Inspired by Silverton climber, skier, author and deep ecologist, the late Dolores LaChapelle, Talking Gourds has become a poetry program sponsored by the Telluride Institute. Art Goodtimes of Wrights Mesa and Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer of Placerville are the co-directors.

Talking Gourds began in 1989 as a project of 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. For almost 20 years Dolores and Art, together with the poet Judyth Hill and the sculptor John Townley of New Mexico, held numerous wanderings in and around the San Juan Mountains to put bardic poetry into practice. Dolores passed away in 2007.

In 2012 Talking Gourds became a program of the Telluride Institute. Talking Gourds continues to sponsor multiple poetry projects:

  • The Poetry Club brings regional poets to Telluride for monthly performance readings. Afterward, there’s a Gourds Circle where club members and guests are given a chance to share a poem, a song, or a few words;
  • The annual Fischer Prize – a national poetry contest – commemorates artist Elaine Cantor Fischer and poet Mark Fischer of Telluride. Both were local champions of the arts;
  • The poetry component of the Telluride Literary Arts Festival, where the Fischer Prize is awarded and the bi-annual Western Slope Poet Laureate selection is made;
  • Special Guest Gourds reading parties for visiting poets at public venues and private homes around San Miguel County;
  • The MycoLuscious MycoLicious MycoLogical Poetry Show at the Telluride Mushroom Festival;
  • Every two years we select a Western Slope Poet Laureate at the Telluride Literary Arts Festival;
  • We sponsor occasional collaborations throughout the year, like the Floor Show in 2017 which celebrated the 10th anniversary of the preservation of the Valley Floor;
  • The Traveling Gourds Tour is closing down after a three year run. It was a great opportunity to showcase poets on the Western Slope but it needs a grant or angel to fund the administrative logistics that such a project requires. Posters of past events are for sale.

Our events and programs are funded by memberships, partner donations, and generous private grants from the late Elaine Fischer and from folks donating in her memory, Telluride Institute board member Audrey Marnoy of Mountain Village, San Miguel County Poet Laureate emeritus Peter Waldor of Telluride, and poet Eduardo Brummel of Salida.

The Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds program works in collaboration with various local and regional partners, including Telluride Arts, Between the Covers Bookstore, Wilkinson Library, Ah Haa School for the Arts, and Lithic Bookstore & Gallery. We also honor previous collaborations with Arroyo Gallery & Wine Bar, Cimarron Books, La Zona Colona Coffee, Wisehart Springs Inn, and the Montrose Regional Library.