Library hosts poet laureate

Mason brings literary passion with reading and workshop

Language flowing off the tongue like water down a meandering lazy river. Words bouncing off the eardrums like skipping rocks. These are the reasons why the Colorado Poet Laureate David Mason fell in love with poetry.

Bringing poetry to the masses has always been on Mason's agenda. Now he takes his love for the written word out of the classroom and into the public arena.

On Friday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m., Mason along with his wife and fellow poet Cally Conan-Davies, will be reading poems together, taking questions, igniting discussion and hoping to spread the love of poetry.

Trying to defeat the misconception that poetry is intimidating, Mason will also conduct a poetry writing workshop on Saturday at 10 a.m. The couple will discuss the beginnings of poetic devices, writing poetry and offer a few writing exercises. "Poetry never was in its long history intended to be studied in a classroom," Mason explains. "It is the life of a tribe. It is human beings speaking to other human beings. Classroom analysis can be the problem. To get around that I use poems as scripts to perform."

Mason is a professor of creative writing and literature at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. He says he has students memorize poems and perform in a class setting, to help them understand poetry and make the language their own.

"I have a few tricks to make it fun," Mason continues. "It helps form an understanding that where poetry can be difficult it doesn't have to be anxious. We're not trying to find a solution."

When Mason took the position as the state's poet laureate back in July of 2010, he made a vow to visit all 64 counties in Colorado. Two years later, he is a little over halfway through his goal with 40 counties marked on the list. He doesn't think he will be able to visit all counties as a speaker since some are sparsely populated, but he does anticipate driving through each one.

Mason's travels around the state have left him with a new appreciation of Colorado culture. He has driven through beautiful landscapes and met people of all ages and all backgrounds. He has also seen harsh situations of underdeveloped and underfunded school systems and libraries. But the same has remained true for each town he visits. There is always someone interested in poetry. He is expected to give at least 10 public appearances to promote poetry each year of his four-year term. In 2012, Mason made over 30 visits to state libraries or schools. Traveling around the state only to find others like him, reaffirmed his passion for poetry. "I've spoken to audiences of 500 people to only three people," Mason says. "You never know what you are going to encounter, but all are equally valued so you give it all you got. Oftentimes, after a session a person will come up to me and tell me they never had poetry speak to them the way it did when I read it to them."

Mason feels he understands poetry in a way that others may not. He has devoted his life to helping others interpret poems the way he does. He describes himself as someone who always loved to read and listen to poems being recited. He fell in love with words. And he feels it's important to actively promote this love.

"This is articulate human speech," he says. "This is humans talking to you and all you have to do is relax and listen and sometimes that means listening more than once."

Mason has four published books of poetry out. The most recent is entitled, "Ludlow," a verse novel about the violent strike between militia and camp guards and immigrant miners in 1913-14 Trinidad, Colo. Of his own writing, Mason says American history is a subject he has written about often because of its ability to connect to family, self identity and everyday life.

"Ludlow" was awarded the Colorado Book Award for poetry and was voted best book in 2007 by the Contemporary Poetry Review. Mason is also working on transferring that same work into an opera with American composer Lori Laitman. He also corroborated on an opera with Laitman as the librettist based on the book, "The Scarlet Letter".

Along with poetry, Mason also writes book reviews, essays, memoirs and translations. His work has been published in The New Yorker, Harper's, The Wall Street Journal, Poetry, The Nation and The Yale Review to name a few.

Visit with Mason about poetry at the Cortez Public Library on Friday, Feb. 15.

rachels@cortezjournal.com