Publication and performance are the twin pillars of the poetry world. Personally, I’m a fan of crossovers, but I dig reading written poems and I love hearing performance poetry — slam, hip-hop, open mike. Or the Gourd Circle — a gathering of friends for dinner and several rounds of telling stories, poetry & song.
But poetry can be more than just outreach to an audience. For some, it is valuable personal practice. Valerie Haugen of Glenwood Springs falls in love with a new poet a day. Lorine Niedecker. Amy Lowell. Gerard Manley Hopkins. Their words, insights and stylistic breakthroughs inform her poetry. Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer of Placerville has made a lyric practice of writing a poem a day. After going on three years of this, she’s become a master of capturing language and experience. Both great personal practices. And both poets take advantage of the Web’s blogosphere to “publish” their work and explorations.
Another bright exploratory star flames out … Gregory Greyhawk was one of those giant souls, huge-hearted, a string of his own hockey teeth pearled around his neck. Brilliant, erratic. I loved being around him. Anything could happen, and sometimes did … I just ordered his book, “Wailing Heaven, Whistling in Hell” (Howling Dog Press, Berthoud, Colorado, 1996) … Gonna miss the wrap of his big arm as we caromed down a Denver sidewalk, and the wild grin of his gap-toothed smile. — Art Goodtimes, Cloud Acre
Remembering Karen Chamberlain
lanky stalk of grass
singing in the autumn wind
your voice packed with seeds — Carol Bell Ft. Collins
My dad, who never blows his cool
the day i left for Vietnam
sat down to a stack of homemade buttermilk pancakes
and poured vinegar on them, by mistake. — Dennis Fritzinger Earth First! Journal editor Berkeley
As for us, yes, the young still go to war,
And wars continue at the speed of darkness,
Not the world wars you expected, but the others,
Wars of despisals in our countries, in our cities, in other countries and cities.
Promises and solidarity collapsed, and in the confusion
justice circles this sweating planet, looking for somewhere to land. — Jackie St. Joan Excerpt from “Letter to Muriel Rukeyser at the End of the 20th Century” Denver
Rainforest Bedroom (excerpt)
…jaguar has moved into the bedroom
meadowlarks are nesting in the corner
sunfish swim in the water glass on the nightstand
black widow makes a web in your shoe
the bed is a jungle
and it’s raining emeralds — Galaxy Dancer Durango
While Considering Demolition
I ask my teacher
She says, Notice them.
What’s on the other side?
She says, You are. — Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer Placerville
Writing a column in late May destined for the High Summer issue in July while watching flakes the size of coasters build to a soggy eight-inch-deep mess on the front deck is no easy task. On the radio, the talk is of serious snow in the central Rockies, and the possibility that the intrepid souls at CDOT may not have some of the seasonal high-alpine passes open for the Memorial Day weekend. Independence Pass is 25 feet deep in places, but the locals in Aspen still hope for a regular start to summer, hot on the heels of near-record skier visits this past winter.
I haven’t been up the Roaring Fork Valley in years, not since Widespread Panic and Ratdog played something called the “Howling Wolf” at the base of Buttermilk in the late-’90s. At that time, the Flying Dog Brewpub still operated in Aspen, though the bottling operations had been moved down to Denver. The larger production facility allowed owner (and MG founder) George Stranahan, (also producer of Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey), to distribute his flagship Doggie-Style Pale Ale and the rest of the lineup in 45 states. I’m a big fan of Doggie-Style, and I always wondered at the connection between the beer, Aspen and the unique artwork on the labels.
As it turns out, George was the owner of the “Owl Farm” property in Woody Creek that was the long-time residence of the late-Hunter S. Thompson. He leased it to Hunter, and through his acquaintance, was introduced to artist Ralph Steadman. When Flying Dog began bottling beer for distribution, Ralph agreed to design the labels. His first label, for Road Dog Porter, contained the scrawled slogan, “Good Beer, No Shit.” The Colorado liquor board, apparently concerned that adults over the age of 21 would be irreversibly harmed by this bold stroke of marketing genius, pulled the beer from shelves. A four-year legal battle ensued, during which time the words, “Good Beer, No Censorship” replaced the original moniker. Flying Dog prevailed in court, and the label art was restored. Today, it can be found in any decent liquor store across the country, with the notable exception of the State of Texas, whose mixed-up liquor authorities still can’t handle that shit.
With the closure of the brewpub in 2000, Aspen was without a true local brewery until 2008, when the Aspen Brewing Company opened up shop. The brews are served in the on-site tasting room, and at notable venues in and around Aspen. I was lucky enough to run into them at a beer festival on Earth Day in Boulder. I enjoy India-Pale-Ale-style brews, and found ABC’s offering, Independence Pass IPA, to be a crisp and refreshing hop experience, and a welcome break from the current trend of double- and triple-strength concoctions out there, many of which drink like chilled Robitussin, and hit like a full bottle of the same.
That same summer, a friend and I hiked the Lost Man trail over the 4th of July, from the top of Independence Pass, to where it again intersects the highway, seven or eight miles below. Standing on the side of the road in a sweaty tie-dye with my thumb out, none of the 13 out-of-state minivans grinding up the pass in a slow line behind an RV would stop and give me a lift. As I watched them pass, a jet-black Trans-Am skidded to a stop on the gravel shoulder. Jumping in to the black leather seat, the driver, wearing aviators and a silk shirt, looks over to me and says in a Swiss/South African accent (a combination possibly heard only in Aspen), “I just watched them pass you. I used to ride up here. Now we pass them all”! Burying the pedal, he proceeds to tear up the narrow lanes of the pass with complete disregard for solid yellow lines, speed limits, other vehicles, sheer drops or blind curves. As we recklessly swerve around them, the honks and shouts from the flabbergasted minivan drivers are drowned by the deep-throated roar of the big-block, and Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” which the driver has turned up to 11. At 70 mph, he makes his move on the rental RV, and with open road now ahead, I see the hairpin just below the top of the pass where our car is parked. Not wanting to get behind the RV again, he slows to a roll and I jump out with a shout of thanks. As he screams away, I stand at the inside of the hairpin as the RV and all 13 minivans that had refused to give me a lift, roll slowly by. The shocked looks on the face of the Midwestern wives and children was great. The last guy in the line shouted as he passed, “Nice choice of Rides!” Priceless!
Erich Hennig, an avid home brewer, is the Four Corners columnist for the Rocky Mountain Brewing News. He lives in Durango, Colo.
Honey Island Swamp Band claims its Bayou Americana makes you smarter, thinner and better looking — but frontman Aaron Wilkinson also admits to being a fifth-generation North Florida redneck.
The musicians have traveled from their home base in New Orleans throughout the West to play in such fine establishments as The Goat Soup & Whiskey in Keystone and Whiskey Jacques in Ketchum, Idaho; this Fourth of July, the band, voted Best Roots Rock Artist in OffBeat’s 2010 Best of the Beat Awards, hits the Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, Ore.
Wilkinson wasn’t sure what to expect when the band began touring Colorado’s mountain towns, even though now, after years of traveling, they’re all beginning to blur together, he said.
“First time I’d ever really seen mountains, so I was all wide-eyed and full of wonder,” Wilkinson said. “Guess I kind of had an idealistic vision of what it would be like, nature and all.”
About six years ago, he and his crew followed a Telluride-area local to “secret” hot springs back in the hills.
“The city slickers in the band were huffing pretty heavy,” he said about the hike, which was a piece a cake for the locals. “You’re not prepared for that thin air, and we don’t exactly lead the healthiest lifestyles anyway. But after about an hour and a half of stopping every 50 yards so that my 55-year-old emphysemic drummer didn’t keel over and die, we come upon the spot.”
Situated at the bottom of a rocky bluff, it was gorgeous, just as advertised. Only problem: It wasn’t so secret; a rather portly man soaked in the pool with his cluster of kids — and at least a case of empty, crushed Busch cans beside him.
“He had on this bright red bandanna and a pair of those heinous reflective Oakley Blades,” Wilkinson said. “He’s all, ‘Come on in and join us,’ and we probably would have, given what we went through to get there.”
Just as the band was about to join the pool party, a train appeared on the ridge across the river, and the 6’6” man stood up, hollering and flipping off the train.
“Turns out, he’s butt-ass naked,” Wilkinson said. “Proud of it too. With his kids right there in the pool with him. Giving that train all he’s got and all God ever gave him.
“Needless to say, we didn’t join him, but then and there I realized something: Florida, Louisiana, Colorado — there are rednecks everywhere in this world, God bless ’em.”
Kimberly Nicoletti is the entertainment editor for the Summit Daily News. She lives in Silverthorne, Colo.
A good adventure-sports movie, no matter what sport it covers, usually accomplishes one thing: It makes you, the viewer, want to go out and do whatever it is those athletes are doing on film in that beautiful location, at your own speed — mountain biking, climbing, skiing, whatever. “Cold” is an achievement in that, instead of inspiring you to climb an 8,000-meter peak in winter, it makes you want to go home, curl up in the fetal position under a down comforter, and not come out.
The film begins with photographer and climber Cory Richards hunkered down in a tent at 21,959 feet, as the viewer is informed that the temperature is -51 degrees F., and can see that the inside of the tent is covered in snow. Richards asks, “What the fuck am I doing here?” And over the next 20 minutes of the film, you will ask the same thing. Richards and mountaineers Simone Moro and Denis Urubko summited 26,362-foot Gasherbrum II on Feb. 2, 2010, succeeding in the first winter ascent of an 8,000-meter peak in the Karakorum Range.
“Cold” gives you an up-front seat to all the post-holing, avalanche burials, whiteouts and the high-altitude coughs. Anson Fogel assembled Richards’ tirelessly filmed footage, and, with writing help from Kelly Cordes, won the Best Adventure Film at the 5Point Film Festival this spring. This is not three guys smiling for one moment in a summit photo. It’s real pain, cold, suffering and misery — high-altitude winter mountaineering at its best. It may not be inspiring, but it is amazing.forgemotionpictures.com
In his third book, author and University of Colorado professor James McVey takes the reader along on his experiences in the backcountry — hiking, running rivers, backcountry skiing and fishing — and provides scholarly depth in each experience, weaving history, ecology and philosophy into classic nature writing. McVey draws on 20 years of venturing into Colorado’s backcountry, from places as popular as Boulder’s Chautaqua Park to the solitude of a post-rafting season run of the Green River through Dinosaur National Monument.
The collection of essays in “The Way Home” provides rich writing with a solid balance of adventure and nature, and the question of our place in all of it. McVey writes of a day of backcountry skiing on Wolf Creek Pass: “But the truth is, something else drives us out here to the geographic backbone of the continent. What lurks there in our tangled psyches? What genetic baggage left over from the days of sabertooths and woolly mammoths?” $19.95. uofupress.com
Somebody once said to me, “You sure do a lot of things you don’t want to do!” Well, I don’t know, last week I had my feet up, cruising on Trout Lake in my little slip of a sailboat, and now I’m looking at a sign pointing out the trail to Hope Lake. Great! That’s me, Hope Lake!
So it’s Hope, hope hope, “the Boys are Marching!” Hope, hope, I hope it’s not too far! I hope, hope hope it’s really worth it! I hope there’s snow, I hope the wildflowers are out around the lake. I hope there’s not a lot of mud from the run-off to slog through, I hope there’s a rock to sit down, so I can put my ski boots on. I hope no one has to see this grizzly knee brace I have to wear. Hope I can hide my shame from the full, bright summer sunlight.
It’s okay, Peter is already near the top of the couloir, he won’t see a thing! I hope I can catch up. Catch up, up, up, and wipe the sweat out of our eyes. Hope, hip and a hop, and we’re on the top!
Peter goes first, so I can shoot a pass-by, my un-favorite type of ski photo. The Nikon goes into my jacket, and then I’m off! What a relief just to let ‘em run, after a whole winter of squeezing through the trees! I pass Peter by, because it’s just so easy to keep on going, over the sun-cups freeze-melt, long, wide turns — “SVOO-pers!” — and then you’re down. Right to the edge of the scree. But how could it be over so soon? There’s got to be more!
That’s Hope Lake — hope, hope, all the way home! What’s “Hope”? Hope is just having a project into the future. Something like, “Live to Ski Another Day.”
Charles “Chongo” Victor Tucker III is one of the most legendary dirtbags in the history of dirtbags, and probably the most-famous dirtbag in the history of Yosemite. I paid full price for his book instead of asking for a free “review copy” (as is the standard) because as Chongo says, “I live outdoors, which I guess you might call a homeless lifestyle.” He sleeps outdoors in Sacramento because, in 2005, a two-day court trial ended with Chongo being removed from Yosemite National Park, guilty of three misdemeanor violations of camping regulations.
As far as I know, this is the first-ever review of his book. What is the book? Somewhere between the “Tao Te Ching” and the “Tao of Willie”: An 89-page collection of maxims from Chongo on being bitchin’, one per page. Example: “The road to not being bitchin is paved with illusions of being so”; and “If it was bitchin once but not now, then it was never bitchin in the first place”; and “Pride derived from power is cowardice disguised as courage.” If you can’t meet Chongo — and I haven’t, besides reading his profile in the New York Times and the YouTube video on him from ad agency Ogilvy & Mather — I would guess this is the next best thing. Spiral-bound copies are $20 plus $3 shipping. chongonation.com
You’re sitting on a stool in some mountain dive bar where the music is beyond the aural spectrum your ears can handle, which is OK, because the melodic nuances were lost at the bottom of that fifth pint and shot you ordered. In this scenario, it’s not likely that you’d be musing about the origin of your historic watering hole and the various music genres that have bounced around the dance floor, but it’s staggering in more ways than the obvious to visualize what may have come before. Tap into the collective wildness of its previous incarnations and perhaps in your elevated consciousness ask yourself, “Where am I?”
… a roadhouse, honky-tonk or just a dive?
According to Dr. Chani Marchiselli, a Colorado mountain native and now a Professor of Communications at New England College, “Roadhouses developed outside of municipalities that had been subject to zoning and regulatory acts put forward by Progressive Reformers who were interested in saving cities and towns from the scourge of noisy, drunken dance halls and their attendant business and prostitution. Roadhouses developed in the teens and 1920s when they wouldn’t allow dance halls and sometimes alcohol consumption so houses moved outside (of town and city limits) to avoid regulations. They were made possible by the invention of the autos.” Although given an understandably bad rap, Dr. Marchiselli explains that teetotalers shouldn’t be bashed since their main thrust was to curtail the exploitation of women. “They were interested in banning alcohol in cities because husbands would work in dank, dirty factories, get drunk and then beat the shit out of their wives. So a lot of the Progressive Social Reformers were concerned about how wives were treated.”
Honky-tonks came later, as did the music so associated with those venues that it eventually came to bear the name. Jazz came out of the brothels of New Orleans and the nastiest honky-tonks of the West. Dr. Marchiselli adds that honky-tonks get “blamed” for some of the raunchy influence on American music, mostly ragtime and jazz. “Roadhouses were out of town; honky-tonks were basically filthy folk-music saloons and, like roadhouses, were associated with prostitution and suspension of social order. Honky-tonks were usually associated with out West and a particular kind of music and they were really rowdy … and mountain honky-tonks were way off the maps (as far as unruliness). Hymnals actually influenced country and blues.” Country music didn’t show up in honky-tonks until the 1930s.
Craig McManus, a popular KBUT radio (kbut.org, Crested Butte) country music DJ and bass player in rock-and-roll bands for a couple of decades, thinks the true honky-tonk is either dying or just plain dead and, if nothing else, on its last breath in the mountains. “The road house is usually in between two small towns, like the Almont Resort between Crested Butte and Gunnison or The Sleepy Cat between Meeker and Buford,” both of which McManus has frequented. Although The Sleepy Cat was turned into a private residence by new owners, long-time owners of the original roadhouse, the Wix family, plan to eventually build another close by to appease the pleas from area locals who miss the joint’s good times. The Almont Resort, with some of its cabins dating back to the late-1800s, is still a place for a raucous evening of drinks, live music and dancing.
Between Bond and Wolcott, State Bridge was another off-the-beaten-path roadhouse with all the fixins’ of music, dance and rowdiness that unfortunately burned to the ground in 2007 when a vexed burglar doused the resistant ATM machine with gasoline and set it ablaze. Scott Stoughton, the current Social Chairman of the newly rebuilt Eagle County lodge, says it was once a haven for trappers, traders, miners and cowboys. “Before the fire, since the early days, it was a little hotel, a brothel, a trading post and later a speakeasy during Prohibition. It rebounded with rafting and music throughout the 1980s and ’90s for bikers, rafters, fisherman and hippies. It was rocking until the fire.” Its grand reopening last month (June 2011) included concerts and music on the newly rebuilt stages.
McManus observed that there weren’t really any rules for roadhouses and honky-tonks unless patrons went past the unwritten allowable, and you could get away with even more after midnight. “These were venues where the people living out in the rural mountain areas could meet, listen to live bands, drink and not worry about the laws and the rules. On most occasions, you could find a crap game or two going on in the bar.” Music that was played in more-isolated honky-tonks tended to be good-time country bands. “I talked to somebody who played rock-and-roll in a country bar and every time they played that type of song it would rain beer bottles. They had been hired by mistake because of a misunderstood name the band had. But if you’re musically inappropriate in a place like this, the audience will let you know physically that you’re in the wrong place. I have played behind a caged stage to protect bands from flying burgers and beer bottles.”
McManus feels the death of honky-tonks is because of several reasons, “One reason is the DUI, but that’s one of the reasons they had their own cabins. Secondly, country music — true country music — has lost most of its venues and there are less country bands regionally. People aren’t going out as much anymore, either. I remember the honky-tonks’ hardwood floor with sawdust, a lot of dancing and drinking and you wouldn’t dare ask for a martini because it was a shot-and-beer place … American beers, thank you. And you better not talk to any pretty girls unless you know who their boyfriend is or was because he may still be there and it doesn’t matter if he ain’t seeing her anymore — you ain’t.” McManus describes the basic difference between a roadhouse honky-tonk and a dive as, “The number of Harleys out front. If it’s a honky-tonk, there would be pickup trucks in the parking lot. If you see one SUV, move on … it’s been turned.”
Although true mountain roadhouses and honky-tonks have either transformed or disappeared into the setting sun, saloons with their odoriferous air of fermentation, dance floors and music are still alive and well at high-altitude locales and worth much exploration … which surely means a future Mountain Music story of its own.
Dawne Belloise is a freelance writer, photographer, traveler and musician living in a tiny cottage with a ginormous cat on an alley at the end of the road in Crested Butte’s paradise. A feature writer for the Crested Butte News-Weekly, her musings and photography have been published in numerous mags and rags around the planet. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
After being named poet laureate of Colorado’s Western Slope, it’s been wonderful to hook up with poet laureate of the Colorado Springs region, Jim Ciletti. David Mason of that same area is Colorado’s state poet laureate. My good friend Joan Logghe is poet laureate of Santa Fe (her new book, “The Singing Bowl,” from the University of New Mexico Press in Albuquerque, is a dazzler). California’s poet laureate was a classmate of mine in the writing department of San Francisco State, Carol Muske-Dukes. And finally, Elle Metrick of Norwood (who’s editor of the local paper, the Post) has taken the baton from Rosemerry Wahtola-Trommer and is the new San Miguel County poet laureate. It’s a nice way to honor poets who are often invisible to the community at large. This puts them out in the public eye. If your town or county wants to create such an honorary position, get a hold of me at email@example.com and I can send you some draft resolutions.
This month’s featured book and poet is Norman Shaefer’s “The Sunny Top of California: Sierra Nevada Poems & A Story”(La Alameda Press, Albuquerque, 2010). It’s beautifully designed by master bookmaker JB Bryant, has an Obata woodblock on the cover and lively poems (and a story) that will charm lovers of mountains and verse in the same way that Chinese poets memorialized the mountains of their land. — Art Goodtimes
My stubble grows white
among a hundred granite peaks.
Passions are never easily put aside.
Edging across a narrow arête,
manteling an airy summit block;
the same thing that makes you live
can kill you in the end. — Norman Schaefer from “The Sunny Top of California” (La Alameda Press, Albuquerque, 2010)
Easy to say,
hard to clean — Jack Mueller Hermit of Log Hill Colorado
I see you. Yes. You are
the impossible route
up granite, seen only
one move at a time,
found more by fingertip
I see you. Yes. You are
the line through trees
in deep powder, seen
then lost, visible
to the knees, a sense
of give, then ground.
I see you. Yes. You are
the smooth tongue,
the reflection of sky
leading the way through
white churn water
where the line is fine,
a single oar-dip
and flip. — Elle Metrick San Miguel County Poet Laureate Norwood, CO
At the Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival
like wild hummingbirds
we gather at the feeder
gulping poetry — Carol Bell Haiku a Day Practice Fort Colliins
May the road
rise up to greet you
as you face down
fall upon it. — Danny Rosen Stargazing Mage of Lithic Press Fruita