Literary arts

Seasoned poets, and soon to be

Poets speak for Mother Earth at Taos Environmental Film Festival opening event

By Laura Bulkin
Posted 4/18/18

The Taos Environmental Film Festival will continue its tradition of joining with the Society of the Muse of the Southwest to present a collaborative event. This year, the theme is …

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Literary arts

Seasoned poets, and soon to be

Poets speak for Mother Earth at Taos Environmental Film Festival opening event


The Taos Environmental Film Festival will continue its tradition of joining with the Society of the Muse of the Southwest to present a collaborative event. This year, the theme is "Poets for the Environment." Five poets will present their work Wednesday (April 18) at 7 p.m. at SOMOS, 108-B Civic Plaza Drive in Taos. Admission is free, donations appreciated.

Filmmaker and festival organizer Jean Stevens conceived of the idea of an annual SOMOS event as a prologue to the festival. "Past presenters have included John Nichols, Brian Shields, John Suazo and Claire Coté, among others," she said. "This year I decided to invite student poets to perform with the seasoned professionals. I asked Jan Smith, the director of SOMOS, to curate three youth poets."

The event's "seasoned professionals" are Anne MacNaughton and Judith Rane.

Poet, author and artist MacNaughton is a co-founder of SOMOS and director of the legendary Taos Poetry Circus. She teaches writing, and coaches recitation and performance. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is also a recipient of the New Mexico Literary Association's Gratitude Award.

Writer and actor Rane has been acting since a grammar school performance of "The Prince and the Pauper." She was a member of Theatre Space acting company in Vancouver, Canada in the 1980s and studied clowning and street theater there. She has appeared in New Mexico-based television and film productions, including "Breaking Bad," "In Plain Sight," and "Lemonade Mouth." Rane was a founding member of Taos Readers' Theatre in the late 1990s.

The three student poets are Ella Aquino, Leah Epstein and Korah Garner.

Aquino is a 12-year-old writer. Her artist bio states: "She happens to have one very pillow-like cat, one very adorable dog, and a fantastic mother. Dungeons and Dragons, school and sleeping take up approximately 87.381 percent of her time, and the other 12 percent is stuck in limbo between daydreaming, reading and frantically scribbling ideas onto some sort of surface." Samples of Aquino's poetry on the SOMOS website reveal an erudite poet producing profound and beautiful work that would be impressive in an artist of any age.

Sixteen-year-old Epstein is a junior at Taos High School. "I'm the student intern at SOMOS this year and am involved in the young writers' program there," she said. "I'm very excited to read at the Poets for the Environment event. I'm looking forward to hearing everyone's environmental poems and reading my own. I think that as writers in this day and age, it is crucial that we use our voices to effect change and express our opinions. Poetry can be very powerful."

Epstein said that the event's theme represents a new creative genre for her. "This is definitely a bit different than most of my other work. I generally write about very personal subjects such as emotions and human relationships. I'm glad that I was given this opportunity to go out of my comfort zone. As to the environment, I think it's imperative that we keep raising everyone's awareness as to the importance of immediate action in any way possible. Even if nothing can be done to reverse the effects of climate change at present, I believe wholeheartedly that everyone should still do their part to reduce waste and realize that this is our one and only home that we are destroying."

Multi-talented writer, actor and musician Garner was recently seen playing the role of Mercutio in Taos High School's production of William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." The THS senior has been acting, singing and playing guitar since the age of eight and began writing poetry in Francis Hahn's class in her freshman year.

Garner has been doing in-depth research and writing on environmental topics for some time. "It's a concern that we are literally destroying our planet and calling it progress," she said. "We humans have a weird way of thinking that we're so superior to other creatures, and we convince ourselves that we know more than they do. But other creatures at least go with what they feel is right with all their instincts."

She emphasized the need for personal responsibility in approaching environmental issues. "It's easy to just blame politicians, but the change needs to come in each individual. We have a market economy. If we didn't buy all this plastic garbage, they wouldn't keep producing it."

She spoke about the sense of separation from the natural world that affects many people. "Looking at the American psyche, it's like we view nature as an occasional state, instead of the reality. We experience a type of satori when we go out in the woods, but then we come back to 'reality' as if nature is 'over there someplace' instead of running through everything in our lives. Humans could be the connection between the terrestrial and the celestial, but instead we're acting like functioning cogs in a big machine and committing mass suicide. By destroying the environment, we're destroying ourselves."

Garner said she was looking forward to bringing the artistry of words to the environmental theme. "Poetry can have a real and lasting effect. Any art form is an expression of human suffering and beauty. It's all a balance of good and bad, the beautiful aspects of humanity as well as the shadow side. Art is so powerful as an expression of emotion that brings us together. Ultimately, it's all inside of all of us."

SOMOS Poetry Month readings

The Society of the Muse of the Southwest (SOMOS) continues its celebration of National Poetry Month with readings by Santa Fe poet Jon Davis, Diné poet Chee Brossy; Slovenian poetry translator Sonja Kravanja, Parisian poet and poetry translator Fiona Sze-Lorrain and Taos photographer and poet Janice Sandeen.

Poets Jon Davis and Chee Brossy present their poetry Friday (April 13), 7 p.m., at SOMOS, 108 Civic Plaza Drive.

Davis is the author of four collections of poetry and five chapbooks. He is director of the low-residency creative writing masters program at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. Brossy is a poet, fiction writer and journalist. He grew up in Red Mesa, Arizona in the Navajo Nation. Brossy holds an masters degree from the Institute of American Indian Arts.

“Poetry in Translation” takes place Saturday (April 14) at 5:30 p.m. also at SOMOS. It brings together Sonja Kravanja, Fiona Sze-Lorrain aand Janice Sandeen for an evening of poetry in multiple languages, including visual.

A native of Slovenia, Kravanja has translated works of prominent Slovenian poets including Tomaž Šalamun, Edvard Kocbek, Dane Zajc and Aleš Debeljak, among others. For her translations of Šalamun’s poems, she received the Columbia University Translation Center Award and the Pushcart Prize. Sze-Lorrain is a poet, literary translator, editor, and zheng harpist who writes and translates in English, French, and Chinese. She lives in Paris, France and is visiting Taos as a Wurlitzer Foundation artist-in-residence. Sandeen is an educational consultant, writer, and photographer living in Taos. She has an masters degree from Rhode Island School of Design. She will be presenting her photography and poetry side by side.

For more information, and the full schedule of National Poetry Month events, call (575) 758-0081 or visit

Also ...

In Spring 2017, Ariana Kramer and composer Andrea Clearfield were awarded an Aldo & Estella Leopold Writers Residency through the Leopold Writing Program. The residency was conducted in the summer of 2017 at Mi Casita in Tres Piedras, N.M. As their collaborative project, Kramer wrote a poetic text which Clearfield set to music for baritone and piano.

"Transformed by Fire" explores Aldo Leopold's changing perception of wolves and the necessary role they play in our ecosystems. Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) is considered by many to be the father of wildlife ecology.  He is the author of the well-known book “A Sand County Almanac.”

"Transformed by Fire" was presented at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, New Mexico in August 2017. An encore performance was offered in September in response to audience request.

As part of National Poetry month events, "Transformed by Fire" will be presented by SOMOS on Wednesday (April 25), 7 p.m., at the Harwood Museum of Art, 238 Ledoux Street. The performance is free to the public. The program features baritone Mark Jackson and pianist Martha Shepp, and a presentation by Ariana Kramer. For more information, call (575) 758-5826.


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