Celebrating Indigenous People’s Day

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SINHASIN … As part of the Telluride Institute’s Indigenous Peoples Day celebration last month, the Liberty Bar had an early show so kids could come with their parents to hear Navajo rock duo Sihasin performing. A brother & sister combo, Jeneda and Clayton Benally showcased some of their best songs: Last One Standing, Fight like a Woman, Shine. They did a Woody Guthrie remake. One for Geronimo … And they spoke of the earth, the need for peace and love, for a healing from genocide. They were the perfect match for celebrating an historical remake of a national holiday – political, but danceable too. Most folks were avoiding the “C-word” … Even though the Benally family had to rush off for a performance at the Kennedy Center the next day, they braved van hell to make it up to Telluride before their flight east. And we were glad they did.

ANOTHER POET INTO HOSPICE … Chris Ransick was poet laureate of Denver for a term. He taught at Arapahoe Junior College. And was a poetry workshop leader at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop … Earlier this fall the Telluride Institute teamed up with the Crested Butte and Gunnison Art Centers to give Chris the Karen Chamberlain lifetime achievement award for a Colorado poet at the Gunnison Valley Literary Festival. Knowing he was gravely ill, we wanted to honor this marvelous writer and community builder before he passed. … Now his family has written from Oregon, where they moved, that Chris is in hospice, and alerted his friends for his desire for privacy as he makes his passing.

JACKFEST … Jack Mueller was an outsize figure on the Western Slope of Colorado, just as he was in San Francisco’s North Beach, hard on the heels of the Beat era. Although I lived across town in the Noe Valley neighborhood, I knew Jack, and was moved by his poetry, and his Union of Street Poets idea – which many of us in the city adopted. We’d print up poems (mimeo or photocopy) and tape them to laundromat walls, coffeehouses, buses, bars, johns. Anywhere where people might read them … Giving them away as part of the public commonwealth. I loved the idea. And loved Jack’s poetry, powerfully delivered in his gravelly stentorian style … So, when he came to live in Ridgway, just an hour away from me, his aerie on a high ridge of Log Hill Mesa became a side-track pilgrimage on the highway to Montrose. Pretty soon we all hooked up with Danny Rosen and Wendy Videlock around Grand Junction — along with Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Jim Tipton and others. We spent many a night philosophizing, creating, and enjoying poetry, laughs, a little liquor and the shared pipe … Rosen and his sidekick Kyle Harvey at Lithic Bookstore & Press in Fruita decided to have a festival in Mueller’s honor. The first was in 2016. They decided to have another this year … Maybe the biggest coup of the fest last month was in having present Jack’s former wife Judith from New Orleans, their daughter Cristina and granddaughter Olive – three generations of the Mueller family in Colorado … And great to hear Neeli Cherkovski of San Francisco explaining his Random Poetics.

TRAGEDY … For months Danny & Kyle had decided to spotlight Steve Dalachinsky and his wife Yuko Otomo from New York in the festival this year. Performance poets who’d impressed them when they’d met. Lithic put out posters. And suddenly a week before the festival Dalachinsky dies of a stroke … Nevertheless, he was present in a lot of people’s minds during the weekend. Invoked by Tate Swindell in a pièce de résistance as the last of Saturday’s open mic readers. Resonant in the full organ baritone of Eric Mingus as he read like a jazz musician improvises … But I didn’t understand why they were so taken with Dalachinsky’s work until I heard a tape Tate played of Steve harmonizing to a saxophone in a Big Apple jazz club. Amazing word riffs and sputter stutter sound poems. Mesmerizing! … Our hearts go out to Yuko.

AMOR FATI … Former Colorado Western Professor David Rothman, down from Jackson Hole where he’s Art Center head honcho now, did a brilliant explication of Jack Mueller’s poetics at the JackFest in Fruita’s Lithic bookstore beginning of this month. He noted that Jack was a student of Victor Frankl and had borrowed the title of his book Amor Fati [Lithic Press, 2013] from Nietzsche. He carefully outlined by sharing various poems how Jack had organized the convergence of a philosophical acceptance of fate with the realization of history’s great horrors in charming epigrammatic poetry. Lyrics but argument, observation and analysis nonetheless. All packed into a taco of piquant language … Highly recommended.

TRANSPARENCY … As a child I lived by the moral imprimatur of Christ’s “one true church.” Its rules shaped me. Not all for the bad. Honesty. Charity. Fairness. I keep those habits … And yet because me & mine held ourselves up to Rome’s perfectly impossible candle, our inner lights exposed lie after lie. Our young lives were embedded in them – Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and (it turns out) most of the accepted laws of geology and classical physics … When gravitational waves collide with extruded magma… When black holes and multiverses spin beyond our control. Or ken… Then it’s hard to remember we’re each just a loose node in matter’s mobile mycelia. Expanding… Doubling… Exploding…

INCIDENT IN THE CAÑON … Swerved instinctively. Just skimming the tangled back hair of a black bear ambling along Colo. 145 in the dark of the San Miguel Cañon … My rider praised my skill. I hailed my luck. … No, I avoided disaster by a whisker. As did the bear.

Art Goodtimes writes from Norwood, Colo.


THE TALKING GOURD

Omen

Red splash of a broken watermelon
tossed on the highway apron
just outside Montrose

A little further on
Same highway
Same day

An extended neon blur
of deer blood
staining the pavement

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From Art Goodtimes.