From closeted poets scribbling away in their bedside journals to cowboy poets, the Roaring Fork Valley where I live for half the year, hosts a dynamic array of word-smithy green-thumbs. Like your third twice removed cousin on your great aunt’s brother’s side of the family, poetry has been fitting and starting like a wild tomato plant improbably growing against a southwesterly facing fence.
Maybe poetry is doing the same thing where you live, or maybe not. Maybe it only comes out at night. Or wears rolled up hipster pant cuffs. Or sits cloistered on the doily of the little old lady who lives down the lane. But more than likely poetry is rawring like the Tawny Scrawny Lion. Making itself heard. Out here, in a valley comprised of eleven communities, total population a little over 30,000, not only do weekly poetry groups like the Carbondale Poet’s Co-Op meet, but there are also monthly readings in Aspen (www.aspenpoetsociety.com) and Carbondale at the Third Street Center coffee house. The RFV hosts the Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival (www.thunderrivertheater.com) and the world-class Aspen Summer Words (www.aspenwriters.org). Poetry, juicy as it is, even occasionally wanders into Beer Works during Carbondale Bike Week in the guise of a “Limerick Contest” (a personal favorite).
But what I really want to tell you about wild tomato plants and distant cousins is that if you were to take a peek at that southerly facing wall you would have seen the recent release of Train Dance by Jon Wells, Ephedra by Karen Chamberlain, and you would find, at this very moment, not one, not two, but three brand-new books of poetry by Roaring Fork Valley Residents: Night Shift by Karen Glenn, Holy Funk by Kim Nuzzo, and Naked Underneath by Valerie Haugen. Wild, yes. Magnificent, yes. Juicy, yes. Five poetry book releases in the last yearish. That's a one in 6,000 chance if you lived in this corner of Colorado you might have a poetry book published. Those odds are the goods.
Before I share a brief sampling of the goods, I'd like to hear from your poetic punk aces what might be happening in your corner of the world. Like if there was a light bright light up of the United States, where would the hot poetry corners be? And what places are poet-less. Sad, sad, poet-less places. Not that I'm asking anyone to move there. As for the three recent books launched this summer in the RFV:
Karen Glenn’s poems in Night Shift tend to focus themselves in a lyrical gathering of detail and story, sometimes as remembrances, sometimes as sketches, and sometimes as imagined wanderings. Her most powerful and clear writing comes in poems like “Korea” which unfold unerringly to their finish: “My father is sleeping in that tent again,/ where every night the rats still run and run/ across his body, and every night/ he still slaps them—hard--away from him,/ never waking, never knowing/ that it’s my mother’s hand, soft/ against his chest, reaching/ for him in the dark."
If concrete poetry isn’t your gig, Kim Nuzzo’s Holy Funk is truly a unique collection of manipulated, painted Polaroid photographs in combination with poetic lines “meant to encourage the reader toward the spiritual wisdom of unknowing, with intent, bafflement and wonder.” Lines like “it will look like sunflowers on fire/ we will not have a name for it” and “all moments of immense contradiction/ you bless me” keep me returning and irreverently riffling through the outer and inner spaces of Holy Funk.
And finally, the blood and fire of Valerie Haugen’s Naked Underneath. This collection of poems is not for wusses, weenies, or brautwursts. It is for the guts. Valerie's poems are RED HOT. Hot. Red. Yes. A whole book of poems that are strong, bright, and fight for their right. To survive. And party. A favorite poem, “To the Lilac Eating the Porch,” goes “Yes, come… eat the porch./ I want you to eat the porch./ That was my plan from the start./ Just so you know… the wisteria on the other side/ is gaining on you. Bloom, lilac, bloom.”
Poets, poets, everywhere. Bloom, poets, bloom!
For an explanation of the poetry map above, click here.