Talking Gourds is a local and regional poetry program that has been under the non-profit aegis of the Telluride Institute since 2012. Inspired by Silverton climber, writer and mountain wise woman, the late Dolores LaChapelle, the program hosts a number of poetry projects in San Miguel County and on Colorado’s Western Slope. See the icons below for information on each project.
Art Goodtimes of Wrights Mesa and Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer of Placerville are co-directors. Galaxy Dancer of Santa Fe is our administrator. Benefactors include the late Elaine Fischer and her family, local poet Peter Waldor, the Guttman Foundation, the Bardwell Donachy Family Fund, as well as our Poetry Club members.
2021 Program Update
- The Covid pandemic has forced some changes in our programming — putting a temporary hold on some projects, allowing us to go forward with others, and pushing us into some new ones. We’ve received some important grants that have helped sustain us, and we’re initiating a Membership Drive to carry us forward into the new year.
- We had over 250 poets and 500+ poems submitted for both 2020 & 2021 Fischer Cantor Prize Contests. The 2021 winners have been announced on the Fischer Prize page and the winning poems may be viewed here. We will be accepting submissions for the 2022 contest in January. Donald Levering of Santa Fe was this year’s judge.
- In January San Miguel County named Daiva Chesonis of Between the Covers Bookstore in Telluride to a second two-year term as County Poet Laureate, as we recommended.
- Also in January we initiated a new Bardic Trails Zoom meeting series on the first Tuesday of each month, featuring Fischer and Cantor Prize winners and finalists as featured readers. Free registration occurs on the Wilkinson Public Library website.
- We continue partnering with the Center for the Arts in Crested Butte in awarding the annual Karen Chamberlain Award for lifetime achievement in Colorado poetry. The dates for the Mountain Words Literary Festival have been moved into the spring and will take place May 28-30, 2021.
- We continue to offer Gourd Circles at the Crestone Poetry Festival (February 27-28, 2021) and the annual Headwaters Conference at Western Colorado University in Gunnison (fall of 2021)
- Our Western Slope Poet Laureate L. Luis López of Grand Junction is continuing for an extended term. Website
- Planning is underway for the MycoLuscious MycoLicious MycoLogical Poetry Show at the 41stannual Telluride Mushroom Festival (August 18-22).
- Our monthly Poetry Club gatherings at the Telluride Arts Office & Gallery are on hold until it is safe to meet again face-to-face.
- Our special Guest Gourds gatherings are on hold as well.
- We cancelled this year’s local Ettore Rella Youth Awards for poetry and hope to reinstate them next year.
- As part of our Membership Drive we’ve started a new category beyond the regular $10 a year sustaining membership for Gourditas y Gouditos, as we call our members. The Muse is one who donates $50 or more to the program. They will receive a copy of our program mentor Dolores LaChapelle’s last book, “Return to Mountain: Tai Chi, Between Heaven and Earth,” (Hazard Press, New Zealand, 2002).
Talking Gourds continues to sponsor multiple poetry projects throughout the year and also collaborates with various organizations.
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).
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