The Poet Laureate Program of the Silver City/Grant County area, established in 2011 by the Steering Committee of the Southwest Festival of the Written Word, and endorsed by the Mayor and Town Council of the Town of Silver City, strives to promote a meaningful poetic presence as part of the diverse cultural fabric of our town and region.
This honorary role is awarded to a person who has established a presence in the world of poetry, demonstrated a commitment to the literary art form, and embraces the opportunity to engage in civil discourse.
The Objectives of the Poet Laureate Program are to:
- Enhance the literary arts presence in the Silver City area.
- Create a focal point for the expression of the culture of our region through the literary arts.
- Contribute to the continued growth of the individual Poet Laureate.
- Raise awareness of the power of poetry and the spoken word.
- Provide a forum for cross pollination of art forms.
- Celebrate the spirit of the people and the special qualities of our region, especially our cultural blend running back to the Mimbres culture, now expressed in both Spanish and English.
- Create, over a period of time, a body of work that expresses and commemorates the life of our region.
Current Poet Laureate of Silver City and Grant County
The current Poet Laureate of Silver City and Grant County is Allison Waterman. Ms. Waterman (pronouns: she/her) is an avid reader, writer, and researcher who has been published many times, having her poetry, short stories and newspaper columns celebrated locally and nationwide. She was a member of Silver City Slam and participates in Poetry Bread events. She cherishes her three sons and two brothers and finds joy in the everyday happenings of life, particularly in the mountains and hot springs of Southern New Mexico. Allison has lived in Silver City on and off since 1995. She is a WNMU graduate student and runs the Writing Center on campus, which fills her with purpose and enthusiasm.
Prior Poets Laureate
Fourth Poet Laureate of Silver City and Grant County
Eve West Bessier was born in the Netherlands. When Eve was seven, she and her mother immigrated to San Francisco. Eve holds a Master of Education from the University of California, Davis as well as a Bachelor of Arts in English from San Francisco State University. She moved to New Mexico almost five years ago, and is the new host and coordinator of the monthly Just Words Literary Reading series. Eve is an award-winning author of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction whose latest poetry collection, Roots Music: Listening to Jazz, has just been published, and novel, New Rain, was just released in paperback. Eve is a retired social scientist, studio musician, jazz vocalist and voice coach, and visual artist. A nature enthusiast, Eve hikes on the Continental Divide Trail daily and enjoys the many cultural events Silver City offers.
Third Poets Laureate of Silver City and Grant County
Following the tenure of Elise Stuart as second Poet Laureate, the committee received several applications for the role. Beate Sigriddaughter and Jack Crocker’s applications 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’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 served a two-year term, beginning May 1, 2017.
Second Poet Laureate of Silver City
We walk alone,
most of the way,
wanting to be reminded
of the ceaseless connection
to the heart of a seed,
the flock of birds
that swings and turns together,
the antelope that graze
in the faraway fields.
Up ahead, we glimpse
a weathered wooden dock leading to joy,
a reason for rising each day,
a way of being.
Sometimes it happens,
rare gatherings with few of our tribe,
oasis of understanding.
We share, speak, move beyond our
small houses of knowledge.
Silver City Poet Laureate Elise Stuart was selected by the Southwest Festival of the Written Word and the Silver City Town Council to be the second person to hold this honorary title, from 2014 to 2017.
As Poet Laureate, she promoted expanding the power of the written word in our community, giving voice to young and old, emphasizing the need for expression through poetry.
One of her goals as Poet Laureate was to empower youth to create their own poems. Using her experiences with teaching children and her familiarity with schools in the area, she has offered poetry workshops for children of all ages. The workshop series, “Writing from the Ground Up,” has focused on the human connection with the natural world and on the poetry that children create in relation to the theme.
Since moving to Silver City in 2005, Ms. Stuart has worked for Silver Consolidated Schools as a part of the Art and Music Program that served the elementary schools. She taught music for 3 ½ years for children, K-5, until the program disbanded and has taught music for the Head Start program for the past 5 years.
She was a Montessori preschool teacher for 16 yrs. in Seattle and teaches a summer music program for Silver City’s Guadalupe Montessori School. She also teaches 15 piano students from her home.
Elise belongs to the local poetry reading group, the Thaddeus McPherson Society, and the bi-weekly Writing Group at WNMU. She has joined Silver City’s first Poet Laureate, Bonnie Maldonado, in presenting poetry readings at Bayard Library and a workshop on Book Spine Poetry. She has facilitated a panel for the Southwest Festival of the Written Word, where she also read from her own poetry. For the past several years she has organized a poetry reading, inviting people to be part of a celebration of Black History Month, at Yankee Creek Coffeehouse. She has led the effort to air a weekly literary radio program on KURU 89.1FM (Gila Mimbres Community Radio) called “Use Your Words!”
Her poems have been published in Poems 2, a book of art and poetry and in “The Rag,” a small poetry collection published in Albuquerque, and in “Sunrise of the Spirit.” Her first book of poetry, Another Door Calls, was published in the spring of 2017.
For more, visit Ms. Stuart’s website at elisestuart.com.
First Poet Laureate of Silver City
What follows is a report by Bonnie Buckley Maldonado, our first Poet Laureate, regarding her time in office.
Poet Laureate Report
Bonnie Buckley Maldonado
April 15, 2012-April 15, 2014
Silver City, New Mexico
Mr. Alex Brown,
Town of Silver City
Silver City Town Council,
Silver City, Nm 88061
JJ Wilson, Chair
Poet Laureate Selection Committee
Western New Mexico University
Silver City, NM 88062
The Silver City Poet Laureate Program was designed to generate interest in the literary side of the arts in Grant County. It is an integral facet of the Southwest Festival of the Written Word, Silver City’s first full-fledged book festival. The intent of the Festival is to increase the presence of all things literary, books, authors and reading, in the community.
I am most grateful to the Poet Laureate Selection Committee and to the Silver City Town Council for naming me as the Inaugural Silver City Poet Laureate.
I owe special thanks to Jim Kelly, Steering Committee Member, for researching the guidelines for poet laureates across the country, and for guiding the Poet Laureate Proposal through its final approval by the Silver city Town Council.
The guidelines for the Silver City Poet Laureate Program were finalized by JJ Wilson, Writer in Residence at Western New Mexico University. Without his elegant and professional oversight, the Program would not be what it is.
I thank my poetry group, the J.W. McPherson Society for the Arts for nominating me as Inaugural Poet Laureate of Silver City and Grant County. I owe special thanks to Larry Godfrey for his constant support, and specifically for his and Tom McCoy’s outstanding letter of nomination.
My heartfelt thanks to my former student, fellow writer and friend, Susan Morton Berry for taking time to edit every single poem set in Southwestern New Mexico in terms of historical accuracy. An example may be found in “The Fourth of July, Silver City, New Mexico”. The poem’s reference to the early Silver City saddle maker, Adolphus Dockery Seitzler is one of Susan’s many contributions to the accuracy of my work.
I thank Elise Stuart for quietly making herself available to schedule readings at the Bayard Public Library, and for her leadership in Random Acts of Literature, A Book Festival program designed to bring literature, including poetry, to a wide variety of venues in the community.
Serving as Silver City’s Poet Laureate has been one of the finest experiences of my life. I could not have received a greater 80thbirthday gift. The poet laureate position meshed perfectly with my retirement commitment to give poetry the same energy and devotion I have given to a teaching career and community service for over thirty years.
Readings and Performances
I read poetry on cold winter First Fridays in downtown Silver City. I read Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat to celebrate his birthday. The readings beganat Dandelion Wish, moved to Allotta Gelato, Yankee Creek Coffee House, and onto another evening at Isaac’s Bar and Restaurant. In the absence of children, the work of Dr. Seuss delighted adult audiences.
I connected with the community through poetry in a wide variety of settings and diverse audiences. I wrote a number of commemorative poems reflecting life in Silver City and Grant County. Among comments I heard most frequently were those related to my use of imagery and knowledge of the area. Other comments referred to the accuracy of the historical poems, and to those focused on local events. My reading at Millie’s Rest Home generated additional remembrances from the residents.]
Henry and Mary Ewalt wrote the following in an email dated March 5, 2012:
“We are so glad we have copies of all of your books, and that we heard you read from your latest, Too Personal for Words. You have had the courage to put much of yourself into words. Yours is an authentic voice.”
I love to read aloud, and the poetry readings were sheer joy for me. I enjoyed answering questions and commenting on the nature of the poems. I treasure the interaction with audiences. I remained amazed that so many people appeared to hear poetry on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, or a quiet Sunday with many other choices open to them.
While I have not completed a fifth volume of poems during my tenure as Poet Laureate, a single poem “Solstice Communion” was selected for the centennial anthology Two Hundred Poems, New Mexico 1912-2012, edited by Lisa Jackson, University of New Mexico Press, 2014. Two hundred poets from all over the world wrote of their connections with New Mexico. I am the only poet from Southern New Mexico to be included. The poem follows:
Voices bless a winter flower
of red and gold, of chile and corn;
worn hands pass the first tamales
from the dented steamer.
Communion wine is New Mexican,
red as sangre.
Masa is the bread of life.
Days of solstice preparation,
red chile simmering,
and pork roasting.
Hispanic-Apache grandmother’s memories
soften hojas and whip masa.
soft as sugar.
Masa on a fan of hoja,
red chile and meat in center.
Tamales folded carefully,
They rest on chips of juniper
an offer to our Lady
to the coming of the light.
My commemorative poems were published in the Silver City Daily Press four times a year. I received positive feedback from readers who generally do not enjoy poetry. A number of people told me that my poetry helps them to see Silver City in new and different ways. Others shared that they like the poems because they tell stories. Bobby Neal-Little, a lifetime resident of Silver City, wrote: “I love your Fourth of July poem. Silver city has changed since then, but the memories lives on in your poem.”
Teaching and Mentoring
I have mentored beginning poets and encouraged them to continue writing and performing. I have been fortunate in being invited to read with Poetry Bread, a slam poetry group of teens and young adults. Poetry Bread is sponsored by the Wellness Coalition, and supervised by Sam Costello. Sharing their energy and observing their developing performance skills and creative efforts is a testimony to the value of local programs such as this.
I developed and taught a WILL course entitled At Play with the Poet Laureate in the Fall of 2012. One student wrote that she had always dreamed of writing poetry and now felt that she could do so. Please find a class handout under attachments.
At Play with the Poet Laureate allowed me to do what I probably do best, and that is to teach. I enjoyed every moment of it. My greatest challenge was encouraging participants to sit close to me in order to hear them. There were twelve students enrolled in the course.
I continue to make appearances at the Grant County Detention Center as a guest speaker in a poetry course taught weekly by Larry Godfrey. The following is a poem that appeared in their newsletter, Beyond the Bars, Volume 1_No.3, February 4, 2014:
by Clyde Perry
Life seems like a stumbling block
no direction or goodness.
Then I met a girl named Bonnie.
I had never met a Bonnie before,
but it felt like I had known her
for a lifetime.
She did most of her time caring
and giving to those who were last.
With her efforts, she made them come first
What a swell girl!
Even though she knew some “lasters”
she put them first
because she ain’t no rat.
Bonnie touched my soul
with her mind and soul and heart.