Grand Junction of Poetry, 2013
Scattered notes from the second annual Western Colorado Writers’ Forum (WCWF) conference, “The Language of the Fantastic”, in Grand Junction
En su vacío
se llena de recuerdos.
de los infinitos marchitos,
donde se alojan
—from “La Memoria” by Bella Clara Ventura
“In its vacuum / pregnant with memories. / The moves / yesterday / of the withered infinities, / where attachments abide.” (translation by Ogbuji)
A “withered infinity” is a useful turn at an image of poetry itself, an entire universe of expression, but within the vessel of human frailty. Nothing underscores the humanity of poetry like a good festival. The Western Colorado Writers’ Forum (WCWF) organization held its second annual conference in Grand Junction this past weekend, styled “The Language of the Fantastic.” I had the great pleasure of attending the first one, and was delighted to be invited back to serve on a panel on publishing work and participating in a community of writers and readers. I also participated in the Friday night reading, offering a few poems from my forthcoming collection Ndewo, Colorado (Kelsay Books, 2013). Cameron Scott, poet and fly-fishing guide also read, with a little help from MC Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer.
So whither the infinity of Colorado’s poetic communion? I can confirm again that it is in excellent shape. I met many of the folks I’ve come to know over the past couple of years, and several new ones. The organizers did a great job of mixing in energy from elsewhere, including from Bogotá as Bella Clara Ventura joined us to read us her poems in Spanish, with translation to English offered by local students. It turned out that Bella also speaks fluent French, so she and I conversed a great deal in that language, and along with her friends who were also in attendance, we enjoyed a variety of asides, including of the silly sort when Bella made a face of her plate of food.
A personal highlight for me was sitting around a table with David Rothman, a very kind friend and phenomenon who has 3 books of poetry published in 2013 alone, and Wendy Videlock, a poet whose visual artwork was the luminous background of the conference. We discussed the joys and idiosyncrasies of writing poetry in Colorado and in the world generally. David indulged me in a long discussion of my own ambitions as a poet of West African roots, and he inspired me with some very astute analysis of the work of his own one-time teacher Derek Walcott, including a joint reading of Walcott’s much-anthologized “A Far Cry from Africa”.
And when we waded in the tumbling foam
Its roar and hush kept calling us back home
To join that great league of forgetfulness
Again, full fathom five and motionless
—from “Somewhere at Sea” by David Rothman
And on the other end of the Parnassian, Rosemerry, Cameron, Barbara Reese and I indulged in a good old fashioned house party with a few other attendees.
In a field of wheat,
on a dragon’s tongue,
at the bottom of
a bottle of rum,
at the axiom
of a metaphor
and a bad pun,
—from ”On Being Asked Where I Have Been” by Wendy Videlock
I came away with some fine seeds for memory, including a lovely painting by Videlock and some books by Danny Rosen’s intrepid Lithic Press, including Amor Fati, new and selected poems by Jack Mueller, a transplant from San Francisco who has become one of the soulful elders of Colorado poetry.
Obey the poem—
trust what emerges
it belongs to a book
and not to me
—from “How To” by Jack Mueller
I’ll close by thanking the indefatigable Sandy Door, who does such a wonderful job spearheading the conference. I also got a poster of her Lithic Press book, Desert Water, which I’d bought and read at the last conference. I look forward to the next one, and until then, I’ll keep in abode the many personal attachments from the withered infinities of this land’s poetry.
(For more on Colorado poets and poetry follow @ColoradoPoetry on Twitter.)