January 2011

Poetry is alive and well in the region

By Art Goodtimes

FARMINGTON … I was delighted to be invited down to the sumptuous Farmington Public Library to share a poetry stage with my fellow anthologized bards from the newly published “New Poets of the American West” edited by Lowell Jaeger (Many Voices Press, Montana, 2010) … The Northwest New Mexico Arts Council teamed up with the library to host the event, which included event organizer Venaya Yazzie (Diné of the Manyhogans Clan/Hopi), a poet and painter whose family lives at the foot of Huerfano Peak and who attends the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque as a graduate student in Teacher Education; Tacey Atsitty (Diné of the Sleep Rock People / born for the Tangle People from Arizona), a poet attending Cornell University as an MFA graduate student who recently won a Truman Capote Writing Fellowship; Tucson’s first poet laureate now living in Durango, William Pitt Root; his wife Pamela Uschuk, American Book Award winner and professor at Ft. Lewis College in Durango; and yours truly.

SHERWIN BITSUI … Best of all, after performing in Farmington, we got to drive a few miles to the Bloomfield High School to hear acclaimed Diné poets Sherwin Bitsui and Orlando White perform, as well as experience a fascinating lecture on Navajo poetry in English and Diné by Southern Illinois University’s anthropological linguist Dr. Anthony K. Webster – all part of a program titled “Celebrating Navajo Poetry” sponsored by the Bloomfield High School English Department, the Nashdoi Club and the Bisti Writing Project … Sherwin combines modern styles and techniques to bridge the gulf between his two languages, two cultures, the historical realities of our present moment and the victor/vanquished past we all share. He has two excellent books out, “Shapeshift” (Univ. of Arizona Press, Tucson, 2003) and the book he read from in Bloomfield, “Flood Song” (Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA, 2009) … Highly recommended.



Norwood Hill

Much gratitude
to Mid West Rockfall for
putting up wire mesh aprons &
dislodging the roadcut’s rim-edge rocks

Inexplicably, the state highway engineers
skipped the spot with the most rock
fallen plus a few pendulous
chunks of cliff

that’ll keep us
alert & still looking up
& down the thousand feet
to the wild & scenic San Miguel

ORLANDO WHITE … With an MFA from Brown University, Orlando teaches at Diné College in Arizona, where he lives, and has a first book out, “Bone Light” (Red Hen Press, Pasadena, CA, 2009). He’s published in some excellent magazines, and has focused on the English alphabet -- writing dazzling meditations on the history, shape, pictorial antecedents and insinuations of the letters in our own writing system, all with the sensibilities of his Diné heritage … As it turns out, Orlando and I first met some 10 years ago in Bluff, at a poetry event there, when I first got to hear him read … In Bloomfireld, Orlando had a captivating visual concrete poetry powerpoint to accompany his reading. It’s wonderful to see young Navajo poets exploring avant-garde English traditions to share their own Rez culture and sensibilities … Highly recommended.

CONFESSIONS OF AN ENERGY PIG … Okay, I’ve been working on my power bill to try and reduce my carbon footprint, but you got to understand – my country bungalow is a fixer-upper gone bad, or at least under-capitalized (four ex-wives, three kids and a stepkid or three take their toll, love ‘em though I do) … And it’s close to an allelectric house. I just don’t trust gas (natural or unnatural). So the heat’s electric with a woodburner backup (when I’m home to tend the stove). Since I have to keep three buildings from freezing, my coal-generated energy usage is high … Last October I was burning up 38 kilowatt hours a day. This October I got it down to 24 kWh per day, which is great. Except that a month earlier this year (in September) I was only using 7 kWh per day … Which means outfitting a house and kitchen, as well as heating a studio and wellhouse all electric (oink oink), leaves me hogging an awful lot of carbon, regardless of how Green I like to think I am.

DON CORAM … Had a very nice breakfast with our new 58th House District representative from Montrose. He surprised this paleohippie by being a bit of the social outlaw (with an older-fashioned Rancher Republican live-and-let-live attitude) mixed with the smart fiscal conservative outlook of a businessman (which we all need to learn with the current economic climate change) … Plus, he told good stories (and funny jokes) … His ownership of the popular Coffee Trader in Montrose (where I often meet with agency line officers for private discussions) was a bit out-of-character for a mine owner and operator, who’s done reclamation work as well as uranium mining all over the Western Slope. In fact, he’s operated mines in San Miguel County (out near Slick Rock) and even has in-laws in our area … Just an hour or so chatting and you can tell he was on his feet running even before the new Legislature had started up – championing a bill to create a sixcounty economic entity, along the lines of a regional public-lands tourism loop, proposed by Richard Harding, going from Montrose to Gunnison and Crested Butte back to Paonia and Delta. Economic development for the district – exactly what has to be government’s first priority … Coram had lots of good ideas. Expressed a willingness to work with all sides. And asked for a chance to speak to the wider Telluride community, perhaps through one of its Intergovernmental meetings … Politics never fails to surprise me.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner.