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Celebrate National Poetry Month and Peggy Simson Curry Day in North Park

April is National Poetry Month

Poetry. Many people dread the word itself. Rote memorization of Shakespearean sonnets or rhymes in high school might rank high in nightmare fuel for some. For many, poetry can be a grueling experience, and bring back flashbacks of being tortured with meter and iambic pentameter. Somehow poetry has been set in a place reserved for conversations between pipe-smoking intellectuals with patches on their elbows. Yet how many of us have no problem singing along with our favorite songs on the radio and knowing every lyric? Songs are simply poems set to music. 

Poetry is one of the oldest forms of storytelling. From the Epic of Gilgamesh and Homer’s Iliad, up to and including ballads by George Strait or bars from the Wu-Tang Clan. Poetry can be complicated rhyming patterns and rules and syllables, or sparse and haunting. It can be about love, rebellion, sorrow, irony and more. It is the emotional distillation of a moment, taken to its purest form.

With its raw, remote beauty, places like North Park inspire creativity. In some places, poetry is simple and as easy as breathing if you know how to look for it. It is no wonder that Wyoming’s first poet laureate, Peggy Simson Curry, was one of North Park’s own. In Jan. 1981 she was declared Wyoming’s Poet Laureate in 1981 by Gov. Ed Herschler. A few years later in 1983 following a book signing in town, the Town of Walden decreed that April 13th would be celebrated as Peggy Simson Curry Day.

April 13th is Peggy Simson Curry Day

Peggy Simson Curry was someone who put her feelings into words, many times evoking the raw beauty of nature and the strength of character of people carving out an existence in an often harsh world. Her work resonated with the Western experience in ways that capture people and places she had experienced first-hand. Those who knew, saw themselves in it too.

Though she was born in Scotland in 1911 and emigrated to the US as a child, later spending much of her adult life in Wyoming, much of her time growing up was within sight of the mountains surrounding North Park. With living relatives still living in Jackson County today who can recall their aunt, teacher, or friend, her legacy is as much a part of North Park as it is our neighbor’s to the north.

In 1983, the locals of Walden, CO decreed April 13 to be Peggy Simson Curry Day to celebrate the accomplishments of this daughter of North Park. Her  novel, So Far from Spring took place in a fictionalized North Park. She continued to write novels, short stories, and of course poetry until her death in 1987 in Casper, WY.

Many still remember her from elementary school assemblies as they fidgeted in their heavy coats, watching the tall lady talk about her poems. It is hard to say how many were affected by her words. Others might know her as family. Peggy Simson Curry’s legacy in North Park runs strong and deep, as many people who share her blood can still recall time spent with her. Anyone who has both read her work and experienced the raw beauty of North Park can recognize the spirit of this place and how it is reflected in her words.

Beverly Andrus: Jackson County’s Own Poet Laureate

Other than a Poet Laureate of Colorado, our state has four county poet laureates and seven town poet laureates. Beverly Andrus is starting her second two year term as Jackson County’s own poet laureate. She has been a resident of North Park for the last twenty years, experiencing the raw beauty and intricacies of small town life as Peggy Simson Curry might have done. As part of her station, Beverly advocates for poetry as well as bringing others together to encourage creativity, humor, and expression to promote the experience of being a poet. 

Her poems have been published in chapbooks as well as performed before audiences at her Wildflower Theatre. In 2014 she competed against singers, musicians, and other performers in Colorado You Got Talent, and was within the top 30 of the contestants. Her plays and poems have been performed at signings as well as 2023’s Empathy Theatre in Boulder, CO which explored the reintroduction of wolves in Colorado. 

Her poetry is not lightweight, as it has tackled themes of violence against women and sexual assault, and even garnered her a win at the poetry slam at Steamboat bookstore, Off the Beaten Path. She has been vocal about the political climate and future of North Park letters to the editor in the Jackson County Star, which were presented in poetic form.

The Wildflower Theatre brings people together through readings, performance art, and other events. Hosting the annual celebration of Peggy Simson Curry Day on April 13th is just one of the ways she carries out the responsibilities of her position locally—and it is done with enthusiasm. Among her accomplishments, she has also worked to get more traction locally for poetry by inviting cowboy poets to perform for events.

Celebrate Peggy Simson Curry Day at the River Rock Cafe

On April 13, Beverly Andrus, in conjunction with her Wildflower Theatre, will be hosting the annual celebration of Peggy Simson Curry Day at the River Rock on Main Street in Walden, CO. The festivities begin at 6pm. 

Wildflower Theatre is reader theater, done open-book, without having to memorize the poems (unless they want to do so). Excerpts of Peggy Simson Curry’s books, poems, as well as selections from local authors and storytellers will also be presented; including a selection from the late Buck Huston’s own memoirs of a life in North Park. 

More readings from Langston Hughes, Willie Nelson, and the Star Spangled Banner will also be featured at the event. Along with poetry, camaraderie, and a mutual appreciation for the arts, food will be served and drawings for gift cards to local merchants will also be given out as door prizes. An open mic will allow other talented participants to share their own work with the community.

Reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th

Each year on the 4th of July, Beverly Andrus and the Wildflower Theatre Ensemble read the entirety of the Declaration of Independence on the Jackson County Courthouse steps in Walden. This will be her fifth year of reading this historic document, which takes upwards of 10 minutes. Beverly believes that the poetry and power the words of the Declaration command are as important now as they were nearly 250 years ago. 

North Park is not without its struggles, as many are facing in these challenging times. But Beverly says that one of the things she loves about North Park is how people pull together in an emergency. “We help one another!” Among others, her first example was about the 2020 fires that cut North Park off from the rest of the world. The people worked together to make the best out of a terrible situation, by helping neighboring ranchers move cattle out of the path of the fire and providing support however they could. When blizzards shut off the roads into the county, the community opens itself up to stranded travelers and offers them hospitality in their time of need.

Poetry is All Around Us

From that first sting of snow on the first flurry of winter to the way the frogs sing in the fields in April, there is a beauty in North Park that a lucky few have truly known. And those who have, keep it with them always. Our rural traditions should never be considered an obstacle towards the arts and creativity. Previous articles here have explored how many of our locals are skilled artisans and craftsmen. Our history as a rough and tumble frontier town has also given us musicians, metal workers, painters, and yes, poets.

Come join the celebration of Peggy Simson Curry day at the River Rock Cafe on April 13th at 6pm. Advanced tickets are $15 and tickets at the door are $20 per person. Contact Beverly Andrus at (970) 723-3201 for tickets and more information. You can also reach her on Facebook.

Bring your creative spirit and North Park pride to celebrate National Poetry Month and Peggy Simson Curry Day. We will see you there!

To learn more about Wyoming's First Poet Laureate, Peggy Simson Curry, check out this link to the WyoHistory Site.



 

Phone
(970) 723-3201 (Call Beverly Andrus for tickets)

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