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Poetry party 

In the poetry world at large, January 1913 was a big month. Poetry Magazine published its fourth issue, which included an editorial comment from a young firebrand named Ezra Pound. That same issue saw publication of Madison Cawein's "Waste Land," which researchers would later identify as having inspired T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" — often credited with birthing modernism in poetry.

January 1913 was hugely important to poetry in Colorado Springs, too. That was the month when Lois Hayna, Pikes Peak Poet Laureate Emerita and co-founder of Poetry West, was born.

On Friday, the local nonprofit is throwing a party — "Po(e)t-Pourri: Muse Madness" — in honor of its 30th birthday, Hayna's 99th birthday, and the 100th anniversary of Poetry Magazine. (Though the magazine is not affiliated with Poetry West, its anniversary is a milestone being celebrated widely by the national poetry community.)

On hand will be publications by various members of the group, chapbooks, magazines, and the 30th-anniversary edition of Poetry West's "mostly-annual" literary journal, The Eleventh Muse. But Hayna is the main attraction: She's expected to read excerpts from her seventh and latest book, Casting Two Shadows, and give a brief autobiographical talk. Some guests have been invited to a semi-open mic to read poetry inspired by, modeled upon, or dedicated to her.

"Lois is a treasure," says 2008 Pikes Peak Poet Laureate Aaron Anstett. "She writes more, she submits more, and she publishes more than many younger folks."

When Hayna was in her late 60s, she, along with several other Colorado Springs poets, would periodically gather and talk of poetry and muses. Their goal was to create a place of refuge specifically for the region's female poets, who were often in the background of the poetry scene, and who, in Hayna's words, "were notoriously silent ... or silenced."

The group, started by Nan Faraday, was formalized as The Women's Poetry Link, and later renamed The Eleventh Muse. Local poet Julie Shavin explains that the Greeks had nine Muses, immortal beings of inspiration — later adding real-life poet Sappho to the rolls to honor her place in poetry and Greek society, making 10.

"So we became the 11th," Shavin says.

Eventually, some of the founding members left Colorado Springs, but a small cadre of women remained. Hayna was part of it. With her help and guidance, the group decided to open membership to everyone, and to change its name once more, to Poetry West. They kept the name The Eleventh Muse as the title of their almost-yearly publication.

Through the years, the nonprofit has grown and seen hundreds of members come and go. Current members include President of the Board Shavin, Anstett and Colorado Poet Laureate David Mason. For her part, Hayna thinks Colorado Springs may have more poets per capita than other cities.

"It's possible that other communities have as many as the Springs, but aren't given a chance to coalesce," she says. "But my feeling is that there is far more interest here than in almost any other place I've lived."

Anstett says a number of poetry communities exist here. And Shavin adds that its members "are acting as movers and shakers," and helping counter the city's reputation as a purely conservative enclave.

"I'm kinda proud of our poets out there," she says. "They're making a difference."

scene@csindy.com


Work by Lois Hayna

'Red Alert' first appeared in Hayna's 2005 book, Keeping Still.

'A Charm to Learn to Relinquish' appeared in Book of Charms, Hayna's first book co-written with Angela Peckenpaugh and published in 1983.

  • Reasons to celebrate abound in the local writing community.

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