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Its a wordsmiths world 

Colorado Springs cultivates local poets

click to enlarge Body Painting - by Jane Hilberry - (Red Hen Press: Los Angeles) - $13.95/paperback
  • Body Painting by Jane Hilberry (Red Hen Press: Los Angeles) $13.95/paperback

Colorado Springs: headquarters of the religious right, bastion of conservatism, military fortress.

Colorado Springs: great place to be a poet.

In the past few months, no fewer than four Colorado Springs poets, all associated with the local nonprofit organization Poetry West, have had books published, won literary awards or secured contracts for publication.

The poems of Colorado College professor Jane Hilberry, praised by poet Gregory Orr as "celebrations of being that are both fierce and tender, wry and vulnerable," have been collected by Red Hen Press in the gorgeously packaged book Body Painting. Focused on the physical, the poems address questions of how to love, where to find God and how to reconcile loss.

For her poem "Bride of Dream Man," S. K. Carew took away the Sow's Ear Poetry Review Poetry Prize, earning her $1,000 and publication in the Summer 2005 issue of Sow's Ear Poetry Review.

Poetry West co-founder Lois Hayna, a retired professor and champion of local poetry for many years, will see her new collection of poems, Keeping Still, published this fall by Higganum Hill Books.

click to enlarge No Accident - by Aaron Anstett - (Backwaters Press: Omaha) - $12/paperback - Book launch event, Saturday, June 18, 2 p.m. - Smokebrush Gallery, 218 W. Colorado Ave. (under the - bridge, exit on the north side)
  • No Accident by Aaron Anstett (Backwaters Press: Omaha) $12/paperback Book launch event, Saturday, June 18, 2 p.m. Smokebrush Gallery, 218 W. Colorado Ave. (under the bridge, exit on the north side)

And Aaron Anstett's collection No Accident was chosen for the 2004 Backwaters Prize, which awarded him $1,000 and publication of the manuscript by Backwaters Press of Omaha, Neb. Competition judge and Pulitzer Prize-winner Philip Levine praised Anstett, calling him a poet possessed of "a marvelous and zany sense of humor ... decidedly North American and of the present ... ultimately a poet of great humanity and hope."

Levine added: "Aaron Anstett's No Accident is here for anyone who needs to replenish the belief that American poetry is as healthy and useful as it ever was."

For Anstett, the recognition is thrilling.

"[Backwaters] has had a string of top-notch poets judge their prize: Hayden Carruth, Ted Kooser, who's now poet laureate of the United States," he said. "In addition to having the book taken, it's gratifying to have a person like Philip Levine choose it."

Anstett says participating in Poetry West, which meets the first Saturday of each month on the Colorado College campus, has been valuable to him and many other Springs poets. The group holds monthly workshops, some with feedback sessions on new work and others offering exercises "to try to trigger new work." Additionally, it publishes a journal, The Eleventh Muse; hosts a series of salons where poets can read their work aloud; and sponsors an annual chapbook contest that went national this past year.

"You can get more immediate feedback than you do just sitting at your desk, writing the work and sending it off to journals," said Anstett. "You have a community of people who are engaged in the same, sometimes lonely, activity."

The Smokebrush Gallery will host a kickoff celebration for Anstett and his book on Saturday, June 18. To learn more about Poetry West activities, visit poetrywest.org.

-- Kathryn Eastburn

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