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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 of Silverton. Over the past three decades the program has changed shapes several times as Art Goodtimes of Norwood together with Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer of Placerville have worked to promote platforms for poetry in San Miguel County, on the Western Slope of Colorado and across the state and the nation. In recent years Talking Gourds has become a program of the Telluride Institute. Joanna Linden Spindler of Hastings Mesa is currently the Talking Gourds Program Director and can be reached at Goodtimes is continuing as Projects Director and Trommer remains on our Talking Gourds Advisory Board, along with Sheldon Cantor of Charlotte (North Carolina), Joan Shapiro of Ridgway, Peter Waldor of Trout Lake, Daiva Chesonis of Norwood, Eduardo Rey Brummel of Salida, Kate Jones of Telluride, Lee Taylor of Lawson Hill, Mike Olschewsky & Ruth Duffy of Nucla, Ellen Metrick of Norwood, Danny Rosen of Fruita and Wendy Videlock of Palisade.

After an initial hiccup in form submissions, the 2023 Fischer and Cantor prizes are now ready for your submission! Scroll down for information and links.

– 2023 Prizes Open & Accepting Submissions –

Fischer & Cantor Prizes

Our flagship poetry projects, the Fischer and Cantor Prize contests, continue again this year, with submissions open until August 30, 2023. Entry form issues have been corrected and forms are now ready to go! Please click below to enter and for further information.

– An Online Poetry Gathering –

Bardic Trails

Join us on the first Tuesday of every month for an online gathering of words, wit, and wisdom. Co-hosted by Talking Gourds and the Wilkinson Public Library. Each participant will get a turn to tell a story, share a poem (one’s own or a selection from another poet,) 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.

Bardic Trails Schedule

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

Each Bardic Trails poetry night will feature an award-winning guest poet sharing their work for the first 15-20 minutes. Next, Joanna or Art will lead virtual participants in a short question & answer session with the guest poet, followed by a zoom version of our traditional Talking Gourds circle- all attendees are invited to share one poem of their choosing.  Register here each month to receive the Zoom link:
Arriving late & didn’t have time to register? No worries, go the same library event page, where the Zoom link will be added late in the day for you to join directly.

– Live In-person Poetry Readings –

Walking Talking Gourds

We re-initiated our live in-person reading series in Telluride for the summer of 2022 and plan to continue the series from June through September in 2023. 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 times and venue will be announced in 2023, featuring amazing in-person poets in some exciting new locations- stay tuned! Learn more about 2022’s Walking Talking Gourds series here.

Walking Talking Gourds Schedule archive from 2022

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.

– Telluride Mushroom Festival's –

Mycoluscious Mycolicious Mycological Poetry Show

The MycoLicious MycoLuscious MycoLogical Poetry Show  is an annual late-night tradition and 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 2022 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 moved away from a paid membership model, we encourage community donations, as Talking Gourds has been independently funded without government assistance since 1989. Talking Gourds poetry programming is free and open to all without monetary barriers to entry, and we are deeply appreciative of anyone who wants to assist in the sharing of free resources with others!

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.

Joanna Spindler of Hastings Mesa is currently the director of the Talking Gourds poetry program, with Art Goodtimes of Wrights Mesa as Talking Gourds projects director.

Our current partners in lyric high crimes & misdemeanors include Daiva Chesonis of Norwood, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Programming and Revolution leaders at the Wilkinson Public Library; all of the wonderful staff at Telluride Arts; the delightful collaborators at the Ah-Ha School for the Arts; Kris Holstrom, Hilary Cooper, and Lance Waring at San Miguel County, and so very many more.

We are indebted to the Cantor Family, Wu Xing, current and former Telluride Institute board trustees, the Guttman Family Foundation, the Bardwell Donachy Family, and many other beloved donors.

We also honor previous collaborations with the Arroyo Gallery & Wine Bar in Telluride, Telluride High School, BlueCorn Cafe in Montrose, the Livery in Norwood, 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 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 many years Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer of Placerville served as co-director of Talking Gourds with Art Goodtimes of Norwood. During this time, Talking Gourds 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 shifted form and have emerged in new and welcoming ways.



Poet LaureateTalking Gourds

Wendy Videlock Announced New Western Slope Poet Laureate

May 11, 2023
Join us for the "Art After Hours" event on May 20th where Grand Junction hosts the new Western Slope Poet…
CommunityFischer Cantor PrizesTalking Gourds

Baker Wins Fischer Poetry Prize

October 6, 2022
The Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds Poetry Program announced that Devreaux Baker of Mendocino (CA) has won the 2022 Fischer Poetry…
Fischer Cantor PrizesTalking Gourds

Wendy Videlock the Winner of the 2022 Cantor Poetry Prize

October 4, 2022
The Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds Poetry Program is proud to announce that poet Wendy Videlock of Palisade has won this…
Fischer Cantor PrizesTalking Gourds

2022 Fischer/Cantor Prize Winning Poems

October 2, 2022
The winning poems from the 2022 Fischer & Cantor Prizes are published below. Read the full press releases on 2022…
CommunityTalking Gourds

Walking Talking Gourds: Live Readings this Summer

August 2, 2022
Announcing Live, In-person Poetry Readings! In 2022 we re-initiated our live in-person reading series in Telluride, which ran as the…
Chamberlain AwardCommunityTalking Gourds

Aaron Abeyta Named Chamberlain Poetry Award Winner

June 14, 2022
The Crested Butte Center for the Arts and the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds Poetry Program gave this year’s Karen Chamberlain…

Need more information?

+ please contact Program Director, Emma Youngquist

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