E13: Poetry and Art on the Western Slope with Wendy Videlock, Western Colorado’s Newest Poet Laureate

What’s it like to be a poet and visual artist in Western Colorado? Wendy Videlock takes us through the rhythms of her life and work in the Grand Valley. Wendy was just named the Western Slope Poet Laureate by the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds program. She’s also a widely published and awarded poet, visual artist, teacher, a longtime Grand Valley resident, and the impish poem supplier for Palisade’s street poetry boxes.

Wendy and I chatted about why she doesn’t like to tell people she’s a poet when she first meets them, her goals for her time as the Western Slope’s top poet, why ranchers and barbers have a lot in common with poets, what in the world ekphrasis is, and why poets don’t just “say what they mean” but why you still shouldn’t be intimidated by poetry. We also chat about how East Coast and Western poets are different in ways you might not expect, the place that drew her back to Palisade, and what her biggest goal is as a poet – and why it’s so related to where we live.

Wendy also brought along a stack of her favorite poems and treated us to a few. Live poems today!

To contact Wendy to arrange a reading, you can email her at coloradawendy@gmail.com. To find some of Wendy’s poems, check out the Poetry Foundation: poetryfoundation.org/poets/wendy-videlock and Wendy’s website: wendy-videlock.constantcontactsites.com

Music by Romarecord1973 from Pixabay.


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Welcome to Postcards from Palisade, the podcast that brings you a snapshot of the people and places that make this slice of western Colorado wonderful. I’m Lisa McNamara.

I’m talking today with Wendy Videlock. Wendy is a widely published and awarded poet, visual artist, teacher, a longtime Grand Valley resident, and the impish poem supplier for Palisade’s street poetry boxes.

Wendy was also recently named Western Slope Poet Laureate by the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds program. This program honors an outstanding poet or performer who has helped promote the practice of poetry on the Western Slope of Colorado. Its purpose is to support the Laureate in continuing the work of poetry in and of the Western Slope, teaching, reading, writing, and building literary community across the region. She’ll serve in this role for the next two years.

Wendy and I chatted about why she doesn’t like to tell people she’s a poet when she first meets them, her goals for her time as the Western Slope’s top poet, why ranchers and barbers have a lot in common with poets, what in the world ekphrasis is, why poets don’t just “say what they mean” but why you still shouldn’t be intimidated by poetry, how east coast and western poets are different, the place that drew her back to Palisade, and what her biggest goal is as a poet.

And, get this, we have poems for you today too! Wendy brought along a stack of her favorite poems and treated us to a few. I’m not sure why I was surprised, but Wendy treating us to a private poetry reading was a bonus that I was not expecting.

As we chatted, the new sound-absorbing panels that I had just installed on the walls of my little office started to fall down at random intervals. It felt kind of poetic.

All that and more, on today’s Postcard From Palisade.

WV: I’m Wendy Videlock. sometimes when we say hi I’m a poet it kind of turns the conversation downwards spiraling so I tend not to say that right away when I meet somebody I tend to say I’m an artist which I am I’m also a visual artist and people don’t have the same response in the general public when you say that you’re an artist so I show work at the galleries here in town here at the blue Pig and working artist Gallery in downtown Junction, Willow Creek herbs and teas Lithic bookstore and then if if I’m feeling fairly good about the conversation I might mention that I’m a writer

LM: Oh, not even a poet yet

WV: again you’re sort of moving into that area because the poet has a reputation of you know being a naval gazing sort of boring individual and it’s kind of my job to change that reputation a lot of people put their poetry anti-poetry deflector shields up back in high school too much Robert Frost at the age of 14. Robert Frost is great when you’re 45 not great when you’re 14. so I’ve always felt it was sort of part of my responsibility to turn people on to the joy of poetry and you know we’ve got a lot of people who say they don’t like poetry but they turn to poetry when faced with grief great loss also great celebration graduations departings. you know when things really matter we turn to poetry when they don’t matter we hate it

LM: I was thinking the way that a lot of people have probably interacted with you around Palisade is the poetry box which you brought in

WV: because it fell I was walking down the sidewalk and I was gonna fill it up and I saw it was somebody had set it on the bench because they knew that I’d be back to fill her up and it does empty out like nobody’s business I fill it I mean it’s like you know probably 75 to 100 poems each time and a week later it’s empty

LM: wow

WV: and I actually have another one over by the little library

LM: yeah so when did you start that

WV: uh it’s been a couple years um and it empties even when we’re not in our tourist season which is what is really cool uh is that locals are walking by and saying I think I’ll take a poem it’s good medicine

LM: yeah I’ve taken one

WV: what’d you get

LM: um I think I you know what I don’t remember because it was a while ago and I was trying to find it before I came over here and we moved and I’m not sure where I put it so I got it okay put in somewhere but yeah very anticlimactic response but I love the idea and so I think a lot of people you know obviously like you said you fill it up it empties regularly so I think a lot of people have seen you that way but it looks like you don’t just put your poems in there you you also put in other people’s poems

WV: oh no I I don’t I put a few of mine in I um I do and I put a few other regional poets in but what mostly what I do is I put in the kind of poem that if somebody because there’s this little note on the poetry box that says for best results close your eyes while choosing because people think you know you open up a book of poems and you start from page one and you go and that’s just really not how poetry works it’s very much more intuitional and so you open up a book and there might be a poem in the middle of a collection and if you start to read and you don’t like it guess what turn the page and then then you get to try another one so it’s sort of like a box of chocolates you get to you know there’s just something for everybody’s taste

so the kind of poems that I like to put in the poetry box and I’d like to do this in Junction in Fruita too but it turns out it’s very expensive printing poems on paper all the time um but uh I select the kind of poems that will surprise people it won’t it won’t be what they expect to find and it might have a you know some kind of a meaning you’re just kind of like screeing which is you know you take something at random a tarot card or a I ching or something like that and it has meaning simply because you chose it at random

LM: absolutely yeah the one on top I really like that poem

WV: Oh you know that the Mary Oliver

LM: it’s a great one yeah that’s interesting yeah so I was curious if there was any particular type of poem so if it was your type of or your poem or anybody else’s poem if there’s a particular type

WV: sometimes I want to go for something funny because people don’t necessarily you know poetry can be very baudy and raunchy I try not to put two raunchy but a little baudy because I don’t want anybody to get you know upset of course it doesn’t have my name on the box so um but something that’s gonna you know like this Mary Oliver you know you sort of go through this little litany of who made this who who made this I don’t know I don’t know and then she says tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life I mean who’s not going to get goosebumps from that that’s going to have meaning if you uh if you select it and it’s a contemporary she died maybe five or ten years ago but it’s a contemporary piece and then I also put poems that are you know from the classic periods and older periods and then anything that’s going to get your attention

LM: I love it I love it because it’s just this it’s like no pressure to somebody walking by yeah you’re not saying you know if you if if you said come up to me and let me give you a poem it’ll be totally different then you approach this box and you take a poem yeah it’s a little it’s really cool very cool do you ever hear from people who take poems out of the box

WV: yes yeah yeah I do all the time people assume that it’s me because I’m there aren’t a lot of poets in Palisade there are unexplored poets um when we moved here 30 years ago so but then we moved to Junction and Fruitvale and moved all over the valley and came back to Palisade about eight or nine years ago and when we first moved in the barber shop which was right along here next to the blue Pig was closing down he’d been here for a while and I sat on the bench and spoke with him and he was a poet he was a barber he grew peaches but what he said was beautiful so I had to write a sonnet about him the lost poet at the barber shop and he was closing down his barber shop that day so he was feeling philosophical anyway but I find that ranchers and growers their relationship with the land gives them a lot in common with the poet they use idioms they use particular um frames of speech that have to do with the land they tell the story of the land that’s really what the poet does

LM: so you’ve obviously done a lot. Widely published and awarded and but the big thing that just happened was being named The Poet Laureate for the Western Slope which is huge yeah what does that mean to you to have the honor

WV: it’s pretty awesome I mean it’s interesting they do the state Laureate every four years and twice I was the finalist for that and and it was um it was daunting you know because they tell you you’ve been shortlisted so you’ve got weeks where you’re waiting and uh it’s very difficult and I would have really liked to have represented the Western Slope for the whole state but when this thing came along I said you know what even better because I get to work where I live and I get to you know try to make a difference here and also I know so many poets and writers over on the East slope that a lot of the programs that I want to implement here hopefully I can you know kind of deputize some of my friends and uh colleagues over on the east slope and get them to put some of these programs in place too

LM: nice yeah so is it something that you apply to are you nominated for or how does that work

WV: it was a nomination this year and then it was voted uh so it’s done by the Telluride Institute the talking gourds program which has been around for decades and Art Goodtimes  who was the county commissioner of San Miguel County for many many years the grand poobah of the Mushroom Festival he’s kind of well really well known about over in these parts I think he was the first one I think 12 years ago um and it was a nomination process and then up up until that point and then for this one they decided to open it up and let poets vote which was an honor you know that my colleagues voted me in yeah

LM: absolutely that’s cool so sure like a network of poets everywhere just kind of whispering to each other and everybody being like Wendy! Wendy!

WV: yeah or not Wendy anybody but her

WV: well that’s such an awesome honor is it something you’ve always aspired to or

WV: not at all but I’ll tell you as I’ve grown older I’ve begun to realize more and more the importance of my role as the poet within the community because I’ve done so many funerals and memorials people really do turn to the poets I I even had one poet put it in his will that he wanted me at his funeral and he had money set aside to have me travel there that’s how important it is to people to have you know meaningful words spoken I mean because we turn to the poets you know during these times I mean during 9/11 there were there was such a call for poetry and a very famous poem by WH Auden was making the rounds in a way that I’d never seen a poem do and it was written many many years ago but it felt like it really was relevant to that moment and and it really happens with collective crisis and also personal crisis

but also during times of great celebration you know inaugurations and presidential you know and graduations and weddings and you know things like that we turn to poetry then too

LM: right right just think about how much Amanda Gorman’s poem just I mean ever I feel like millions of people read that poem yeah went around and around for weeks

WV: and it’s just been blacklisted in Florida it’s just like really it’s sad

LM: but no just to your point about

WV: about how there’s a hunger and a thirst and so I mean for many years I thought why am I doing this so you know and publishing books and you know publishing journals and you know I got I got published in O magazine that was sort of a big deal and The New York Times and you know

LM: there goes one

WV: that was cool that’s what they did

LM: this is my professional studio

WV: and all of these accomplishments really weren’t all that satisfying

LM: interesting

WV: um they don’t change your life you know none of that comes from you know the real joy is writing the poem that’s the real joy the real joy is painting a painting not selling it is great don’t get me wrong and it’s lovely when people buy my books and actually read the work but it’s the creative process that that is on my mind all the time and it’s the thing that when I teach I’m always saying you know this this is something that saves people’s lives this little thing that we can do which is just called creating artists and poets have known this for thousands of years and uh so we’re always out there going okay here’s how you do it and it’s not that there’s a rule in fact there’s no rules what you do is you kind of just get out of the way and then the creative thing starts to happen it’s like a conversation you just kind of allow it to to happen

LM: right absolutely um when you write do you have a process where you’re you are sitting down for a certain amount of time a day and you force yourself to write or do you just do it when it comes to you or both

WV: yeah it’s interesting so if I’m not writing poetry then yeah I have to sit down and you know just you know shoulder to the grindstone and and get going um with a poem it’s a little different because it’s all driven by sound for me and so I’ll get a rhythm and I’ll get a line and it’s sort of like getting a song stuck in your head you’ve got to start playing with it and then you start to say it and then you start to write it and then you start to sing it and then and then you wonder you know if it’s going to go anywhere and then once you’re in then you’re trying to get out because the ending of a poem is really important too so you know as Billy Collins says all the poet does is trying to get out once they’re in like how are you gonna you know finish this like you had a great start and and so many poems have a great start and then they don’t get there

LM: yeah you know the ending is absolutely

WV: it’s so crucial like yeah yeah

LM: hmm do you have one that you want to read

WV: yeah I might give you a sample

LM: cool

WV: this one’s called just so you know

LM: so what you bring me to writing the poem obviously is important creating it but I think so much poetry is enhanced and made alive by the poet reading it and the distinct delivery style that you develop over time

WV: yeah

LM: and do you feel like that’s something that has always been the same to you for you or do you think you’ve developed more of a different delivery style as as you’ve gone through your career

WV: yeah well you know I taught for many years so we you know when you’re standing in front of kids and high school kids and then university students you learn a lot of tricks like because once you start to lose them you better do something different you’ve got to change the rhythm you’ve got to move your body in a different way and it’s really the same way on stage with delivering a poem so I heard this great line recently which was anybody on stage who isn’t aware that the audience wants to be seen is really missing out on something and it did take me some years to sort of realize that that the audience too is is plugging it like you’re you’ve got nothing unless you’re connecting with the audience and that if if you’re not really looking at the audience and and paying attention to where their attention is then you don’t know when to quit as I always say you know always leave them wanting more if you go on and on you’re just adding to that reputation you know that we’re trying to sort of revamp you know um and also um slowing down because the whole art of poetry is the art of listening and most people don’t listen very well particularly if they have something to say

um which is why I want to institute this program whereby we do these sort of invocations regional poets you know go into like town halls and school board meetings and you know places where decisions are being made that affect people across the boards like policy making situations and and just deliver a brief invocation which just invites everybody to slow down to connect with their humanity instead of going and going whoa I’m going to get what I have to say you know up there and I’m going to fight for it you know nothing gets accomplished if we go in with that if we go in with a little bit of a listening attitude then

LM: this is gonna happen throughout so uh the tiles are falling off the wall to anybody listening to this late um yeah I’m sorry I’m sure it’ll just keep happening

WV: it’s ok we enjoy it’s a kind of an you know it’s an encouraging form it’s something that you you have to let it happen

LM: totally well uh I was really intrigued by that part of your announcement about uh what your goals were for your two year term as a poet laureate um which is a really hard word to say but

WV: I say lariat I’m kidding

LM: oh okay like that right a poet lariat laureate uh yeah but I thought that was really interesting and intriguing that you wanted to bring poetry to more people into different types of settings because in meetings

WV: in small amounts um uh and we’ve already started um I did a uh a house concert the other day where they invited me to do the invocation um Trish Hopkinson who is another poet do you know Trish

LM: I do yeah

WV: she’s going to be doing an event for um awareness about human trafficking on June 12th in Grand Junction so we’re we’re already we’ve already started and you know we’ve got a good collection of you know regional poets and we want to extend beyond just the Grand Valley we want to be in Ouray County and Telluride and Ridgeway and Montrose and Crestone and

LM: right because this is all the Western

WV: all of the Western Slope which is a remarkably something like 27 counties it’s really

LM: yeah yeah huge area yeah so how would somebody get if say they wanted to invite like a local poet or one of one of you or you even into do a reading at the beginning of a meeting yeah how would they go about even requesting that

WV: that’s a really good idea so what I’m going to end up doing is making a website so that people can see what we do but for now before we get there um they can reach me by phone 970-241-2057 or they can email me at Colorada with an a at the end Colorada Wendy w-e-n-d-y at gmail

LM: awesome yeah and I’ll put that I’ll put your email for sure the description of the um

WV: that’d be great because I really want Palisade to be a kind of a forerunner we could do town halls here and we’ve already got some events Caleb has been doing with the paddle board club so things are starting to happen hopefully we’ll break through to the library too

LM: yeah I love that and I love that idea of starting a meeting especially a meeting where you’re going to be talking about contentious things with a poem because normally if people if the public is coming to say like a Board of Trustees meeting or a Planning Commission meeting yeah usually they’re coming because they’re upset about something

WV: right

LM: and yeah you know also it does feel sometimes sort of like you’re just yeah maybe just speaking your piece just to do it you know I like that idea of kind of opening up with a listening attitude and setting the tone

WV: yeah and sometimes the poem can be funny and sometimes just laughing with people brings out your humanity I mean there’s just nothing like a good hearty laugh

LM: yeah it’s a cool idea yeah so I I feel like we touched on this a little bit but um why do you want to make I think we already did but let me I’m going to ask it just in case there’s something else you want to add but why do you want to bring poetry to more people in that sort of a casual format casual being every day going about your everyday life

WV: yeah that’s that’s the question that is the question um so in my own sort of personal development I’ve been working on this thing called integration which is you know there’s a part of me that’s a visual artist there’s a part of me that’s mom there’s a part of me that’s a wife that’s a part of me that’s a poet that’s a teacher and I put on these different hats and I’ve always felt that it I should just it’s all one it’s all the same and why should I feel this way it true in the arts too the visual artists they all know each other they’ve got their own community the poets they have their own community the sculptors have their own community and this has always seemed to me a missed opportunity you know many many campfires one fire so it seems to me that that poetry in particular is sort of off in its own little ghetto so that people who are interested in poetry go to poetry readings they’re pretty well attended too they go to readings and novel readings they go to the library for events and they they’re very into that but why not incorporate why not integrate so that you know at an art opening you’ve got a poet

I talked this morning on CPR about this art form which is called ekphrasis because before photography the only way that people knew about a famous sculpture or monolith or painting was that the poet would write about it because the language could get passed because it was spoken we didn’t have cameras so the average person didn’t get to see the famous artworks that were you know you know being placed in the in the big you know cities

LM: right

WV: so that’s a service you know that the the poet does and we do this today it’s called ekphrasis we go into the galleries we get a few poets to write about some of the works in the galleries and then during the opening the poet you know recites a poem that they’ve worked with and that’s another program I’d like to get going is with the art on the corner you know as we unveil have a poet there who’s been working with that sculptor has gone and visited you know during the process watched the process gotten to put into words because a lot of times they’ll ask the sculptor they’ll shove a microphone in their face and they’re like they don’t you know they just spent five years of their lives building this thing but they they haven’t the language to describe and the poet comes in and swoops in and reads a poem

and it opens up the language for the sculptor because now the sculptor has some grounding you know that something because you know the poet has this concept show don’t tell we don’t say this is a beautiful piece we describe it instead of telling you what to think about it right and that gives the sculptor or the artist something to say about their work that they hadn’t maybe even noticed

LM: that’s awesome that’s such an interesting idea and I don’t think I’ve ever I don’t think I’ve ever experienced an example of that

WV: you will now

LM: which is funny because you know I grew up my dad’s an artist I grew up going to art museums I love art it’s like but I can’t think of an example of something like that that I’ve experienced before

WV: is your dad a local artist

LM: no I grew up in Upstate New York

WV: oh really okay interesting yeah my husband comes from Bethpage Long Island

LM: but oh that’s so interesting is there is have you done any um now how do you even spell that ekphrasis

WV: E-k-p-h-r-a-s-i-s it’s from the Greek yeah if you uh if you look it up you’ll see all kinds of famous examples um there might be poems that you’ve heard of before that you didn’t know were actually ekphrastic poems yeah they were about you know Apollo’s torso by Rilke um I never saw Apollo’s torso but I knew the poem and then I went and did more research on the actual piece of art because it’s never just about the piece of art right it’s more it always gets bigger and one of our more successful literary journals does an ekphrasis every month they put up a painting a contemporary painting and then they do a contest poets you know submit and they feature one that is chosen by the artist and one that is chosen by the editors

LM: oh I like that like that

WV: really interesting

LM: yeah oh I love that I gotta check that out okay let me make a note really quick

WV: so that’s called rattle poetry

LM: rattle

WV: yeah

LM: that’s so cool yeah I really I didn’t check that out just personally I really like that idea because it would be really cool to see how they compare and contrast like the one the artist picked and then the one that the editors pick

WV: yeah well editors tend to pick more um more sort of literary you know and then the the artist tends to pick something that has that takes some aspect of their work and then goes off in some other direction because that’s really what a painting or a poem should do it’s not like a contained thing it’s more like it’s not like you quote capture something I hate when people say oh your poem really captured that it’s like no it’s supposed to set it free not keep it still it should be opened you know I mean I’m a poet so words

LM: that is such a cool distinction

WV: yeah I’ve got one more little poem I’d like to do at this point

LM: awesome I’d love to hear it

WV: this is kind of my um my little anthem about poetry poetry is not a line in the sand but a kind of circulation not a rare exotic bird but a sparrow and a raven not a call to commiserate but a fierce conversation not a star in the dark but the whole constellation

LM: that kind of ties into one of the things I read about you on the on your bio on the Poetry Foundation was that okay so I’m just gonna read their quote but it says known for poems that evoke myth fairy tale and the natural world Videlock has also received praise for her deaf command deft command of meter and um I think that’s a great example of that um how would you describe what meter is to somebody who’s not a poet doesn’t understand poetry who wouldn’t understand that compliment

WV: right well this is how this is the best way to describe what we call meter which just means measure it’s the heartbeat what does the heart do bump bump bump bump it’s the pulse of the sea what does the sea do whoosh whoosh whoosh and then it has variations so it’s not like a metronome there are variations so Shakespeare really is kind of the founder of what we think of as modern meter and he was writing very specifically for actors on a stage and what he did is he he didn’t call it this later on the critics went back and went let’s call this iambic pentameter because but but what Shakespeare was doing was saying after a certain amount of breath the actor needs to take a breath so we’ll stop the line after this certain amount of measurement and the measurement happened to be five what we call beats so my love is like a red red rose my love is like a red red rose goes up and down and up and down but it doesn’t but when you say it you don’t say my love is like because that’s just the mark of someone who doesn’t understand that this is how we speak in normal normal English and when you want to really make a point you’re doing an iambic pentameter you just don’t know that that’s the name of it

LM: ooh interesting

WV: it’s really interesting so it’s true of a lot of things in the arts you’ll say you know look at how that artist used dark and light together and you go well look at nature that’s how nature did it so the the artist is really just imitating what’s already out there whether it’s the heartbeat the pulse of the rhythm the forest you know the drum of the of the sound of the of life you know it’s just that so within meter we have what we call substitutions so that when you getting to a really good line like if you’re thinking a pop song the best singers have a way of playing with the line so that it becomes really emotionally packed that’s what poetry does with meter is it has an expectation and it averts that expectation people think it means keeping in lockstep no it means creating the rhythm and then averting it

LM: right otherwise then everything would sound exactly the same

WV: exactly yeah exactly that’s the great magic of it that’s a great question

LM: yeah yeah well it’s I mean I think a lot of poetry can be really intimidating and I think some of it is because some of the words that are used to describe it or you know even somebody kind of opening a page you might say well this doesn’t look familiar to me I’m not gonna continue yeah so I think making it relatable helps too

WV: that’s the reason we put up the anti-poetry deflector shields it’s it makes people feel stupid and that there’s a clue and that we’re not getting we don’t have the key to that my daughter came home from school in high school and she said I hate poetry why doesn’t the poet just say what they mean and it was adorable you know because uh but the truth is is that when we say what we mean like oh I feel sad nobody’s gonna get moved

LM: oh right

WV: I feel sad oh okay how do we grab on to that and make it our own and so the poet has a metaphor and then it comes sneaking up from behind and that’s when it knocks us down and music is exactly the same way and the visual arts are exactly the same thing once we get surprised in that you know film too film is really poetic you know that a good filmmaker knows how to avert our expectation and make us think we don’t know what’s going on and then suddenly it doesn’t we don’t have to have a key we just feel it right

LM: right everybody remembers those those twists or plot twists

WV: yes

LM: um did you have you always written poetry or did you start at some point in your life like what was the first poem you ever wrote do you remember how old you were

WV: um I remember the first poem I ever learned by heart which was probably more meaningful than the first poem I wrote because that I don’t have a memory of but my mother asked me to learn a poem by heart I say by heart instead of memorized because a lot of people don’t like this word memorize and it was I met a little elf man once down where the lilies blow he asked me why I was so small and why I did not grow I’m just as big for me I said as you are big for you or I missed a couple lines in there but it’s really about individuality and saying you know we don’t have to be like everybody else and it really struck me that this was something that was meaningful to my mother it wasn’t really meaningful to my dad to be honest it was meaningful to my mother and so it had meaning to me

and what I’ve discovered is that people are hungry for meaning they’ve been disappointed by some of the aspects of meaning that we’ve traditionally relied upon and so the arts are where a lot of people are turning and they’re discovering that there’s a whole lot of glory in there and a lot of people say that the arts saved their lives specifically poetry you’re never alone if you’re reading poetry and if you’re writing it then you’ve got an extra boom you know and this doesn’t mean you have to publish like a lot of poets don’t publish but they’re interested in language and they’re interested in you know and then there’s the healing aspect which we use with all kinds of people who’ve been traumatized and have been through wars and childhood difficulties

and that we learned that there’s three steps to healing with the arts so because we think that it’s just you know if you paint a picture or you write a poem boom that’s a healing right there no that’s step one that’s the purge you’re getting it out there step two is crafting it so now you’re creating something beautiful out of something difficult which is what poets do I mean let’s face it life is difficult we’re all going to die like that’s the bottom line you’re going to have a lot of suffering in your life you’re also going to have a lot of joy but the poet won’t let you just get away with one or the other like you’ve got to have it all right and so with the crafting what you’re really doing is teaching yourself how to process difficult things by making it more meaningful more beautiful more powerful and also by sharing it and that’s the third step is actually sharing it by doing that now you’ve now you’ve really done something you’ve shifted the energy you haven’t kept that energy locked inside so that it’s now going to create inflammation and heart disease and all kinds of other things that come from emotions that we’re just not processing which is really what we’re taught to do is don’t just move on ahead stay busy keep consuming and you’ll be fine yeah

LM: right yeah totally and that makes me think about uh two weeks ago I talked to Christine Moore who’s the local yoga and dance teacher

WV: yeah yeah

LM: she was talking a lot about how you know to her processing trauma through dance and like movement was was so important and it’s a similar thing where it’s like even if you don’t just you don’t necessarily perform you’re doing it for yourself or you know you’re teaching somebody and teaching somebody how to you know physically like some people need to let go of their emotions physically some people need to do it you know mentally or a combination of the two or whatever and

WV: physically is absolutely I mean you talk to any polar and they’ll tell you that part of their process is moving like if they’re walking that’s when the best work comes if they’re rowing bicycling driving

LM: oh yeah

WV: these kinds of movements you know are really important and she’s right if you are moving you’re actually processing you know in I mean I I think it’s the answer to all that ails us

LM: totally yeah yeah I definitely have my best idea is when I’m biking or hiking you know you get to that point where your body is doing something but your mind disconnects and then just it’s such a cool feeling

WV: you’re in the zone

LM: yeah

WV: that’s it I mean that’s what we call creative process and that’s the thing it’s all the rest is great don’t get me wrong I’m happy to have it all but it’s that thing of being in the zone that’s what we’re that’s what we’re all about

LM: it’s so cool yeah um do you have a favorite poem of your own that you’ve written or do you like all of them

WV: ooo ooo um I I do have one that I really like um want me to read it

LM: sure

WV: I I originally titled this poem deconstruction um but I think it needs a better title but I’m not going to try to revise it right now I’m just gonna go ahead and give it to you

LM: okay

WV: and one of the reasons I really like it is because uh it’s because it speaks about birds and birds are everywhere and it also speaks to our need to try to put meaning on things and particularly those of us who are interested in the arts but you know if you see if somebody that you love dies and a butterfly lands on your hand you’ve just found meaning and this is what we do with birds and wildlife and nature and to me this is this is the magic of the arts

the other day I I read this at a at that house concert and a gentleman came up to me afterwards and he said he showed me his arm and there was a tattoo of a penguin he said what about the penguin and I said well the penguin because I am a poet of course I have an answer I said well the penguin is about fatherhood that’s the father who rears the baby and takes care of the egg and all of that and he said I did this for my son he and I both love penguins and I said there you go so this is what I mean by meaning and I know that it’s sort of random

LM: absolutely yeah and I like the visual too that you get from that because you take a moment after or on every line to visualize the bird

WV: yes yeah yeah and also it’s sort of like flowers like a red rose means something different from a yellow rose

LM: right right right yeah yeah that’s really cool

WV: they’re actual real things but they also are symbols right they represent something in the human psyche you know the tower represents something you know the river represents something other than obviously the river you know so yeah

LM: oh that’s awesome I really appreciate you sharing poems as well it’s really cool what other plots do you like to read or listen to

WV: oh my goodness well um so I love Lucille Clifton who um I actually have a poem of hers that I would like to share and it’s hilarious and it’s very short okay and it is one that I put in the poetry box because because it’s one that uh if the wrong person gets it it will make me happy just to think that that might be a possibility

LM: we should like sign it or something and then it’ll be something that somebody can find as part of this podcast oh well but then you don’t want to put your name on it maybe

WV: oh come on I hope I have it oh there it is okay so um this is Lucille Clifton she was born in 1936 and she died in 2010. and the title of the poem is wishes for sons s-o-n-s for boys wishes for sons

LM: that’s really good

WV: I mean it’s funny but it’s so true too I mean and I have a boy and you know and you know Camille Paglia always says you know the reason that women are so much more in tune with their own morality is because they bleed every month I mean let’s be honest it’s it’s a very humbling real experience so this is the kind of thing that I put a few of those in my poetry box and wonder secretly I wonder who’s gonna get that

LM: that’s so awesome

WV: so poetry can do this it can just make us laugh and also go you know that’s true that is something that that really is fundamentally you know something that that your your men in the world will never understand no matter how conscientious they are um that it’s just it’s just a part of a lot it’s part of the life of a woman um another poet that I love is Yeats he’s the Irish poet of that every contemporary poet has to deal with I’ve had dreams about him I mean he was the guy um probably the best in the English language of this century Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, Edna St. Vincent Millay there’s so many I think those are my major influences and also Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan okay okay because with Joni and Bob they were writing poetry and they were writing poetry that rhymed they just weren’t doing it the way that Shakespeare did it

LM: right

WV: they were playing with the rhyme and allowing it and so it kind of gave me permission to play with language too

LM: absolutely sorry I need to grab a tissue sorry

WV: oh you’re fine uh was it the Clifton did she make you cry

LM: she did but it’s funny because it’s like uh you know it’s like sort of it’s dark humor you know

WV: right

LM: in a lot of ways

WV: and it’s not I mean I mean I have a son and a daughter and there are the difference I as soon as I read that I went that’s the difference that she was 14 and her life changed my daughter something like now you’ve got a different relationship with life it’s just your body now like you’re aware that your body has this red blood flowing through it you can’t forget it because you’re gonna be reminded and then of course we have childbirth but even if you don’t have childbirth you’ve got that and it’s just the constant reminder it’s the it’s what uh Camille Paglia calls the chthonic it keeps us to the Earth

LM: you’ve been here in the Grand Valley for I think you said about 30 years or so so you’ve been living here working here what’s the poetry community like here compared to other places yeah I’ve lived and worked before other places you’ve visited

WV: yeah so different well first let me say one of the first poems I wrote 30 years ago was about the big buffalo in downtown Junction by the bank which is now closing and it was the first question everybody had when they heard that the the big bank Wells Fargo was closing what about you know the Buffalo which is actually a Bison but I’m not going to get pedantic about it um but I sat down and I I couldn’t believe this thing it was probably had been there maybe two or three years before and I was just completely taken by it

of course art on the corner was already in place Dave Davis had been working on that for decades um and I I wrote this little sonnet about that Buffalo and about this new town that I couldn’t understand you know we came I was in Tucson and we were in Europe and then Vegas and then here and it was a culture shock we didn’t have a Barnes Noble we didn’t have a Home Depot this was a huge and I had a one-year-old and a two-year-old

and within about four years I was doing a poetry circle at Barnes Noble because I was working there and a gentleman came walking in who it was Art Goodtimes who actually was the one who nominated me for this position and he he makes an impression let’s say that beard down to here he’s like he makes he’s got the big booming voice and he sat and listened to our very controlled little circle at Barnes Noble and then he walked up to me and he said you need to get on my mailing list this email had just begun it was like a new thing and I got on his mailing list and discovered that there were poetry conferences happening all over the Western Slope and that people were coming from all these tiny little towns and would spend three or four days you know most of us are pretty introverted I mean I may seem like I’m comfortable this is not I mean I’m pretty I’m a writer I’m a painter I’m pretty much you know but when I do get social then I’m like up and that’s true of most artists that you know they want to be in the in nature or working and then when they are social it’s like bzzzz and then they have to go and recover so they would have these amazing events and within and I was going I’m a writer for the page I was publishing under pseudonyms I was doing this very privately uh and uh so Art Goodtimes and and his teacher was uh Dolores LaChapelle https://lachapellelegacy.org/Dolores who who said find a place sink your roots in and make a difference that’s what he’s done and it’s what he teaches all of us so Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Danny Rosen who owns lithic books, Jim Tipton who used to run the events at the library a very different community of writers than you’d find in places where it’s very academic even though we have I mean people think that I’m academic because I use the meters and things like that it’s really that it’s a strange thing but here um the thing that binds us together is our love of the land it’s the landscape whereas if you’re in New York you’re not writing about the birds and if you are it’s just purely a metaphor yeah that’s what makes it different

LM: and how did you end up coming to Palisade after living so many other places

WV: well my husband was in the military and we didn’t want we were done with that we had kids late I was 32 when my first came along and 33 when my second and um we were in Vegas and we I was teaching there and I did not want my kids in that school district it was really scary and um and we said let’s go to a small town and let’s not make money be the thing that matters like let’s just live in a small little house and I can wait tables maybe I’ll teach and you can get it we won’t chase the dollar that’s what we told ourselves and that’s what we did we didn’t know anybody here we came with a few hundred dollars um we came with two babies a dog and a cat not knowing a soul and it took a few years and like I say you know I had this little community starting at Barnes and Noble of people who were kind of readerly and writerly types but it wasn’t until Art came which said you know hey we’re meeting in Salida we meet in Telluride we meet in Crestone we we do these events and and I go to conferences on the East Coast too they’re very different they’re lovely but it’s not the same because these this is a different this is all about really the landscape I mean there’s a lot of social awareness too um here but you know our our number one one issue here in the west is always water and the land um so the the art reflects it and it reflects it in our visual art too yeah whereas you go to New York it’s going to be mostly portraits or you know something that’s kind of like picasso-like whereas you know rural America and you know western America you’re going to see a lot more landscape and um you know what I would call impressionistic and you know playing with the actual land

LM: right right yeah yeah we’re here because it’s beautiful that’s why I’m here

WV: yeah

LM: what’s your favorite thing about the community here in Palisade specifically

WV: yeah Palisade is interesting um so the way I describe Palisade is well obviously we’re ag but we’re also very art which is a really interesting mix um so whatever Palisade does they want to do it well so if they’re going to do a peach they’re going to make the best damn Peach you’ve ever had if they’re going to grow marijuana they’re going to grow the best pot if they’re going to make art they’re going to make good art and so Palisade has an interest in excellence and and this to me is pretty awesome you know and so I was in Junction when I actually started showing work at the blue Pig and my husband and I we both really wanted to come back to Pali but it wasn’t until I started showing at the pig again that I went okay this is an absolute necessity we’ve got you know a real drive now to come back so as soon as the kids were grown and left home we just made a beeline back to Palisade awesome yeah and of course I mean look at what look at these beautiful landscapes I mean Buzzard’s Roost and you know my goal really my biggest goal as a poet would be to rename Garfield this is a president who never came here this is a completely arbitrary name

LM: ooo what would you rename it

WV: and well the Ute didn’t name it a name they named it for a position for instance if you were on a trek and going somewhere or maybe to the four corners for some large event or you know something then you would name a mountain from what I understand you would name a mountain by how you would go around it like go to the left or go to the right or find the water source and do this and it would it would have a practical kind of a name because I’ve asked a lot of Ute elders and and that’s the kind of the basic answer that I’m getting is that you know these they didn’t name that just for the fun of it sure like Western culture came along said let’s put our flag in it you know it was like this is part of the walk and so it was practical to say this is how you get to where you’re headed

LM: it’s a landmark

WV: yeah a landmark yeah yeah and uh and Thunder Mountain means a lot more to me than the Grand Mesa although I don’t I think Grand Mesa is pretty lovely too because it you know pays homage to um Hispanic uh culture it was here before too so that’s that’s fine um but Garfield it is the number one landmark that people think of when they think of the Grand Valley and it’s the most strange and then we’ve got the Lincoln yeah what Lincoln was not here right it makes no it makes no sense

LM: those are the two presidents yeah I know what I love about it is that you can always see it when you get to a certain point and so I know as I’m getting closer and closer to it I’m getting closer closer to home right that is the coolest thing and you’re right Garfield doesn’t give you that feeling of like this is where my home is

WV: I know I call it the mighty gar um and it what I like about Garfield is it changes color with the sky it’s like water it’s going to reflect what’s happening it changes with it’s it’s an amazing dying mountain it’s really what it is it’s an ancient dying mountain and it deserves a better name I just don’t know how to go about that because it’s it’s pretty hard to change names right yeah

LM: right yeah who owns the name right who decides. anything else that I didn’t touch on that you really would love to share with the people of Palisade

WV: um specifically to Palisade what I’m hoping to do is to create a monthly gathering with an open mic where yeah where there’s a featured artist who gets up and tells a story or recites poems or whatever but also but also that open mic which is such a community builder yeah you know and you’ll be amazed what people do when they get up there you know it’s just astonishing I’m always just blown away by the quiet you know talent that you know people aren’t out there going look at me look at me but if you give them a microphone they’re going to get up there and they’re gonna they’re gonna show you something pretty cool

um that’s a large part of what of what my sort of impulses is is that I feel that I’ve had a lot of talk and conversation and interviews over the years but what I want to do is to put a spotlight on all the others you know that that have been part of this community that are doing these things in the privacy of their own homes like Leadville there was a poet living in Leadville he was growing roses nobody knew he was a poet he was a miner and when he died they cleaned out his house and they found all these oh yeah yeah

LM: that’s beautiful

WV: yeah so to sort of you know cultivate that you know that garden of um poets and writers that aren’t necessarily showing in the galleries or publishing books

LM: right and that would be so awesome to have that here in Palisade so that you don’t have to you know I know Friuta does a lot which is awesome yeah and there’s stuff in Junction but like to have something here would be really nice

WV: I know that East end of the valley is I mean the library is a big untapped opportunity uh so and and the blue Pig too yeah that’s those are my focuses for after I get this get the word out program happening then I’m gonna go okay right here in this little area that’s where it’s going to happen

LM: well that’s great yeah I’m excited

WV: thanks so much for having me

LM: yeah thanks so much for coming and for reaching out yeah I really appreciated hearing from you

WV: yeah it was great when I heard about I mean what a great title Postcards from Palisade I just went you know what that’s someone who’s got a poetic sensibility

LM: oh I love alliteration

WV: I know it’s all about the sound of the you know because that’s what got me it could have been podcast from the East Valley or something and I would have gone no thank you but Postcards from Palisade I’m in

LM: awesome oh I love it that’s like the best compliment that I’ve ever gotten

WV: do you write

LM: um yeah

WV: oh my goodness

LM: I’m gonna stop this so it’s not on the record

LM: Oh man, I’m the biggest dork. I was so not prepared to talk to Wendy about my writing. Because even I do this podcast, I talk to you, I really am most comfortable listening.

I really enjoyed my conversation with Wendy and all the ideas it sparked. I have more great episodes coming up, but I am going to be reducing the frequency that I publish them to every other week, because I got a full time job, partly to afford more soundproofing for my little office haha. Catch up on old episodes you’ve missed in the meantime.

If you’d like to be on the podcast or you have an idea for an upcoming episode, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at lisa(at)postcardsfrompalisade.com.

The Postcards from Palisade podcast is available on all major podcast distribution platforms. Find it and subscribe so you never miss an episode. Latest episodes and links to more information are also posted on the website postcardsfrompalisade.com.

Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.

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