CARBONDALE — As Thunder River Theatre Company’s Valerie Haugen launched a poetry festival in memory of a close friend in 2011, the notion of encouragement kept coming to mind.
“When my friend Karen Chamberlain died and I heard other people speaking of her, I was stunned by the similarity of experiences,” said Haugen, TRTC’s founding associate artist. “She supported writers and artists with an unflagging enthusiasm. She was a continual source of inspiration and encouragement, and I wondered how, even though she was gone, her inspiration could live on.”
Collaborating with TRTC executive director Lon Winston, Haugen put into motion a three-day festival honoring poetry and Chamberlain’s encouraging networking ways in the writing realm.
“With the help of Lon, and many friends of Karen’s and friends of the theatre, the poetry festival was born,” Haugen said.
The fourth Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival, themed “Beneath the Surface,” takes place this weekend at TRTC, 67 Promenade. The event begins today with performances at 7 p.m., and includes workshops and open mics Saturday, and a continental breakfast, live music and poetry readings Sunday.
“This is our fourth annual festival, and I am still in awe of the inspiration that comes from the origin of Karen’s belief that everyone’s voice should and must be heard,” Haugen said.
One way the annual poetry series encourages young writers is by offering financial assistance scholarships to high school students and college students in need. Haugen said helping others, especially those with a passion for writing, is in the spirit of Chamberlain’s caring qualities.
“I am so thankful she was my friend, and I am thankful that her inspiration has lived on for so many people, even those who never knew her,” she said. “So many poems are born at Thunder River Theatre, and many are born in the days after when we are all still sailing on Karen’s legacy.”
Haugen said encouragement is a major goal of the weekend’s poetry festival featuring poetry workshops, open mics and live music.
“The festival always leaves the people who attend juiced up,” she said. “I get letters from people saying, ‘I am still writing’ weeks or months afterward.”
Chamberlain died Sept. 11, 2010, from cancer. She was the poetry editor for “Mountain Gazette” magazine and established the Aspen Writers’ Foundation. She also co-founded Nature Within, a summer outdoor writers’ program based at a Colorado wildlife sanctuary, and served as literary coordinator for the Canyonlands Field Institute’s Desert Writers’ Workshop, near Moab. She also started the Glenwood Springs Writers’ Workshop as a support group for Roaring Fork Valley creatives.
Poets featured in the weekend’s Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival at TRTC include:
• Art Goodtimes and Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
Goodtimes and Trommer are co-teaching the “Sacred Land: LaChapelle & Stafford” workshop which answers the question, “What does it mean to speak for the land, to let the land speak through you?” The pair will discuss Colorado ecology theorist Dolores LaChapelle and poet and pacifist William Stafford of Oregon, exploring bardic poetry.
Trommer’s poetry has appeared in “O Magazine,” on the radio program “A Prairie Home Companion” with Garrison Keillor, and in her children’s lunch boxes. Her favorite one-word mantra is “adjust.”
Goodtimes was the founding poetry editor of “Earth First! Journal” and poetry co-editor of “Wild Earth.” He served as Western Slope Poet Laureate from 2010-2012, named at the Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival. He is poetry editor for “Fungi” magazine and is publishing a new book, “Looking South to Lone Cone,” from Western Eye Press, this year. He published “Embracing the Earth” in 1984 and “As If the World Really Mattered” in 2007.
• Luis Lopez
In Lopez’s workshop, “The Ekphrastic Poem,” attendees will read and discuss well-known titles such as “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by romantic poet John Keats, and will try their hand at writing their own poetry. Art objects, especially paintings, inspire this type of literature.
Lopez is a professor emeritus from Colorado Mesa University where he taught English, mythology, ancient Greek and Latin. He was director of the Academic Honors Program there, and holds a doctorate in Middle English Literature from the University of New Mexico.
Lopez earned a master’s degree in Western World Studies from St. John’s College in Santa Fe.
Lopez has published three books of poetry: “Musings of a Barrio Sack Boy,” “A Painting of Sand” and “Each Month I Sing,” which won the American Book Award in 2008. The book was also awarded a first place EVVY Award in poetry that same year. His fourth book, “Andromeda to Vulpecula, 88 Constellation Poems,” is being released this spring.
• Aaron Abeyta
In his workshop, “Going Beneath the Surface of the Poem: Writing Poetry With Dimension, Vision and Sound,” Abeyta will provide exercises for advanced and beginning writers to realize how a poet’s eyes and ears become the framework for poetry. The workshop specifies imagination, memory and listening to create a poem with subject matter that is personal yet capable of bringing the reader into the intricate weave of sound and sight.
Abeyta, Western Slope Poet Laureate, is a Colorado native and professor of English at Adams State College. He received an American Book Award and the Colorado Book Award for his poetry collection, “Colcha,” and a Colorado Council on the Arts fellowship for poetry.
He resides in southern Colorado.
• Debbi Brody
Brody’s workshop, “Writing Your Ars Poetica,” will use examples of poetry from the 20th and 21st centuries as style prompts and for group discussion about what writing means. Her highly participative workshop utilizes word storming techniques to create lively individual Ars Poetica.
Brody believes writing saves lives and is an avid attendee and leader of poetry workshops throughout the southwest. She has been published in numerous national and regional journals, magazines and anthologies of note in poetry, art criticism and creative nonfiction.
Brody is working through final edits for a new poetry manuscript, “In Everything Birds,” due for release in 2014 by Village Books Press.