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A second helping of ‘Poetry on a Platter’

Article by Lynda La Rocca

Poetry – April 2002 – Colorado Central Magazine

IT PROMISES to be a feast that will leave everyone hungry for more. The second annual “Poetry on a Platter” festival is coming to Salida April 8-10. The first stop on a six-day poetic journey that continues in Montrose before concluding in Paonia on April 13, “Poetry on a Platter” will feature a series of workshops, readings, discussions, and open-microphone events hosted by two nationally known poets and three regional poets from Colorado’s Western Slope.

“Our festival honors and celebrates National Poetry Month,” says Kathy Berg, special projects librarian for the Salida Regional Library.

“This is the slow time of the year in our mountain communities, when people are looking for something to do,” adds Berg, who coördinates the event in concert with two library counterparts in Montrose and Paonia. ” ‘Poetry on a Platter’ provides an opportunity for local poetry fans to interact with established poets and gain insight into the creative process. It offers the entire community a chance to enjoy fine entertainment, learn about poetry, and have a great time.”

Events, which are free to the public (no reservations required), will be held at the Salida Regional Library and Bongo Billy’s Salida Café. All five poets will also host special student programs at the high schools of each participating community.

On tap as this year’s presenters are:

David Lee, Utah’s first poet laureate and head of Southern Utah University’s Department of Language & Literature. The author of 13 books, whose most recent work is News from Down to the Café: New Poems, (Copper Canyon Press, 1999), Lee is a recipient of the Western States Book Award and has been nominated for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

Marilyn L. Taylor, who teaches Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Taylor’s poetry has appeared in literary journals ranging from The American Scholar and Poetry to The Formalist. She is the author of five books of poetry.

Carol Bell, a retired pharmaceutical chemist who is a founder and co-facilitator of the Glenwood Springs Arts Council Writers’ Workshop.

Bell, who lives on a ranch south of Silt, has published poetry in a number of magazines and anthologies.

Karen Chamberlain, a Glenwood Springs resident and former senior writer and associate producer for the PBS television nature series Wild America.

Chamberlain, a co-founder of the Aspen Writers’ Foundation, is currently working on two novels and a poetry collection.

L. Luis Lòpez, a teacher of Greek and Roman Classical Literature, Ancient Greek, Latin, and Mythology at Mesa State College in Grand Junction.

Lòpez, the author of two books of poetry, is also a playwright whose play, Día de Visitaciones, has enjoyed two runs in Albuquerque, NM, and one in San Antonio, TX.

The poetry of Bell, Chamberlain, and Lòpez is included in the anthology, The Geography of Hope: Poets of Colorado’s Western Slope. (See my review in the October, 1999 Colorado Central).

MAJOR SPONSORS of “Poetry on a Platter” include the American Library Association, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Colorado Council on the Arts. A large number of local and regional businesses and organizations are also providing financial support and a variety of in-kind donations ranging from lunch to lodging.

“There’s been an outpouring of generosity and so much support,” Berg reports. “People want to be a part of this, and so they’ve been eager to help.”

“Poetry on a Platter” follows on the heels of Salida’s wildly successful “Sparrows” poetry festival, held in February.

So how can a small community support two separate poetry gatherings in such a short period of time?

“We’re not competitive at all,” Berg explains. “‘Sparrows’ is a little more performance-oriented, while ‘Platter’ features more nationally known poets. We [the directors of both festivals] talk together and coordinate. The success of both events is really a testimony to our hunger for culture. There are so many residents here — and in Montrose and Paonia — who look forward to participating in the variety of cultural events their communities offer.”

And “Poetry on a Platter” promises to be another soul-satisfying repast. For more information, contact Kathy Berg at the Salida Regional Library, 719-539-4826.

Lynda La Rocca writes many things, including poetry, from her home in Twin Lakes.