April 2008

Bards, get ready! Talking Gourds is here

By Art Goodtimes

TALKING GOURDS … Pull those dusty manuscripts out of the closet. Start practicing lyrics in front of the mirror. The Telluride Writers Guild, the Ah Haa School for the Arts, and the Wilkinson Library invite you to Colorado’s oldest poetry festival, held on the Western Slope since 1989, with its emphasis on performance and the bardic tradition – Talking Gourds, April 23-27, in Telluride … Celebrate National Poetry Month with singer/songwriter/poet Vanessa Boyd, fresh from New York City and Burning Man, as well as teacher/poet/ author of the internationally celebrated “Wage Peace,” Judyth Hill of Rockmirth, N.M. … Join regional wordslingers of multiple genres performing in the shadow of the Rockies at slams, on stage, over sidewalk mochas on Main Street. Featured poets and performers include Mark Todd’s WordHorde student poets of Western State College in Gunnison; the Verse-Converse All-Stars from Taos, Peter Anderson of Pilgrimage magazine in Crestone; North Beach legend Jack Mueller; Denver’s Roc ’em Soc ’em (made up of the amazing Day Acoli of the Mercury’s Café Nuba, slam ace Bianca Mikahn, and the incredible Oracle Speaks); Jude Janett of the much-mourned SPARROWS in Salida; zoEy bEnally, Tish Ramirez and JR Bluehouse from the Navajo Nation; writer/teachers Sue Ellen Campbell and John Calderazzo both of CSU/Fort Collins; Wendy Videlock; Luis Lopez and John Nizalowski of Grand Junction, Deb Brody of Santa Fe; Danny Rosen of Fruita; Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer of Placerville; Joe Lothamer and George Sibley of Gunnison; Haz Said of Durango; Gary Brower of Placitas; the Free Radical Railroad (Mike Adams of Lafayette; James Taylor III of Walsenburg, and Phil Woods of Denver); Julie Cummings and Kit Muldoon of Denver; Lindamarie Luna of Paonia; Harold Carr of Salt Lake City; Gary Chorré of Albuquerque; Hopi Logghe of Puebla; Elle Metrick and Sienna Huebner of Norwood; Dino Delano of Denver & more … Plus, the Wilkinson Library will co-host a Telluride Slam on Wednesday night at 6 p.m., offering $500 in prize monies. Thursday noon there’s a memorial hike to Bear Creek honoring the late Way of the Mountain guru Dolores LaChapelle, whose ecological writings inspired Gourds. Thursday night the Wilkinson Library will show last year’s Tellus Award film, “Committing Poetry in a Time of War,” with featured poet/activists from Albuquerque, Bill Nevins and Priscilla Candelaria y Baca, as well as this year’s Tellus Award-winning film (to be announced) … Gourds will also be hosting the 11th Mark Fischer Poetry Prize with hundreds of dollars in prizes and a first annual Pandora Award honoring a Colorado poetry publisher. Friday and Saturday feature lectures, performances, open mikes and workshops. The festival ends Sunday noon with a brunch and Talking Gourd circle in Placerville … For more info about Gourds, check the web sites: http://coyotekiva.org/t-gourds.html or www.ahhaa.org/writers_guild or contact Art Goodtimes at gourds@paleohippie. com. … Individual event tickets can be purchased at the door, or discounted full event tickets are available in advance through Telluride Tickets (tellurideticket.com) or the Ah Haa School (ask for Paul), 970-728-3886 (both are credit-card-friendly). Full festival price for the five-day event is $120. Some scholarships are available. For lodging or scholarship info, contact Elle Metrick at 970-327-4067. Talking Gourds is produced by the Telluride Writers Guild and the Ah Haa School for the Arts together with the Wilkinson Library and made possible through the generosity of the Telluride Commission for Arts & Special Events;, the Telluride Watch newspapers, ResortQuest lodging, Marketing Telluride, Inc., the Sheridan Foundation, Stan & Toni Abrams, Elaine, Fred & Elise Fischer, Eric & Rosemerry Trommer




pouring language
like Helen Frankenthaler
poured acrylic

while smoking
& waving his arms
with all the wild

cryptic play of
free electricity

NAVAJO-SIBERIAN AXIS … Dr. Jim Kari, an old friend and a noted emeritus linguist specializing in Athabaskan tongues at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks (UAF), was a featured speaker at Talking Gourds a dozen years ago. Recently he was convener of a ground-breaking conference in Fairbanks at the end of February, the Dene-Yeniseic Symposium. At that event, a long-sought connection between Siberian and North American language families was convincingly demonstrated by linguists from Washington and Alaska … Professor Edward Vajda of Western Washington University (Bellingham), a specialist on the Ket language isolate spoken by a shrinking number of elders along the Yenisei River of central Siberia, has clarified the dauntingly complex morphology and phonology of Ket and its Yeniseic relatives. Vajda showed that there are systematic and numerous parallels between Ket and the Na-Dene proto-language reconstructed to account for the modern Tlingit and Eyak languages and the Athabaskan language family (whose members include Gwich'in, Koyukon, Dena’ina and others of Alaska, Hupa of California, and Navajo of Arizona/New Mexico) … The comparison was made possible by recent advances in the analysis of Tlingit phonology and Tlingit-Athabaskan-Eyak presented at the same symposium by Prof. Jeff Leer of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and by earlier work by Prof. Michael Krauss of UAF. Working independently, Vajda and the Alaska linguists have arrived at abstract stem shapes and ancestral wordforms displaying too many idiosyncratic parallels to be explained by anything other than common descent ... The comparison also shows that Haida, sometimes associated with Na-Dene, is not related. The distance from the Yeniseian range to the most distant Athabaskan languages is the greatest overland distance covered by any known language spread not using wheeled transport or sails. Archaeologist Prof. Ben Potter of UAF speculated that the Na-Dene speakers may have descended from some of the earliest colonizers of the Americas, who eventually created the successful and long-lived Northern Archaic tool tradition … Historical linguist Prof. Eric P. Hamp of the University of Chicago has called this a really large event in historical linguistics. Basically a direct relationship has been established between a group of Siberian languages and a large group of American languages … Kari added, “While I only know about Athabaskan languages (those Na-Dene tongues distributed in Canada and the United States), here are some generalizations. Dene- Yeniseic is clearly the most widespread language family on earth held by a people with foot-based modes of transport. The recent opinions among Alaska’s leading archaeologists suggest that the 10,000-12,000 Before the Present (BP) period is the most likely time-frame for the Na-Dene to have entered Alaska. Since common D-Y must be some time prior to then, it may turn out that Dene-Yeniseic is the oldest language family on earth with this degree of resolution.” … The Dene-Yeniseic Symposium web page is at www.uaf.edu/anlc/dy2008.html …

DAD’S SWEARING … I’ve been in California for the past couple weeks caring for my dad, who was having health problems, but has managed to rally and recover … Although I’m not sure it’s a good sign (or a bad one) in an 88-year-old man, Vincenzo Bontempi has developed a habit of cussing up a blue streak at the mere mention of President Bush’s name, or even at random moments during his waking hours … “That #&@*%$*!,” he growls, sometimes three and four times for emphasis … Now I’m not one to take offense at colorful language, and cussing seems a powerful evocation of emotion, but the incongruity of a whitehaired patriarch of a very patriotic nature (his custom has been to fly the flag daily in front of his suburban home) exploding into expletives four, five, sometimes 10 times a day has been unsettling even to me – a live-and-letlive hippie … But for my dad, he rails against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have taken so many lives, the lies that got us there, the economy in shambles because of it, the compromised international human-rights reputation of the U.S. after Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and this administration’s defense of torture …. “That #&@*%$*!,” he growls.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner.