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Talking Gourds is a local and regional poetry program of the Telluride Institute inspired by the late mountain climber, skier, and deep ecologist Dolores LaChapelle. Filling the gap left with the disbanding of the Telluride Writers Guild, Talking Gourds began in 1989 as a reading series and poetry festival. Over the past 33 years the program has changed shapes as Art Goodtimes and Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer worked together to create and share bardic poetry in San Miguel County and on the Western Slope. Originally an independent organization, this year Talking Gourds has become a full-fledged program of the Institute.

We were pleased to hire Emma Youngquist as TI’s Program Director this year. Goodtimes is continuing as Projects Director and former co-director Trommer has moved to our Talking Gourds Advisory Committee — made up of Sheldon Cantor of South Carolina, Peter Waldor of Trout Lake, Joan Shapiro of Ridgway, Daiva Chesonis of Norwood, Audrey Marnoy traveling, Lee Taylor of Lawson Hill, Eduardo Brummel of Salida, Kate Jones of Telluride, Ruth Duffy of Nucla, Mike Olschewsky of Nucla, Joanna Spindler of Hastings Mesa, Elle Metrick of Norwood, Danny Rosen of Fruita and Wendy Videlock of Palisade.

While we have scrapped our successful membership project (our members numbering in the hundreds) since tracking memberships became too laborious to administer, we have successfully upgraded our Major Donor project which is expected to bring in approximately $5000 or more per year. We are continuing to work to upgrade our online presence on the Institute website.

We currently have multiple events, collaborations and contests underway, while some pre-Covid projects continue to be on hold.

We are excited to be collaborating with the Wilkinson Library in funding and featuring poets from around the country to perform at our Bardic Trails zoom readings the first Tuesday of every month. And hoping to join with them in hosting a poetry and performance event this summer.

We are currently working to put together an In-person Reading Series this summer in Telluride for local poets to gather and “pass the gourd,” connecting and sharing their work.

We will be awarding the ninth Chamberlain Award for lifetime Colorado poetry achievement in collaboration with Crested Butte’s Center for the Arts Mountain Words Festival May 25-29th.

We are planning with the Telluride Mushroom Festival for our annual MycoLicious MycoLuscious MycoLogical Poetry Show Aug. 19th in the Sheridan Opera House.

We successfully collaborated with San Miguel County in January of this year to appoint our sixth San Miguel County Poet Laureate, Joanna Spindler. See the county website here for complete information.

We are currently in discussion with other entities in collaborating on awarding the Western Slope Poetry Laureate. Currently L. Luis López of Grand Junction is the Western Slope Poet Laureate.

Our flagship poetry projects are the Fischer and Cantor Prize contests. The Fischer Prize is a national poetry contest founded in 1997 in memory of the late lawyer, polymath, and poet Mark Fischer. The contest features a $1000 first prize and five $250 finalist prizes. The Cantor Prize is a Colorado state poetry contest in memory of Mark Fischer’s wife, the late Elaine Cantor Fischer, who was a revered local political leader, supporter of the arts and painter. This contest features $500 first place prize and two $100 finalist prizes. Contest winners are invited the next year to be featured poets on our Bardic Trails readings (with $100 honorariums). Contest Administrator Dr. Galaxy Dancer continues to work with Youngquist and Goodtimes in running both projects.

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