“It’s nice to celebrate poetry for an entire month,” he says, “but events and passion for poetry go on year round.”
Key to many of these events is Western’s WordHorde a performance troupe of undergraduate students that travels the region to promote the spoken word and poetry.
In mid-April, they performed at the Blue Sage Arts Center in Paonia. They also host visiting poets, such as last fall’s readings from “Sea Salt” by Colorado Poet Laureate David Mason, and Telluride Poet Laureate Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer’s January reading and performance at Western’s Leslie J. Savage Library. WordHorde also hosts open mic and Poetry Slam events, with the next set for Friday, April 25, at the Gunnison Arts Center. Each year, Todd says, their events reach a total audience of more than 1,000 students and community members.
Todd also points to Western’s annual Symposium on Poetry Criticism during the university’s Writing the Rockies workshops, set for July 24 through 26. And he notes that Poetry With a Focus on Versescraft is a key track in Western’s Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing program.
“It’s a return to the craft of poetry that addresses metering and rhyme” he says, “It’s something a lot of modern poetry ignores. And without at least understanding rules you might be breaking, it’s sort of like writing poetry with your hands tied behind your back.”
He notes this emphasis on the craft of writing carries over into undergraduate programs, with Literature students required to study the mechanics of writing and Creative Writing students also studying Literature.
“Our open mic events and poetry slams introduce the genre,” Todd says of the programs’ strategy. “Our students learn that with good poetry, you have to use both sides of your brain, the analytical and the creative.