Maggie's Minute: A Colorado Humanities Update, Oct. 24

Fine October days, radiant gold, and nights of deepest indigo…

Poetry is companion to every time of year, but October in Colorado is specially seasoned for it, a linchpin for transient days, when hope is not carried by naiveté but autumn's profound experience. October, when our breath is caught, and, amazed and still, amid seep and hurtle, we... notice. It's a poetry time! Summer a pool of crunching leaves, winter mere puffs come early morning, we have it all in flipflops and pullovers. It's our nature to puzzle the pinging of bats in a blood moon careless of tangled hair; aspen hands held underground with ropey fingers laced, leafy heads synchronous, chromatic, nodding and ready to fly among the stolid conifer; skitter, rustle, flutter, scratch, wee things glimpsed, storing up and hiding... are they fairies? We're ever October's children powerful in disguises, seeking our poetic souls, equinox to solstice, questing for the balance of an egg, remembering we found it once and confident we will again, if only we remember to try. Poetry is imperative, my friends, there's no prose without it. It's October, the half-birthday of April's Poetry Month, let's prepare for the end of the yare, and share. Give it a try. Dana Gioia, poet and former General Foods executive, said, "Poetry is the art of using words charged with their utmost meaning." I like that. Mr. Gioia's "utmost meaning" is certainly subjective no matter who you are, so not to worry about that part. "Charged" is what we're after! Poetry an art, a skill, an outburst. Poetry, universal! When we make poetry, we make. We free a clog in the system, we spark. We search, we notice, we echo, and create a legacy. We experience ourselves, and we experience each other.*

For a fresh-air experience of student art and poetry this October, take a sandwich to the Cottonwood Marsh picnic shelter at Waldon Ponds Wildlife Habitat in Boulder. Eight award-winning works by Boulder County River of Words students are on display through October 30.  Based on the theme of watersheds and our natural environment, River of Words is a national art and poetry contest we hold each year for Colorado's K-12 students. Winners are celebrated at our Student Literary Awards along with those of Letters About Literature, another writing competition for students that we hold statewide. A legacy of Colorado's talented young people, we publish annual anthologies of winning work from both competitions. Are you, or do you know someone who would like to enter either contest in 2015? 2015 entry deadlines are: one due date for all River of Words age categories, Dec. 1, 2014; and two for Letters About Literature age categories, Grades 9-12, Dec. 15, 2014, and Grades 4-8, Jan. 15, 2015. Please spread the word!

>Joseph Hutchison was appointed as Colorado Poet Laureate last month by Governor Hickenlooper. A wonderful poet and prolific author, his duties during his four-year term will take him throughout the state as an advocate for poetry, literacy and literature. He is Colorado's 8th poet laureate, succeeding David Mason. To request his appearance in your area, email

Also this fall, First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a poetry reading at the White House to feature the 2014 National Student Poets. The program is the country's highest honor for young poets, who are selected from a pool of National Medalists in Poetry through the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, which has art, writing and many other award categories. Among the five high school students selected for the honor this year is Colorado's Julia Falkner, a Louisville student. Kudos to Julia! Her achievement is an inspiration for all of us. Would you like to invite a 2014 National Student Poet to appear at your event during National Poetry Month next April?  Online request forms will be accepted until New Year's Eve. Also, Colorado students can apply for 2015 awards by submitting original work online to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards by Dec. 17 for writing and poetry, or Jan. 11, 2015, for artwork. Again, spread the word!

A "Travel with Rick Steves" podcast interview of Christina Nealson, 2013 Colorado Book Awards finalist in creative nonfiction for Drive Me Wild: A Western Odyssey, is available, for those of you who contemplate extended jaunts now and then. Prior to her segment, the show's four other guests talk of Old Town Prague and Portugal's Algarve-if you prefer to  jump directly to Christina, whose five-year exploration in an RV took her along back roads of the West and inspired her book, just move the podcast slide to 33.33.

Our call for entries for the 2015 Colorado Book Awards is on! The program includes awards in multiple categories for books published in 2014 by Colorado authors, poets, editors, and photographers. Your book deserves recognition, so don't delay-we'd like to see you at the award ceremony next June. The entry deadline is November 15, 2014 (unless your book was published after November 15-entries for those are due Jan. 2, 2015). We also encourage readers and other proponents of Colorado's literary achievement to take part and volunteer as selectors and judges for the awards.

This November, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 1914 Ludlow Massacre, Su Teatro will bring the original play, El Grito de las Minas, to Colorado State University-Pueblo's Hoag Recital Hall in November. A Colorado Public Radio interview with author and director Tony Garcia, who is also Su Teatro's executive artistic director, discusses the evolution of the play and its compelling musical direction by Daniel Valdez-Valdez is founding member of El Teatro Campesino, which is widely recognized as the group that sparked the Cultural Renaissance of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement.

O Chautauqua! Our Chautauqua experience has been outstanding this year. We had the honor to meet Louisa May Alcott at High Plains Chautauqua, who was joined for the five-day event in Greeley by Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Chief John Ross, Ulysses S. Grant, Frederick Douglass, Clara Barton, Victoria Woodhull and Mark Twain. Two Rivers Chautauqua in Grand Junction was also a great success, when its theme "American Dreams" last month introduced Rosa Parks, Alexander Hamilton, Jane Addams and John James Audubon. Young Chautauqua students from Weld County and Mesa County added their own presentations to the of audiences at both events. We're also excited about the all-day festival of living history in Palmer Lake, the 2014 Return of the Rocky Mountain Chautauqua Assembly, with President Roosevelt, Buffalo Bill, Enos Mills, and Molly Brown and other famed women from Colorado's history. And, in conjunction with the 20th annual Durango Autumn Arts Festival, we enjoyed a Chautauqua evening with Alexander Hamilton and an audience of 200 people.

Wish us many happy returns! Colorado Humanities is 40 years old this year. Four decades of providing humanities programs to communities and K-12 schoolrooms statewide. 2,080 weeks of working to improve the educational experience of our students, more than 14,000 days of forging relationships and building the capacity of hundreds of program partners. More than 83,000 hours working to enrich community life! We couldn't do it without you. Thank you!

Here's to Jack 'O Lantern, with his teeth of candy corn!

*(many thanks to our "ghost" writer for the poetic whimsy of this October minute)

Maggie Coval, Executive Director