Every spring in Taos, the Society of the Muse of the Southwest (SOMOS) prepares for a celebration of National Poetry Month. Longtime Taos resident, a frequent contributor to Tempo magazine and poet Ariana Kramer is curating this year's poetry series, which officially kicks off April 1.
Kramer, who said she has been involved in "some form of creative expression my whole life," is the author of "Transformed by Fire," a musical and poetic experience about wolves, which will be performed as part of the series. Kramer said she curated the event with diversity, individual style and background as a guide. She also said it was important to include a number of Taos poets.
"Poetry is for all of us to enjoy," Kramer said. "That's what National Poetry Month is about."
April is packed with events, including a "Poetry in Public Places" installation, which is a collaboration between SOMOS and the Taos Arts Council. Kramer said, "poetry is a quiet contemplative art form … putting poetry in public spaces allows people to encounter poems."
The public places one can encounter the poems include The Taos Cow in Arroyo Seco, KOKO, Coffee Spot, Elevation, Coffee Cats, Gutiz, Manzanita Market, Taos Visitors Center, Town Hall, Youth & Family Center and Taos Community Auditorium. The public library will also display poems by Langston Hughes that have been illustrated by the fourth-grade students of Taos Integrated School of the Arts (TISA).
"The 'Poetry in Public Places' project gives people a chance to interact with poetry as a written art form," Kramer said. "It offers a quiet, personal connection."
Poetry Month will be kicked off April 1 from 4-6 p.m. with "Mix and Match: Fools for Poetry" in the Fechin Studio at the Taos Art Museum, 227 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. In a collaboration with Metta Theatre and Taos Art Museum, poetry by nine Taoseños will be dramatically interpreted by nine local thespians.
Kramer explained that having a dramatic reading of her poems by someone other than herself gave her an entirely new perspective on her work. She hopes other poets will experience this as well.
Multiple rehearsals are planned for the event. Metta Theatre Director Bruce Mcintosh will direct and give performance notes to the nine actors who will be reading. The criteria for the actors to perform, according to Kramer, was "memorize your poem, so you can interact freely with the audience."
McIntosh said, "You're looking to understand exactly the text you're working on and present or share with clarity. Reading a poem aloud to an audience is a close cousin of the soliloquy or monologue onstage, with those who've come to the reading to hear the poet's work with a little different expectation than attending a play, but the task is essentially the same, I think: bring an author's words to life."
On April 6, a reading titled "Water is Community" will be hosted by and feature New Mexico Slam Poetry Champion Olivia Romo and Taos Poet Laureate Sawnie Morris. The event will be from 4-6 p.m. at the Taos Community Auditorium's Encore Gallery, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.
The next day a special workshop for poets and writers of all levels of experience wll be led by Leslie Ulman. The event, "Juxtaposition and Its Gifts of Surprise," will be from 9 a.m. until noon at SOMOS, 108 Civic Plaza Drive. Cost for the workshop is $60 or $45 for members. One can register online at somostaos.org.
The celebrations also include internationally recognized work. A tribute to Leonard Cohen will be held April 10, 5:30-7 p.m., with performances by local poets and musicians Julie Greer, Bob Andrews, Jennifer Peterson and friends.
The event will take place in the Fechin Studio at Taos Art Museum, 227 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. The venue will play host to a group who will be reading selected works, including poems and music from the Cohen lexicon. Admission is $10, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
A reading with poets Jon Davis and Chee Brossy is planned April 13 at SOMOS, 108 Civic Plaza Drive, starting at 7 p.m. This event is a collaborative effort with the faculty of the Institute of American Indian Arts and SOMOS. Brossy is alumni and constituent relations manager, and Davis is director of IAIA's Master of Fine Arts program.
Finally, April 14, from 2-5 p.m., SOMOS will again play host to a provocative workshop titled "Out Loud! Speak Your Writing to Life" led by Taos author David Pérez. The fee is $45 or $40 for members. Registration information can be found at somostaos.org.
Kramer said she hopes the month will create opportunities for future collaborations among writers, poets, actors and musicians in Taos and it "will encourage people to interact with poetry in ways they haven't before."