Colorado Award-Winner Picks Unusual Ways To Promote Poetry

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<p>Courtesy: Eric Walter</p>
<p>Mark Todd</p>
Photo: Mark Todd
Mark Todd

A deep sense of the landscape and people of the American West infuses Western State University English professor Mark Todd’s poetry. For the last three decades he’s also promoted the art by organizing poetry readings by Colorado writers in unexpected places, including a rodeo. Todd was recently recognized with the Karen Chamberlain Award for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry in Colorado.

Todd has authored two volumes of poetry and a number of other books. He has also collaborated with his wife Kym on a travel guide to Colorado's haunted hotels and several works of science fiction.

Poems by Mark Todd:

A .22 was all it took,
and a rifle caressed
by proud hands once ranch
rough – hands that now wore
the brittle of decay,
trapped most days by bed
clothes, or pressed hard
against smooth walls.
But this day, sitting
in his son’s pick-up,
promised for rabbit hunting,
he sat alone.
And while his son
fetched the old man’s 
hat inside, no one
heard the pop, or saw him
slump, a burgundy trickle
seeping from his chin,
painting the hounds-tooth
checkers on his shirt.
The drive
Toward town
Feels harried,
But of course,
This is still
Rural Colorado,
And I slow the car:
Now a cautious, driven wedge
Into the herd of cattle
That claims the road
That adjusts
The schedules
Of spring.
We’ve decided now’s the time to rewrite
our bios. Perhaps a science fiction 
or some ramped-up version of our life 
– for future fans, who’d opt for sights
of wide-screen worlds in contravention.
We’ll star, of course, when it’s time to write
the scene where all the Earth’s at height-
ened high alert, or at collision’s
door, ramping up our scripted life
with light sabers flashing for viewers’ delight.
Weakened and scorched, in true affliction,
we persevere in time to right
what’s wrong – well, maybe not that trite!
But still, two bios worth inscription:
finaléd, bold and amped up lives
where order’s restored when we exit (stage right).
Just a bit of flourish to our rendition
now that we think we might rewrite
more ramped-up versions of our life.
It’s not that bitch, necessity – 
whose musings purport
to guide invention’s guile – 
but fear herself, unsung
goddess of primal paste,
who twists gristle to hang
meat on nightmares.
Don’t underestimate that gal.
Take Poe, who plucked
strings to quicken Angst
of burial alive, so vigorous,
pages of Sears & Roebuck once
sold toe-attaching cord
to jangle graveyard bells
atop a town of mounds,
where even sextants assured
they’d tamp earth loose
enough for jiggle room.
How’s that for a siren taunt
from that little girl?
In fact, it’s still
her voice that tamps
quotidian, seething life
just loose enough to breathe.

"The Birthday" and "On Cattle Time" by Mark Todd reprinted from Wire Song, published by Conundrum Press, a division of Bower House, copyright 2001 Mark Todd. Used with permission.

"Ghost Writers" and "Tamped, But Loose Enough To Breathe" by Mark Todd reprinted from Tamped, But Loose Enough To Breathe, published by Ghost Road Press, copyright 2008 Mark Todd. Used with permission.