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David Mason, Colorado’s Poet Laureate

August 29, 2010

When David Mason became Colorado’s Poet Laureate, his name was added to a rather short list. There have been only seven poet laureates in Colorado. He replaces Mary Crow, who served for 14 years.

When the staff heard David Mason would be coming to our library, they checked to see if he was the same Dave Mason from the band ìTraffic.î He’s not, although he is married to an Annie Lennox, which had further hinted at rock stardom.

But being a Poet Laureate is rock star status, albeit with less of a budget. David will be here this Sunday, August 15th, for another of our library’s occasional ìArts at the Libraryî affairs. He will give a reading at 4:00 p.m., preceded by a workshop at 2:00 p.m.

It is not the salient feature of his work, but I will mention rhyme. I was taken while reading his collection ìArrivalsî with the ease of the rhymes in his poems.

It’s not easy to do, and often poets strain to make rhymes. David’s are effortless and perfectóno dissonance in the language’s natural rhythm or vocabulary.

I know it takes a lot of work, but I’m thinking there must be a natural ability involved, too, as in a top Scrabble player’s ability to see anagrams in a group of letters (see the film ìWord Warsî about professional Scrabble players).

Which is not to say poets are necesssarily as odd as these Scrabble players, although even one’s therapist might take exception. Where do you draw the line with your therapist?

David’s poem ìThe Sessionî gives a humorous account of a poet’s meeting with his therapist. It’s not funny-ha-ha, but rather draws a smile of satisfaction and recognition at the correctness of a deeply human urge.

In the middle of the poem, he says:

‘The exercise has worked. I yield him tears
and carry lighter cargo now. I’m free
until he starts to talk about careers.
Why, he wants to know, insist on poetry?’

The therapist continues, intent on his happiness …

‘he counters my ambition: Let it go.
I almost founder on his solid fears,
until uplifted by the undertow
of voices whispering for three thousand years.’

David Mason seems like an eminently sane man, despite his determination to visit every Colorado county as Poet Laureate. He is a friend of local poet Mark Irwin and so we get to be on the front end of this multi-year tour.

David is a writer working in poetry, prose, and, yes, song. He has published collections of poetry such as ìArrivals,î verse narratives such as the novel ìLudlowî set in Colorado, prose such a memoir of his connection to Greece ìNews from the Village,î and libretti such as the opera “The Scarlet Letter.”

David is a professor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. His poetry, prose and translations have won numerous awards and appeared in such periodicals as The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Nation, The New Republic, The New York Times, The Times Literary Supplement, Poetry, Agenda, Modern Poetry in Translation, The New Criterion, The Yale Review, The Hudson Review, The American Scholar, The Irish Times, and The Southern Review.

If you don’t know, this is an impressive list.

Mark this Sunday: poetry at 4:00 p.m. The workshop at 2:00 is called ìKiller openings: ways to get into a poem and ways to get out of one.î Please bring a poem you’re willing to revise. The workshop will be limited to 12 people, so sign up now. The reading, of course, will be open to all.

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