poetry are welcome. In English or Spanish. A two page limit to submitted poems, and only three submitted poems per person. Printed or handwritten (legibly).

Poems must be accompanied by a Rella Award entry form, downloadable (here for English) and (here for Spanish), or from the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds website, or a form can be emailed directly to the entrant (or teacher) as a Word document upon request.

Deadline for submitting poems is midnight Dec. 31, 2019.

Contest packets may be submitted electronically by email, including both the poem and the completed contest form. Send in your entry as Word file attachments to, or mail a hardcopy to Talking Gourds Rella Awards, ArtGoodtimes, P.O. Box 160, Norwood CO 81423.

An Awards Ceremony is tentatively slated for Tuesday Jan. 14th at 4 p.m. at the Telluride Mountain School campus in Lawson Hill. Winners and runner-ups will be invited to read their poems.

There will be a Talking Gourds Poetry Club meeting that same evening at 6 p.m. at the Telluride Arts Gallery HQ across Pacific St. from the Wilkinson Public Library.

Featured guest reader will be Eduardo Rey Brummel of Salida. Student readers will be invited to attend and read a poem at the Club meeting as well.

For more information, contact Art Goodtimes at 970-729-0220, by text (no voicemail). Or


Inspired by the late Way of the Mountain climber, skier, and deep ecologist Dolores LaChapelle, Talking Gourds is a poetry program sponsored by the Telluride Institute. Art Goodtimes of Wrights Mesa and Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer of Placerville are co-directors, and Galaxy Dancer is our administrative assistant.

Our partners in lyric high crimes & misdemeanors include Daiva Chesonis of Between-the-Covers Bookstore; Elissa Dickson, Laura Colbert and Sarah Landeryou of the Wilkinson Public Library; Molly Daniel, Brooke Einbender, and Kate Jones at Telluride Arts; and our friends over at the Ah-Ha School for the Arts.

We are indebted to the Cantor Family, Wu Xing, current and former Telluride Institute board trustees, the Bardwell Donachy Family and our Club members for their generosity.

The Talking Gourds program includes a number of projects where it acts as lead agency or as collaborative partner:

*The national Fischer Prize and Colorado’s Cantor Award in poetry
*A monthly Telluride Poetry Club with featured guest poets from around the region
*The annual Mushroom Fest’s MycoLuscious MycoLicious MycoLogical Poetry Show
*The annual Chamberlain Award for Lifetime Poetry Achievement in Colorado
(awarded at the Gunnison Valley Literary Festival)
*The biannual Western Slope Poet Laureate selection
*The biannual San Miguel County Poetry Laureate recommendation
*The occasional pop-up Guest Gourds performances for Club members
*And other initiatives and collaborations

For more info, visit  Talking Gourds.

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