I wanted to do the work to help make Colorado Springs a city that people would want to stay and make art in.
On Jan. 20, the day Trump takes the oath of office, Haymarket Books will release 'Inauguration' a free digital chapbook by Colorado Poets Idris Goodwin and Nico Wilkinson.
The book is a collection of ten poems written in reaction to the onset of a new political regime. Writing out of Colorado Springs, Colorado, one of the most divided cities in the country, Goodwin and Wilkinson trade their stories of survival in a hostile political climate. Yet Inauguration transcends partisan rhetoric. It is a response to the noise and the silence, a rallying call to collectively find our way forward.
The book release party is set for 7 p.m. on Jan. 20 at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, hosted by Keep Colorado Springs Queer.
We sat down with Wilkinson and Goodwin to talk about the release.
The Inauguration is thousands of miles away so why does a book release in Colorado Springs matter?
Wilkinson: Colorado Springs is a microcosm of the divisions that exist across the country. Despite its reputation as simply conservative, it is diverse in its identities and opinions, and we seek to highlight that in being more outspoken and honest in both our love and criticism for our city and our country. The religious right has always been very quick to own America as their country, and to respond to political environments they disagree on with that ownership. Now it is our time to stand and say “Not in my country,” not out of blind nationalism, but out of love for our communities and our neighbors who have been left vulnerable to bigotry and hate in the recent and upcoming political climate.
It’s always been a tradition to have poets at the inauguration, and we are working in that tradition, invited or otherwise.
When were these poems written? Have they all been created since the election?
Goodwin: These are the kinds of poems we stay writing year in and out. But I pitched Nico on the idea in the late fall, mainly because I felt that “we need to talk about what just happened.” As we got nearer to “the day” we began to think about which of our existing works fit and of course what new things we could say. This project is about bringing folks together to co exist in a space of imagination. And for us to collectively reflect on where we are going next.
Was Streep correct to say now is the time for artists to make art?
Goodwin: Well, I think Meryl’s sentiment was right BUT I don't believe “now is the time” -- it’s been the time. Yesterday, today, tomorrow--we are the types of artists who are interested in creating work that draws from our culturally specific experiences and the feelings of those around us. We write for any and all, BUT primarily for those on the margins.
My 2010 book These Are The Breaks was written in the Obama era and still dealt with similar issues. My 2014 album Rhyming While Black - same thing. Inauguration would have existed even if Hillary won, because the campaign road illuminated so many of our tragic demons. This is not about who the president is this year, it’s about who WE have been and still are.
People don't typically think thriving poetry scene when they think of Colorado Springs, is that changing?
Wilkinson: I’ve spoken to people who have lived here for years, or lived here years ago and then moved to Denver, who remark on Colorado Springs now as vastly different than it was even 4-5 years ago. We’ve got a thriving population of artists, and more college alum who are sticking around post-graduation, that are doing the work to improve both the arts and activism scene in Colorado Springs and shake it from complacency.
I started as a poet with Hear, Here! and upon going to the slams, I realized Colorado Springs was a place I could stay and make art in, with a passionate community of poets and artists. That is why I so appreciate Hear, Here’s work with youth and cultivation of space for poets in high school and younger to speak and feel a sense of community that they might not otherwise feel here.
I wanted to do the work to help make Colorado Springs a city that people would want to stay and make art in. That’s why I founded Keep Colorado Springs Queer with Han Sayles. It has brought queer and trans artists to the stage and consistently fills the house with an audience that has craved representation. Although some valuable DIY artist spaces have shut down, such as Mountain Fold Books, The Flux, and Rooted Studio, the people that were most fundamental in the work those spaces held have not lost steam. We are working on creating new collectives, venues, and co-ops and keep the arts scene going and growing in Colorado Springs.
The fact that this event can happen, that Idris and I can perform these poems with artists from the Keep Colorado Springs Queer collective, with so much support from our community is evidence of the fact that Colorado Springs is changing, and that people want to hear poetry and art that represents them, in both our outrage and sorrow, as well as our celebration.
Where can people pick up a copy?
A digital copy is available online via haymarketbooks.org and our “han-made” limited edition letter pressed versions created by Han Sayles can be purchased at our gigs. Folks should visit our websites to find out where we will be and when.
KEEP COLORADO SPRINGS QUEER is a collective of comedians, poets, and musicians in Colorado Springs who gather at monthly open mics, hosted by Nico Wilkinson and Han Sayles.
HAYMARKET BOOKS is a Chicago based independent, nonprofit whose mission to publish books that contribute to struggles for social and economic justice
IDRIS GOODWIN is an award winning playwright, poet and essayist. He is the author of the pushcart nominated collection These Are The Breaks. He’s performed poetry on HBO, Sesame Street, and Discovery Channel. Goodwin’s work is featured in The Break Beat Poets and Spoken Word Revolution anthologies, in addition to numerous literary journals. His widely produced stage-plays include: How We Got On, This Is Modern Art co-written with Kevin Coval, And In This Corner: Cassius Clay, Hands Up and Bars and Measures. He’s received support from the NEA and Ford Foundation, and awarded Oregon Shakespeare’s American History Cycle Commission, The Blue Ink Playwriting Award and InterAct Theater’s 20/20 Prize. Idris is an assistant professor in The Department of Theatre and Dance at Colorado College . Find him at www.idrisgoodwin.com
NICO WILKINSON is a spoken word poet and organizer in Colorado Springs. In 2015 they were the Grand Slam Champion of Colorado Springs, and represented the city at the National Poetry Slam in Oakland. In 2016, Nico released “good morning cruel world,” their first album.They host “Keep Colorado Springs Queer,” a monthly open mic, and they write for “Queer & There,” a weekly column in the Colorado Springs Independent. Their work has been published in Rust+ Moth, Voicemail Poems, and Cactus Heart. Find them at www.nicowilkinson.com