Colorado College Professor Dave Mason has been the state’s poet laureate for roughly two months. He is the author of the critically acclaimed verse-novel Ludlow about the coal-miner strike and massacre in the early years of the last century. It’s 232 pages of plot-driven poetry on how the Ludlow miners were moved to protest their bad working conditions and as a result they were thrown out of their homes and their tent community was set on fire and some of them and their wives and kids died in smoke and flames. Mason’s plan as poet laureate is to bring poetry to “every corner of the state” in his four-year term. He’s just not sure exactly what would be best to do when gets to all of the corners. He wrote an open letter to Colorado educators asking for ideas. Mason is not just open for suggestions, he’s “quite open” for suggestions. In fact, he’s kind of casting about for direction! Readings are fine and all, he writes, but what else can I do for you?
Here’s the letter. Colorado, what do we do with our talented poet?
Dear Colorado Educators,
As some of you may know, on July 1st Governor Ritter appointed me Colorado Poet Laureate for a 4-year term. I made the ambitious claim on that day that I would like to visit all 64 counties in the state, doing whatever I can to bring poetry to communities large and small. I have also told my friends at Colorado Humanities and Colorado Creative Industries that I would like to focus primarily on non-Metro Area projects, particularly schools and libraries. This doesn’t mean that I won’t be doing anything in Denver, just that I’d like to make sure other parts of the state aren’t neglected during my term.
On Sunday August 15th I gave a workshop and reading at the Salida Regional Library, and before that I made two visits to Gunnison for literary events. In mid-September I will be reading at the Mitchell Museum in Trinidad, and sometime about then I will be in Fort Garland.
But touring the state and giving my own readings, as enjoyable as it is for me, is not entirely what I have in mind. I’d like in my term to leave some structures behind that are helpful to schools and libraries—and to the next Poet Laureate to come along. Toward that end, I’d like to make sure whenever I visit a community that I do some things like these:
1. I’d like to bring at least one other poet along whenever possible, helping to spread the word about the many fine talents in our state and making use of skills other than my own.
2. When possible, I’d like to provide schools with book donations, information about on-line access to the best American poetry and poetry workshops,periodicals, films, recordings and other ways of accessing the art.
3. I can also give public lectures like the one I gave in Gunnison on the history of Poets Laureate and the relation of this phenomenon to the identity of the “Colorado poet.” I can give craft workshops and readings tailored to different audiences, young and old.
4. I’m interested in developing a mobile conference on the teaching of poetry to support teachers and librarians throughout the state. I’m also interested in doing what I can to support existing programs like Poetry Out-Loud and River of Words.
All I need is for communities to invite me and to begin a conversation about how best I might serve their needs. I’m quite open to any suggestions you have to offer. If communities are able to help out in a small way with expenses, fine, but nobody in my position expects a lot of money—I have a full-time job, after all.
Just so you know, I’m pretty seriously booked up between now and Christmas 2010, but after that my time opens up, and I’m even hoping to be on sabbatical in the 2011-12 academic year. I have a lot of literary responsibilities around the country, but am sure I can clear away time to get to every corner of this state in 4 years.
I look forward to meeting you, and thank you in advance for your valuable time.
Professor of English
Judson Bemis Professor of Humanities
The Colorado College
14 East Cache La Poudre Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
Fill up the comments section with any suggestions. We’ll forward the constructive ones. Hat tip to EdNews Colorado.