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Talking Gourds wins grants, hosts Bardic Trails on First Tuesdays and recommends Chesonis for another San Miguel County Poet Laureate term

TELLURIDE … Grants from the family of Elaine Cantor Fischer and the Guttman Foundation have guaranteed a 2021 season of poetry contests and events for the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds Poetry Program during the Covid pandemic.

Art Goodtimes

“We’re delighted with the continuing support from Sheldon Cantor and his family in keeping the Fischer Cantor poetry contests continuing,” said Art Goodtimes, Talking Gourds co-director. “And, thanks to a second grant from the Guttman Foundation, we have moved from face-to-face Poetry Club meetings at the Telluride Arts Office & Gallery, to online Zoom meetings through the Wilkinson Public Library — a series that we’re calling Bardic Trails.”

The first Bardic Trails virtual reading last week was a success with some 50 participants and an intimate reading by 2020 Cantor Prize winner Mark Oreskovich of Pueblo. Bardic Trails registration happens with the Wilkinson Public Library and will take place on the first Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m.  Winter dates will be February 2 featuring 2020 Fischer Prize winner Jonathan Greenhause and March 2 featuring 2020 Fischer Prize finalist Anne Kaiser.

Daiva Chesonis

At the recommendation of Talking Gourds, San Miguel County is planning to re-appoint Between the Covers Bookstore co-owner Daiva Chesonis to a second two-year term as County Poet Laureate. The Board of County Commissioners’ virtual meeting is slated for Wednesday, January 20th at 9:40 a.m., at which approximate time Chesonis will perform one of her poems.

“I’m thrilled,” she told the Telluride Institute upon learning of the upcoming extension of her appointment. “The second term will afford me the chance to really put time into the Laureateship to do the Rella project proud, continue on with my on-going poem “The Ballad of San Miguel County”, and get a book published.”

Ettore Rella was a local who moved to New York City to write poems and plays. Chesonis has been working with the Telluride Museum to do an exhibit and performance of Ettore Rella’s poetry. Last year, thanks to a grant from the Bardwell Donachy Family Fund (descendants of Rella), Talking Gourds instituted youth awards for student writers in local schools. The program came to a temporary halt with Covid; however, the intent is to reinstitute the youth awards post-Covid.

According to Goodtimes, the Talking Gourds poetry program is now accepting submissions for the national Fischer Prize on its website. In addition to the Fischer $1000 prize and five $200 finalist prizes, the Colorado poet scoring highest in the contest will receive the Cantor Prize of $500. This year’s judge will be Santa Fe’s Donald Levering.


Talking Gourds is initiating a membership drive this year to match our successful grant appeal efforts. A one-time donation of $25 or more gets one on our mailing list permanently and makes one current for one year. Memberships help support all we do. Each calendar year after that to keep current, there’s a $10 renewal fee – payable online, as we are trying to minimize physical handlings during the pandemic.

Members in good standing receive a monthly pdf copy of Daiva’s handsome broadsides for each featured reader. Printing of those pdfs can done for free at the Wilkinson Public Library. Chesonis will also have copies available for purchase at her Between the Covers Bookstore.

Current members also get preference for Gourd Circles, Guest Gourd readings and special workshops.

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