A Sampling of Verse from the Poets Laureate

Everyone is invited to attend a four-way poetry reading at the Tranquilbuzz Coffeehouse on Saturday, June 17, starting at 2:00 p.m. The event will feature former poets laureate Bonnie Buckley Maldonado and Elise Stuart, and current poets laureate Beate Sigriddaughter and Jack Crocker.

* * * * *

wildflowers on a section of Angel Loop trailANGEL LOOP – SEPTEMBER
by Beate Sigriddaughter

In Canto 30 of Paradise, Dante
sings of the laughter of grass.
I am almost there now. Running
on Angel Loop, I rub shoulders
with tall mountain marigold
and goldeneye, a festival
of yellow, some blue
trumpet shapes, some red.
My favorite bald rock stretches
steep into the yellow. Yesterday
I tickled grass. I wanted to
hear laughter, but it was just
crickets rubbing legs in the wind.
I will likely never understand
why we need darkness when
we yearn and strive for light. I get
the concept of duality. Only my heart
is obstinate and wishes to believe
pure light is possible. Meanwhile
a lizard dives face first under
a ledge as I ponder scorpions
and roses. I wish the lizards trusted me.
To them I am one of the shadows
of darkness. Still I want to belong
to light, to laughter, to lizards
believing in love. Today
grass tickled me. There are asters too
now, yellow centers full of summer
scent and whispering goodbye.

* * * * *
“Angel Loop – September” was first published in Desert Exposure as a 2014 Writing Contest winning poem.


HOME PLACEdilapidated attic with old wooden crates

The house has stood empty fifteen years.
I’ve returned each summer for the peace I feel
Watching it lean against the absence
Of those who brought it to life.

I walk around it silently and think
I hear the sigh of nails ungrip, letting
The weary rafters and studs pull away
To gravity and the whims of wind.

The circumference of fence is a faint hint.
A few snaggled posts remain,
Useless fangs weathered and veined
Like the final years of my father’s skin.

It has held its ground as the tractors cut
The rows as close as they can get
To the front steps and side porch
That looks out yet on the seasons’ swing.

I could rent it out, just as I do the land,
But I prefer its future unlived, no thoughtless
Breaths fouling the space or strange feet
Disturbing the floors my grandfather laid.

I let it stand, crypt and museum,
Until the fire came. I took four charred
Bricks, a single disc blade, a faceplate,
And a scorched Old Grandad whiskey flask—
A leftover sin the flames unhid.

Now it’s an unmarked grave, all remnants
Bulldozed beneath the ground to free up
Another acre or so for cotton land.

Today I stand like a headstone where
The front steps were, feeling the memorial
Peace of vacant air, purified by fire,
The only movement my mind, ticking,
The way a watch holds time.

Jack Crocker

Book Review: Elise Stuart, Another Door Calls

Southwest Festival of the Written Word: Word Travels Fast. Friday through Sunday, September 29 through October 1, 2017. Silver City, New Mexico

Thank you to JJ Wilson for reviewing Elise Stuart’s new book of poetry, Another Door Calls:

Cover of book Another Door CallsElise Stuart’s debut collection shimmers in the rain, gets snagged on the cholla, frees itself in the night winds, and goes rolling down a flooded arroyo. This terrific collection couldn’t have been written anywhere but New Mexico, Stuart’s spiritual home. Her familial roots lie elsewhere, but her narrative voice and sensibility reside firmly in the land of deserts and cactus, coyote and bear.

These poems are distant relatives of the work of the Romantics: Wordsworth and Coleridge, Byron and Keats, but with a modern edge. Stuart isn’t entirely pastoral; there are echoes of Sexton and Plath in the hints of psychic disturbance under the surface: “Lightning splits me open” (Lightning); “the same miracle/that splits open the seed’s heart/splits open mine.” (Everything Begins in the Dark); “letting stars fill up/all the empty places in me.” (Reading the Stars).

While mountains, clouds, rocks, rivers and rain punctuate the work – metaphors for life’s mysteries – these poems are as much about the longings of the human heart as they are about the landscape of Stuart’s Eden. At one point I was reminded of the great confessional poet Elizabeth Bishop’s line: “Nobody’s heart is really good for much until it has been smashed to little bits.”

If much of the work, then, draws on the relationships between inner (mental) and outer (physical) landscapes, Stuart keeps us on our toes with small wonders and big surprises. My Dog Begins to Look Like a Wolf is about a domesticated animal subconsciously regaining its wild ancestral past. Attempted Relationship is about wanting to love and being unable to, and finding a way to let go: “You can’t hate an apple/for being an orange.”

Stuart’s grasp of rhythm and sound pattern is as fine as silk thread. The poems use short lines to build images one upon the other, crescendoing like waves breaking on a shore. And like all poets at the top of their game, she excels at endings, providing resonance through an unexpected image or verb.

Another Door Calls is a very fine debut indeed – a love song to New Mexico and to life in all its wild guises.

–JJ Wilson

Elise Stuart moved to Silver City in 2005. Her heart opened to the desert, where trees and wildflowers grow with little rain, their only nourishment through water running underground.

In 2014, when she was chosen as Poet Laureate of Silver City and Grant County, she envisioned young people expressing themselves through poetry, so during the next three years she gave over a hundred workshops to youth. Another Door Calls, published in the spring of 2017, is her first collection of poems

Elise Stuart will speak on Friday, September 29, 2017, 2:00-3:00pm at the Southwest Festival of the Written Word. She will read from her second book, My Mother and I, We Talk Cat, a memoir of prose and poetry that will be published in September 2017. She describes an uncertain journey with a woman who was unpredictable and troubled–her mother. The complex relationship between mother and daughter is narrated in riveting poetry and prose. In this session Elise will discuss how secrets revealed during research of her mother’s life profoundly changed her own. She will also take questions from the audience.

Give Grandly! on Saturday May 6

The 2017 Southwest Festival of the Written Word takes place on Friday- Sunday, September 29-October 1. As always, the Festival is open and free of charge to the public. This means that we must fund the Festival through grants and donations. As part of this effort, we are participating in “Give Grandly!”, our community’s annual day of giving, on Saturday, May 6.

On May 6, your Give Grandly! contributions will trigger matching funds that will help us continue our planning for the 2017 Festival. Our Give Grandly goal this year is $2,000.

There are several ways you can make your donation on May 6:

  • Go to GiveGrandly.org and select Southwest Festival of the Written Word from the drop-down list for Grant County. Fill out the form and submit your donation.
  • Text GRANDLY to 41444 from your cell phone.You will receive a text back that will provide the link to click on to complete your donation to the Southwest Festival of the Written Word.
  • Visit our table at the Silver City Farmers’ Market on 7th Street and Bullard, from 8:30am – 2:30pm, where you can donate by credit card, check, or with cash.

From all of us who volunteer for the Southwest Festival of the Written Word: thank you!

May 6, 2017: Give Grandly, Give Local! Sponsored by the Grant County Community Foundation: enriching lives through collective action

Silver City and Grant County doubles up on Poet Laureate

The Selection Committee is delighted to announce that the position of third Poet Laureate of Silver City and Grant County will be shared by Beate Sigriddaughter and Jack Crocker.

Beate Sigriddaughter reads at an event in February 2015.

Beate Sigriddaughter
Photo courtesy Silver City Public Library

This honorary position is awarded to a person who has established a presence in the world of poetry, has demonstrated a commitment to the literary art form, and who embraces the opportunity to engage in civil discourse.

Following the tenure of Elise Stuart as second Poet Laureate, the committee received several applications for the role, of which these two were outstanding. After interviewing both candidates, the committee decided unanimously to offer them the position in tandem. This unprecedented move will allow Crocker and Sigriddaughter to share the load of spreading poetry to the community.

Beate Sigriddaughter, originally from Germany, has published dozens of poems and short stories as well as novels, the most recent of which is Audrey: A Book of Love. Sigriddaughter has a website – Writing In A Woman’s Voice – which publishes novice and experienced women writers. She believes “poetry really does matter. Almost everybody I know seems to remember some poetry that has at some point provided meaningful comfort.”

Jack Crocker

Jack Crocker, courtesy photo

Jack Crocker’s poems have appeared in a variety of journals, and his latest collection, The Last Resort, was published in 2009 by the Texas Review Press. Crocker is also a musician. He once signed a recording and songwriting contract with Fretone Records in Memphis, but decided instead to become an English professor. Currently, he is Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Western New Mexico University.

The poets will serve a two-year term, beginning May 1st 2017, with an option for a third year if mutually agreed. The Poet Laureate program is run by the Southwest Festival of the Written Word.

Lecture with Dr. Felipe de Ortego y Gasca (Tochtli), Ph.D.

Dr. Felipe de Ortego y Gasca portrait

Dr. Felipe de Ortego y GascaDr. Felipe de Ortego y Gasca will give a lecture titled “The Stamp of One Defect: The Mystery of Memory in Shakespeare’s Hamlet” on Thursday, May 4, 2017, 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM. This free event will occur at Western New Mexico University Light Hall Theater. There will be a meet and greet directly after the Lecture.

Dr. Felipe de Ortego y Gasca is Scholar in Residence (Cultural Studies, critical Theory, Public Policy) at Western New Mexico University and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English and Cultural Studies, Texas State University System – Sul Ross.

For more than 400 years Hamlet has been one of the theater’s most successful plays. More has probably been written about Hamlet, the Prince, than about any other figure in literature, for the play is ostensibly enshrouded in a mystery of words about politics, theology, ideology, and morality in Denmark via 17th century Elizabethan England.

It is true that we cannot hope to know what Shakespeare knew or thought. But the moral truth that seems to emerge from Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (1599-1602) is that man is oftentimes no more than “a pipe for Fortune’s finger to sound what stop she please.” Hamlet is a tormented man in conflict with Fate, Society, and himself, tortured by a nagging malady, “Some vicious mole of nature,” that breaks down the “pales and fortes of his reason.”

Elizabethan men of learning and intellectual curiosity no doubt pondered the phenomena of mental disorders. Cardan’s Comforte, a book of consolation traditionally associated with Hamlet, points out that a man is nothing but his mind: if the mind is discontented, the man is disquieted though the rest of him be well. Hamlet is such a man, disquieted and melancholic, suffering from the stamp of one defect: in his case, the impediment of lost memory—today identified as Alzheimer’s.

The lecture, drawn from Dr. Ortego’s work The Stamp of One Defect: A Study of Hamlet (Texas Western, 1966)—considered by Shakespearean Professor Haldeen Braddy as the most provocative work in a century of Hamlet studies—unravels that impediment of memory from clues explicit in the text of Hamlet.

This event is sponsored by the Southwest Festival of the Written Word, Western Institute for Lifelong Learning (WILL), WNMU College of Arts and Sciences, and Office of Cultural Affairs. For more information about this event, call the Office of Cultural Affairs at 575-538-6469.

Select Bibliography on Shakespeare by Dr. Felipe de Ortego y Gasca, PhD (English)
British Renaissance Literature/Mexican American Literature

“Shakespeare and the Doctrine of Monarchy in King John,” College Language Association Journal 13, No. 4, 392-401, June 4, 1970.

  • This work is featured in the Folger Library’s King John Study Pack, 2015
  • Cited in “Magna Carta and Shakespeare’s The Life and Death of King John” by Helen Hargest, in Finding Shakespeare: Curating stories from Shakespeare’s Work, Life, and Times, June 16, 2015.
  • Cited in e-notes.com, King John Essay—King John (Vol. 88): http://www.enotes.com/topics/king-john/critical-essays/king-john-vol-88

“The Winter’s Tale as Pastoral Tragicomic Romance,” Rendezvous: Journal of Liberal Arts, Spring 1970.

“Hamlet: The Stamp of One Defect,” Shakespeare in the Southwest: Some New Directions, Texas Western Press, 1969.

Remembering Richard Mahler

Richard MahlerThe Southwest Festival of the Written Word has lost a great and much-loved friend. Richard Mahler, or Rico as he liked to be called, was an Everyman: writer, editor, publisher, radio host, media consultant, photographer, teacher, naturalist, and literary pioneer. If you wanted something done, and done well, in the world of words, Rico was the man.

He had a particular affinity for the outdoors. He was a frequent surveyor of New Mexico flora and fauna, and was named Volunteer of the Year for 2014 by the Wildlife Land Trust of the Humane Society of the United States.

In fact, the best-known of his thirteen books is probably The Jaguar’s Shadow, an outdoor odyssey. This epic quest to encounter a jaguar in the flesh is quintessential Mahler: a wild adventure across endless deserts, steamy rainforests, malarial swamps, and border badlands, leavened with Mahler’s trademark dry wit and his philosopher’s gaze at a world gone mad.

Rico was unassuming and laconic, and one had to dig deep to understand what a driven, dedicated writer he was. His work appeared in some very fine publications: Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, Outside Magazine, Southwest Art, Utne, Alternative Medicine, and New Mexico Magazine, to name but a few.

Recently he founded a publishing press called Relham (read it backwards) for original new work. In this venture he served both as publisher and mentor to numerous authors. He also co-hosted Use Your Words: Writers Speak, a literary radio show broadcasting out of Silver City, his adopted home. His sonorous, measured tones gave the show gravitas without pomposity.

Richard will be much missed by the writing community as well as the community at large. Our condolences to Pamela, his fiancée.

JJ Amaworo Wilson

Celebrate Our Poet Laureate’s New Book

Cover of book Another Door CallsElise Stuart, the Poet Laureate of Silver City, will give a special reading on Tuesday, April 18, 4:30-5:30pm at the Silver City Public Library to commemorate National Poetry Month and to celebrate the release of her first book of poetry, Another Door Calls. In the new poetry collection, the reader is invited to step into the stark beauty of the desert as Stuart explores the wilderness. As Stuart describes, “Rivers and mountains become my teachers on this journey as I come to know the terrain more intimately. The land and water become mirrors revealing themselves to me, revealing my own inner landscape in startling silence and the language of poetry.” Another Door Calls is published by Mercury HeartLink and illustrated with photographs taken by Glenn Henderson. More information can be found on Elise Stuart’s website, elisestuart.com.

The Poet Laureate program is organized by the Southwest Festival of the Written Word, and nominations are currently being accepted for the regions’ third Poet Laureate. The program strives to promote a meaningful poetic presence as part of the diverse cultural fabric of our town and region. The primary duty of the Poet Laureate is to promote poetry in the community. During her term, Elise has given poetry workshops in school classrooms throughout Grant County.

Poet Laureate Releases New Book

For more information about library events, see silvercitypubliclibrary.org or contact 575-538-3672 or ref@silvercitymail.com. The Silver City Public Library is located at 515 W. College Avenue, on the corner of College and Cooper street in Silver City.

Celebrate Libraries This April

heart and library symbol--a silhouette of a person reading a book--on a blue background

Institutions dedicated to literacy, life-long learning, and the joy of reading hold a special place in the hearts of avid readers and writers. Some special opportunities to show your appreciation for libraries will occur in the next two weeks.

Celebrate our local public library at Love Your Library Day on Saturday, April 1, 10:00am-1:00pm at the Silver City Public Library, 515 W. College Avenue on the corner of College and Cooper Street in Silver City. Literacy Link-Leamos–the library’s close partner organization which offers free tutoring and book giveaways–organizes this special celebration every year. This year for the first time Cooper Street will be closed between College and 8th Street, and there will be live music and outdoor games. Come enjoy cookies and snacks, free books, stories and activities for kids, and door prizes (including a $50 grand prize donated by Western Bank)! There will be no fee for replacement library cards on this day. Contact Literacy Link Leamos at literacylinkleamos.org or 388-0892 for more information.

April 9-15 is National Library Week! The American Library Association leads this annual initiative to raise awareness of how libraries transform communities, and how libraries are transforming themselves to serve communities every day. The 2017 State of America’s Libraries report will be released on Monday, April 10. Tuesday, April 11 is National Library Workers Day, and April 12 will be National Bookmobile Day. Learn more about how you can show your support in person or on social media at the celebration page www.ilovelibraries.org/national-library-week. Download some of their lovely graphics for your online profile pics or social media feeds! The Silver City Public Library will be also be sharing some online and in-person ways to celebrate your library; more information coming soon at silvercitypubliclibrary.wordpress.com and facebook.com/SilverCityPublicLibrary.

This is also an opportune time to recognize challenges facing our libraries nationwide. Right now, in particular, the proposed federal budget completely eliminates Library Services and Technology Act funding administered by the Institute for Museum and Library Services. In New Mexico, this funding supports several services run by the State Library including rural bookmobiles and summer reading program materials that make it much easier for libraries statewide to offer summer programs. The LSTA/IMLS funding also allows the State Library to subscribe to online test preparation, online tutoring, research articles, reference e-books, and other media that anyone in New Mexico can access for free at elportalnm.org. These resources are not normally freely available online. Finally, the federal funding has allowed the State Library to offer traveling educational programs and mini-grants to libraries for youth science, technology, engineering, art, and math activities (Makerstate Initiative). You can learn more about how LSTA/IMLS funding affects New Mexico libraries here. You can also search for grants made to New Mexico libraries here. Currently, library supporters are focusing on contacting members of the House to ask them to sign a “Dear Appropriator” letter in support of the Library Services and Technology Act. Learn more here.

Readers and writers like us love the way that libraries bring us together and inspire us. Join us in celebrating libraries this month, and all year round!

Report on the 2017 Tucson Festival of Books

Thanks to JJ Wilson for sharing his thoughts on this year’s Tucson Festival of Books!


Another year, another blockbuster. Once again I missed out on a couple of big names – Colson Whitehead and Michael McGarrity – but there was plenty of consolation in seeing some lesser-known, bright young (and not-so-young) things.

Adrienne Celt

Adrienne Celt

I was really looking forward to seeing Adrienne Celt as she’ll be appearing later this year at the Southwest Festival of the Written Word. Adrienne, a novelist/cartoonist, starred on an excellent panel with Reed Karaim and Karen Brennan. She was funny and humble and talked lots of good sense.

Karaim is a journalist as well as a novelist, and he had interesting things to say about how his journalistic writing habits affect his fiction. Journalists “don’t have much time for writer’s block,” he says, and they’ve learned to take themselves out of the story.

Karen Brennan was just hilarious – she reminded me of an old-time actress who’s seen it all and condensed it into a thousand one-liners.

Tim Z. Hernandez

Tim Z. Hernandez

I also had the pleasure of attending a session with Tim Z. Hernandez, author of All They Will Call You, a novel I cannot wait to read. Tim, along with Dan Chacón, interviewed me on Words on a Wire (here), and his new book is getting superb reviews. He’s one of those artist/performer/writers who grab your attention through humor, charm, and integrity.

Tim appeared alongside another writer/artist, Maceo Montoya, who spoke so eloquently about Chicanismo. Montoya mentioned that his Chicano students have been through High School and barely know a thing about their heritage.

With a combination of humor and gravity, these old friends riffed away, and it was a joy.

Talking of riffers, Juan Felipe Herrera, the Poet Laureate of the United States, joined Alberto Rios on stage for a beautiful hour of poetry, philosophy and laughter. Rios told great stories about the border at Nogales: how it was first erected from landing strips and how the Mexicans on the other side simply pushed them down so the strips would form a bridge over a creek. The message was … life goes on.

One of these two also quoted Ana Castillo’s admonition to writers: “Write what is tearing at our hearts,” a line I won’t forget.

Nathan Hale

Nathan Hale

The highlight for me was a kids’ session. That sometimes happens when you have an 8-year-old in tow. Nathan Hale is a cartoonist and storyteller with a difference. His difference is that he does both simultaneously, using software that allows him to project his drawings, live, to the audience as he’s telling the story. He does all the voices – in this case, Thomas Jefferson, Sacagawea, a French explorer called Charbonneau, and even a talking dog. It was history as we didn’t know it, and it was an amusing and inspiring hour.

Thanks, as always, to the organizers and sponsors. You do a remarkable job.

-JJ Wilson

Search Begins for Silver City Area’s Third Poet Laureate

Nominations are now being sought for the Silver City area’s third Poet Laureate, following Bonnie Buckley Maldonado’s tenure as the first and Elise Stuart’s as the second.

This honorary position is awarded to a person who has established a presence in the world of poetry, has demonstrated a commitment to the literary art form, and who embraces the opportunity to engage in civil discourse.

Candidates for the post may be either self-nominated or nominated by another person, and must be over the age of 21. Candidates must be residents of Grant County and must have exhibited demonstrable ties to the community. The person selected for the post will serve a two-year term based on the calendar year, with the option – granted in consultation with the Selection Committee – of extending the term to three years.

The main duty of the Poet Laureate is to promote poetry in the community. An additional duty may be to present an original commemorative poem at one or two public events as determined by the Southwest Festival of the Written Word and/or the Silver City Town Council.

To apply, please send a 1-2 page statement describing your qualifications, including publications and teaching experience; an outline of your plans for the role and how you will make a difference in the community; and 3-5 of your poems (which may be in English and/or Spanish). The process may also involve a short interview with the Selection Committee. All applications must be sent by April 17, 2017 to JJ Amaworo Wilson at jjawilson@hotmail.com or 4229 N. Swan St, Silver City, NM 88061. Please contact JJ if you would like more information.

Elise Stuart

Elise Stuart, second Poet Laureate

Bonnie Buckley Maldonado

Bonnie Buckley Maldonado

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