2017 Literary Burlesque The Geography of Resistance: Body Politic, Body Erotic
AMY IRVINE Amy Irvine is a sixth-generation Utahan and longtime wilderness advocate, who for 7 years worked for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. Her work has appeared in Orion, Triquarterly, Climbing, High Desert Journal and in numerous western, nature and environmental anthologies. Her second book, Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land, received the Orion Book Award and Colorado Book Award—while the Los Angeles Times wrote that it "might very well be Desert Solitaire's literary heir." Her essay “Spectral Light” (Orion, January-February 2010/The Best American Science and Nature Writing of 2011, was a finalist for the Pen Award in Journalism. Irvine recently completed a faculty fellowship in Southern New Hampshire University’s low-residency MFA program, where she now teaches non-fiction. She is the founding director of Literary Burlesque, in which she performs annually. Statement of process: This year's show represents a kind of molting, of shackles and old skins--as if we have each shed previous stories of ourselves. Each woman, and man, is stepping in with a fierce kind of tenderness, and more humor. There is far less self-consciousness under foot. I sense in this tribe of talent a new kind of honesty, and lack of apology for who we are, what we are willing to reveal. For me personally, there is a new playfulness that I haven't been able to access in my writing, or my burlesque acts. That's just not where I was at before now. The most important thing though is the friendships that have formed in this band of troubadours. The way we have had to be vulnerable with one another, and the way we have supported one another through this process, is one of the greatest treasures in my life. A deep bow to every one of them—onstage and behind the scenes.
KIERSTIN BRIDGER Kierstin Bridger divides her time between Ridgway and Telluride. She is a winner of the Mark Fischer Poetry Prize, the 2015 ACC Writer’s Studio award and an Anne LaBastille Poetry residency. She is editor of Ridgway Alley Poems, Co-Director of Open Bard Poetry Series and contributing writer for Telluride Inside Out. Bridger's most recent work is in December as finalist for the Jeff Marks Memorial Prize. Her New book, Demominde, is just out from Lithic Press. A note about Demimonde: All three works performed during last year’s Literary Burlesque were revised to be included in this collection of persona poems based on the lives of turn-of-the century prostitutes who ply their trade in mining towns like Telluride. Bridger earned her MFA at Pacific University. www.kierstinbridger.com Statement of process: Here’s what happens when the gears start grinding ... Amy says, “Oh Sister, Where Art Thou,” she asks, “remember the sirens making their way to river in the Cohen Brothers film?” and I say “yes, clearly.” I say “The Odyssey” and then we sit on it for a few weeks, allow it to incubate. Later I show her the Margret Atwood poem I found. I tell her it’s the poem I’ve been trying to write, but it’s already been written— and much better than I could have done. It’s clean and glossy, it’s called “Siren,” and it says it all. It becomes the hatched egg; it opens its mouth wide with hunger and relentless need. We feed it the wormy obsessions we’ve been collecting, the live grubs of our imagination. We see sirens aren’t Disney mermaids but birds; sultry, mischievous creatures, half women half avian. I draft into that warm current of air, let it fill my lungs; exhale through my fingertips and onto the keyboard until it begins to breathe on its own. For me, it was the slick, soot-black raven, the sharp bite of family secrets, dark myths under a carnival revival tent, and the politics of the day . . . it soon created a wily flock of words on white paper. I wanted to hear the noise, give it voice but first the wild and messy feathers-on-your-tongue collaboration had to occur. We had to practice how to land. We had to conspire with the other writers, all of us ravenous for connection and art. Either assembled on the precipice of Turkey Creek or Norwood’s Canyon, we clutched and plucked, line-by-line, to see what dovetailed and what crashed on the clear, glass pane. Together we took turns, some drafted for a while and then moved forward to lead the new migration. This isn’t just the third year, fourth performance, this is re-invention, this is all our muscular energy bound up since last spring. This is kicking the chicks out of the nest to see if they can fly— and baby, oh baby—they will soar!
SAMANTHA TISDEL WRIGHT Independent journalist and poet Samantha Tisdel Wright writes and raises two redheaded children with her husband in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, dividing her time between Silverton and Ouray. She has won numerous awards for her writing, including the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Excellence in Journalism from the Society of Professional Journalists. She is also a two-time finalist for the Mark Fischer Poetry Prize. Statement of process: I am thrilled to join the “Burrrl Girls” at this year’s Literary Burlesque. As the cast’s only virgin, I am ripe for the ravishing. Preparing for this show has taken me to some weird, scary and lovely places, from online Barbie makeup tutorials to Calypso’s cave to the ancient woodlands of the brooding poets. Along the way, I have been so inspired by my fellow poets, as we urge each other rub the sleep from our eyes and uncloak our sexy, silly, sad, brave, broken, brilliant and utterly honest selves. Strip yourself down and come wade in these waters with us. We dare you to get wet!
CORINNE PLATT Corinne Platt moved to Telluride in 1987 with a plan to ski for a year and move on. Almost 30 years later she still lives and works from her home in Ophir, where she has recently undertaken her second term as mayor. Her book, Voices of the American West, won the Colorado Book Award for nonfiction. Her poems are unpublished. Statement of process: I would say I’ve always been a fairly protected writer. When I think about my biggest prison, it definitely has to do with voice and feeling free to speak in the world. For this burlesque I went back to a trip I took to Bhutan. Several things happened there, the first is that there was this undercurrent of repression in the country that nobody talked about. At the same time that I was very aware of that, I was grabbed by a man and it really was my voice that got me out it. Another experience I had shows up in my third piece. On the trail I met a woman who was married to two brothers. Bhutanese are polygamous – but in the reverse way that we are used to – women can take two husbands. I began thinking how marriage is, in its own way, very dichotomous. On one hand, when you are raising children, it becomes so much about logistics, who is traveling when, who is taking the child to lacrosse, etc… When the magical times of romance and true intimacy come, it’s almost like a whole different marriage, one, that is so sacred and sweet, which shows up in my third piece.
ERIKA MOSS GORDON Erika Moss Gordon lives in the mountains of southwest Colorado with her two beautiful children, where she writes poetry, works for a film festival and teaches yoga. Erika’s writing has appeared in Mountain Gazette Magazine, Fungi Magazine, Telluride Watch, Telluride Magazine, Telluride Inside and Out, Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Salmonberry Arts and 99 Poems for the 99 Percent, a collection of poetry. Her most recent book, Phases, was winner of the Fledge Chapbook Award, published by Middle Creek Publishing in 2016. Her first chapbook, Of Eyes and Iris, was published in 2013 (Liquid Light Press). This is her second year performing with Literary Burlesque. Statement of process: I am so very excited for this year. The adventure with these inspirational ladies (and Craig) is an incredible process in and of itself. I traveled overseas during spring break and I was hoping that this time out of mind would open up some doors of insight for me—and of course it did. Yay for getting out of daily life to gain some perspective … one of the best parts of travel, I think. Out there in the world without my usual tethers and points of reference, I felt my raw tendencies toward shutting down or toward liberation—and these insights are where I found my pieces for this year's literary burlesque. Literary Burlesque is, in a sense, a way of traveling—we are venturing beneath the veil of habitual tendency to get inside what is real and most vulnerable—and in the shared space of performance – with one another and with the audience, we get to be those things for one another, creating a space where we can all, in a sense, come home.
ROSEMERRY WAHTOLA TROMMER Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer’s poetry has appeared in O Magazine, Rattle, in back alleys, on A Prairie Home Companion and on river rocks around town. In 2015, she was appointed Poet Laureate of Colorado’s Western Slope and used the position to launch “Heard of Poets,” an interactive poetry map of Western Colorado poets. She directed the Telluride Writers Guild for 10 years and now co-directs the Talking Gourds Poetry Club. Since 2006, she’s written a poem a day. She and her husband live with their children in Placerville. Statement of process: I love this year’s theme—in three acts to move from how we are shackled to how we break free to how we return with this freedom to the world of the shackler. I’ve envisioned (and wrote and costumed) several versions of tonight’s performance—I guess it shows how there are many potential prisons and many ways to break out of them so that we might to show up as ourselves. My first act plays with the prison of projection, how others misconstrue and judge our actions and motivations, and how drama sometimes ensues. Act Two explores the difference between trying to force a change and allowing change to happen. And in Act Three, I once again meet the projections of others, only this time, having shed all the layers (of identity and should) there’s nothing to hide.
CRAIG CHILDS Craig Childs is an author and explorer who lives in Norwood where he’s been writing like a madman. He has published more than a dozen critically acclaimed books, including House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest and The Secret Knowledge of Water: Discovering the Essence of the American Desert. His most recent book, Apocalyptic Planet, won the Orion Book Award and he has twice won the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Men's Journal, and Outside. The New York Times says "Childs's feats of asceticism are nothing if not awe inspiring: he's a modern-day desert father." He has been called a born storyteller by the New York Sun, and the Los Angeles Times says his writing is like pure oxygen, and "stings like a slap in the face." An occasional commentator for NPR’s Morning Edition, he teaches writing at both University of Alaska in Anchorage and Southern New Hampshire University. A forthcoming book in 2017 follows in the footsteps of the first people of North America; there will be mammoths. Statement of process: Fiction is an odd role for me. I am not comfortable being scripted, no longer the explorer but the exploiter. The point of this show is discomfort, finding a sharp edge and lingering there. I am here to facilitate the molting, to be trusted not by the audience but by the performers. As the narrator of this show, I have made myself vulnerable to them, moving into whatever role can best help these feathered stories fly.