The 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. 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. This year we were pleased to hire Emma Youngquist as TI’s Program Director. Goodtimes is continuing as Projects Director and former co-director Trommer has moved to our Talking Gourds Advisory Committee. Learn more in our Spring Program Update.

We currently have multiple events, collaborations and contests underway, while some pre-Covid projects continue to be on hold. Scroll down for more information on all our offerings!

– Live In-person Poetry Readings –

Walking Talking Gourds

We have re-initiated our live in-person reading series, formerly the Talking Gourds Poetry Club, that ran for many years at the Wilkinson Library, the Arroyo Wine Bar & Gallery and Telluride Arts Gallery. The new series is the first Thursday of every month in coordination with Telluride Arts’ Artwalk, 5:30pm at Telluride Arts’ Transfer Warehouse. Learn more about the new Walking Talking Gourds.

Walking Talking Gourds Schedule

First Thursday of every month (in coordination with Artwalk): 5:30pm at Telluride Arts’ Transfer Warehouse.

Art Goodtimes led off the series with a reading in June of 2022 at the Sheridan Opera House’s Show Bar patio. The second reading featured Peter Waldor and Lisa C. Taylor of Bayfield pinch-hitting for Lisa Flowers of Nederland who had Covid and couldn’t attend. Join us August 4th for Claudia Putnam & Melissa Studdard and September 1 with Uche Ogbuji & Wendy Videlock.

– Enter by August 31st –

Fischer & Cantor Prizes

Our flagship poetry projects, the Fischer and Cantor Prize contests continue again this year. The Fischer Prize is a national poetry contest founded in 1997 in memory of the late lawyer, polymath, and poet Mark Fischer. 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. Deadline to enter is August 31, 2022.

– An Online Poetry Gathering –

Bardic Trails

Join us on the first Tuesday of every month for an online gathering of words, wit, and wisdom. Hosted by Wilkinson Public Library’s Joanna Spindler, our current San Miguel County Poet Laureate. Each participant will get a turn to tell a story, share a poem (one’s own or a fav from another), comment on the evening, or simply pass. One of the key principles of our program is providing each person a voice. Don’t forget to register early with the Wilkinson Public Library as registration closes the night before.

Bardic Trails Schedule

First Tuesday of every month: 7:00 – 8:30pm on Zoom.

Each Bardic Trails poetry night will feature a guest poet sharing their work for the first 15-20 minutes. Next Joanna will lead virtual participants in a short question & answer session, followed by a zoom version of our traditional Talking Gourds circle. For late joiners, email Emma at Register here each month to receive the Zoom link:

– Telluride Mushroom Festival's –

Mycoluscious Mycolicious Mycological Poetry Show

We are planning our annual MycoLicious MycoLuscious MycoLogical Poetry Show Aug. 19th in the Sheridan Opera House. This poetry program is an annual late-night tradition as part of Telluride Mushroom Festival, held on the third weekend in August.  Featuring regional and guest poets, for fungophiles of all types! 

Poet Laureates

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.

– Free Giveaway with Donation! –

Support Poetry in Telluride

While we have scrapped our successful membership project since tracking became too laborious to administer, we encourage community donations, as Talking Gourds has been independently funded without government assistance since 1989. By way of appreciation we would like to offer those who donate $50 or more a complimentary copy of LaChapelle’s last book Return to Mountain: Tai Chi Between Heaven and Earth (Hazard Publ. Ltd., New Zealand, 2002, $39.95). Please send your name, snailmail address and date of donation to after making an online donation.

Gourd Collaborators

Collaborators include the Wilkinson Public Library, Between the Covers Bookstore, the Telluride Arts District, the Ah Haa School for the Arts, San Miguel County, the Headwaters Conference (Western Colorado University), Mountain Words Literary Festival (Gunnison), the Center for the Arts in Crested Butte, the Crestone Poetry Festival, the Western Colorado Writers’ Forum (Grand Junction), and Lithic Press and Bookstore/Gallery (Fruita).

Click the icons below for info on individual programs:

Program History

Learn more about our history and legacy below:

Inspired by the late mountain climber, skier, and deep ecologist Dolores LaChapelle, her book, Sacred Land Sacred Sex Rapture of the Deep (Finn Hill Arts, 1989), spoke of bardic poetry as one of seven pathways to reconnect us to the earth. She called her walk of many paths the Way of the Mountain.

Talking Gourds began as a poetry festival in 1989 with Ethnopoetics as it focus and as special guests: Jerome Rothenberg, Anselm Hollo, Ann Waldman, Pierre Joris, Judyth Hill, Joan Logghe, and many others.

It changed shape several times as an annual gathering of wild poets, moving from Telluride to Faraway Ranch to Wrights Mesa to Windy Point on the Uncompahgre Plateau. Additionally, for almost 20 years Dolores and Art Goodtimes, together with the poet Judyth Hill and sculptor John Townley of New Mexico, held numerous other gatherings in Colorado and New Mexico to put bardic poetry into practice.

In 2013 the project came under the aegis of the Telluride Institute as the Talking Gourds poetry program.

Art Goodtimes of Wrights Mesa and Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer of Placerville are co-directors of the Talking Gourds poetry program, and Galaxy Dancer is our administrator.

Our current 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; Jess Newens, Kristin Kwasniewski and Judy Kohin at the Ah-Ha School for the Arts; Kris Holstrom, Hilary Cooper, and Lance Waring at San Miguel County; and Mary Hearding, Jacqui McCormick, Pamela Sante and Andy & Emily Shoff at the Telluride Mountain School.

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.

We also honor previous collaborations with the Arroyo Gallery & Wine Bar in Telluride, Cimarron Books in Ridgway, La Zona Coffee in Colona, Wisehart Springs Inn in Paonia, Lithic Books in Fruita and the Montrose Regional Library.

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

The monthly Telluride Poetry Club readings with featured guest poets from around the region

The annual national Fischer Prize for poetry with its Cantor Award for Colorado

The annual Mushroom Fest’s MycoLuscious MycoLicious MycoLogical Poetry Show & Open Myc

The annual Rella Awards for local student poetry

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

Our Poster Archive offers select Talking Gourds posters for sale

The former Literary Arts Festival, an annual gathering in Telluride to celebrate reading and writing

And other poetry Initiatives & Collaborations

Talking Gourds is a local and regional poetry program of the Telluride Institute that was inspired by the Silverton mountaineer, skier, independent scholar and wise woman, the late Dolores LaChapelle. In her magnum opus, Sacred Land Sacred Sex Rapture of the Deep: Concerning Deep Ecology and Celebrating Life (Kivaki Press, 1992), she identifies bardic poetry as one of the seven ways moderns can reconnect to the natural world. And the Gourd Circle practice that we use to share poetry stems from her research into the gourd as a primal symbol of partnership culture.

Talking Gourds grew out of the Telluride Writers Guild founded in 1979. Both Art Goodtimes and Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer served as directors of that group and sponsored many poetry readings in Telluride and Norwood over the years.

For the past nine years Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer of Placerville has been co-director of Talking Gourds with Art Goodtimes of Norwood. Galaxy Dancer of Santa Fe has been our administrator. We have sponsored many projects: Poetry Club live readings in Telluride, Norwood and the region, the national Fischer Prize in poetry, the Colorado Cantor Prize in poetry, the state Karen Chamberlain Award for poetry in collaboration with the Arts Center of Crested Butte, the Bardic Trails zoom poetry series in collaboration with the Wilkinson Public Library, the Western Slope Poet Laureate designation, the San Miguel County Poet Laureate recommendation, the annual MycoLicious MycoLuscious MycoLogical Poetry Show at the
Telluride Mushroom Festival, and the Ettore Rella youth awards. Due to Covid, several of the projects have been on temporary hold. Benefactors have included the late Elaine Cantor Fischer of Telluride and the Cantor family, local poet Peter Waldor of Trout Lake, local Audrey Marnoy of the Mountain Village, the Guttman Family Foundation, the Bardwell Donachy Family Fund, as well as our Talking Gourds Poetry Club members.



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Need more information?

+ please contact Program Director, Emma Youngquist

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