June 2016

Julie Shavin wins $1,000 Fischer Prize

By Art Goodtimes

LIT FEST … It’s the 19th year of the annual Fischer poetry contest, and the awards, plus the number of contestants, keep getting bigger. As contest judge Southwest poet/provocateur Judyth Hill reviewed 330 poems from 130 poets living in 20 Western states. … The Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds poetry program announced that Hill chose Julie Shavin of Colorado Springs as winner of the $1000 first-place Fischer poetry award … Other Colorado poets also scored big as finalists, with $100 going to Kathleen Willard of Fort Collins. The other two finalists were both ties, with the following poets each receiving $50: Cameron Scott, who splits his time between Willowa, Oregon and Basalt, Colo.; Kathleen McClung of San Bruno, Calif.; Maureen Ash of Wisconsin; and Gail Waldstein of Denver … For the last three years, the award ceremonies have been part of the Telluride Literary Arts Fest that happen in May, just before the Memorial Day weekend’s MountainFilm Festival. Both Shavin and Willard attended this year and read their winning poems, Inside Outside In and Song of Myself X … Paonia’s Peter Heller was the LifFest featured writer this year. On May 20 he read poetry at the free reading following the award ceremony, which also featured yours truly channeling Judyth Hill, who couldn’t attend, by reading her Men Need Space; David Rothman doing Chis Ransick (who also had to cancel), and cracking us up with a Hulk monologue from his Superher-with-a-Lisp series; and the dramatic Sarah Pletts of Aspen, New York, and London taking us for a sea ride with panache … Heller took part in a panel on environmental journalism on Saturday the 21st, and at the Sunday Brunch he was featured speaker. He retold the tale of his inability to rescue an expedition mate on honeymoon, trapped after a raft flip, as a rising Tibetan river rose over his head. Recalled a ballsy coldcall pitch to an Outside editor who took a chance & jumpstarted his career … It was a captivating look at his books, his life story, his writing techniques — salted with quips & sly asides. And all of it from a genuinely nice fellow … No wonder he lives on the Western Slope.

THE TALKING GOURD

Oh Sister
Where Art Thou?

Seamy, soul-soused & dionysiac
Luring us out to the Depot deck
howling in canine harmonies

as Big Moon crested Ballard
We spent the rest of the night
dancing wildly!

All steamy from three acts
with The Burl Sistahs -- siren
saints & sassafras sinners

McRedeye sez,
Yowsers!

FISCHER PRIZE … With my colleague Elaine Fischer having resigned from her commission seat to focus on her health, we announced at the awards ceremony Friday that the annual poetry competition will be known from now on as the Fischer Prize — to honor both Mark for his love of language and poetry riddles, and Elaine for her masterful paintings and her championing of the arts.

LITERARY BURLESQUE Oh Sister, Where Art Thou was the highlight of the weekend. Eleven women and one man put on an amazing show in three acts, with six principal poets doing their work in the context of a kind of revival meeting that morphed into Homeric myth. Director Amy Irvine called it “a kind of molting, of shackles and old skin.” Lots of things were taken off, both figuratively and literally … As one of the featured poets — along with Kierstin Bridger, Erika Moss Gordon, Corinne Platt, and Samantha Tisdel Wright — Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer explained that the show moved “from how we are shackled, to how we break free, to how we return with this freedom to the world of the shackler” … Craig Childs was the male foil to the feminine action, playing a preacher who starts out freeing women from their chains only to find himself roped to an Odyssean mast as the freed women flaunt their stuff. The poems were incorporated into the story with costumes, props, a full Greek chorus of prim church ladies, a quartet of harmonizing singers, some videos – it was fullon theater, using poetry performance as solo monologues – the most effective marriage of performance and poetry I’ve ever seen … It had me teased, tantalized, thumped & thoroughly rattled. Hysterical with laughter. Verging on tears. … Bravo! Bravo!

GRAB BAG … Daniel Berrigan has passed. One of those selfless, dedicated, Catholic reformers who couldn’t take the status quo lying down. He got up, protested, got arrested, and spend time in prison for peace. One of my great heroes … Things are heating up at Colorado Counties, Inc. (CCI), where progressive counties have submitted a proposal for the statewide group to oppose the transfer of federal public lands to the states. The transfer has been a rallying cry for constitutional conservatives from Utah to Colorado’s own Montezuma County. San Miguel County’s commissioners have unanimously issued a resolution opposing such a transfer.

SAN MIGUEL GREENS … As I finish up my last of 20 years as county commissioner (following a county vote last year to reimpose term limits of eight years on county commissioners but no other elected officials locally), the Green Party wasn’t able to field a candidate to vie for my seat … But we’re having a Green Party meet on Thursday, June 9, at the county meeting room in Telluride. Call or text 970-729-0220 for more info.

WEEKLY QUOTA … “The law was made for humankind, and not humankind for the law.” – Alexis the Athenian

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner.