Spring Program Summary

Over the past 33 years, the Talking Gourds program has changed shapes as Art Goodtimes and Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer worked together to create and share bardic poetry in San Miguel County and on the Western Slope. Originally an independent organization, this year Talking Gourds has become a full-fledged program of the Institute.

We were pleased to hire Emma Youngquist as TI’s Program Director this year. Goodtimes is continuing as Projects Director and former co-director Trommer has moved to our Talking Gourds Advisory Committee.

While we have scrapped our successful membership project (our members numbering in the hundreds) since tracking memberships became too laborious to administer, we have successfully upgraded our Major Donor project which is expected to bring in approximately $5000 or more per year.

We currently have multiple events, collaborations and contests underway, while some pre-Covid projects continue to be on hold.

  • We are excited to be collaborating with the Wilkinson Library in funding and featuring poets from around the country to perform at our Bardic Trails zoom readings the first Tuesday of every month. And hoping to join with them in hosting a poetry and performance event this summer.
  • We are currently working to put together an In-person Reading Series this summer in Telluride for local poets to gather and “pass the gourd,” connecting and sharing their work.
  • We will be awarding the ninth Chamberlain Award for lifetime Colorado poetry achievement in collaboration with Crested Butte’s Center for the Arts Mountain Words Festival May 25-29th.
  • We are planning with the Telluride Mushroom Festival for our annual MycoLicious MycoLuscious MycoLogical Poetry Show Aug. 19th in the Sheridan Opera House.
  • 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.
  • 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.
Read the Entire Spring Update

While we’ve been forced to end our membership project, we still 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 on the green button below.

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2021 Program Update

Updated information for 2021 Talking Gourds programming:

  • 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).

2020 Program Update

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

Program History

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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