Commissioner Art Goodtimes
Meet organizer, instigator and founder of the Talking Gourds Spoken Word Festival.
by Harold Carr
Imagine a county commissioner who writes poetry andweaves baskets during meetings. That’s Art Goodtimes. He was first elected as acommissioner of San Miguel County, Colorado, in 1996 and has continued to bereelected since as a member of the Green Party (sanmiguelcounty.org/goodtime).In his recently published book of poetry, "As If The World ReallyMattered" (La Alameda Press (www.laalamedapress.com) he says, "I dopolitics by matching fixed attention with free intention." Weaving is his"essential sacred practice, and a reminder of what I do in the contentiousrealm of the public arena."
Since long before getting into politics, Art’s passionshave been the land and poetry. He says, "poetry is an art that allows ushumans to speak, not just for ourselves, but for the world around us."
Besides writing for the earth, Art takes action: Hewrites in "Hayduke Lives," dedicated to Ed Abbey: "Don’t befooled that the marches don’t count, that arrests don’t matter, that strikeswon’t hurt. When the headlines say the blood that’s spilled was spilled invain, know that each wrench wrecks havoc with the smooth engine of the dozer’sday."
In addition to political action in service of the earth,Art homesteads what he calls "Cloud Acre" near Norwood, Colorado,where he sees the winter solstice "slide almost down to the Blues beforetromboning back to the high peaks of the La Sals." At Cloud Acre, Artgrows "49 fall varieties of heirloom seed potatoes and a volunteer orchardof summer sour cherry." He says, "what better place to call home thanthis high desert cloud mesa high five rippling of the continental plates. Letothers take the Plains, the Great Basin. Give me raw rock, mountains,impossible cliffs. I’m all roots and getting redder."
Art’s poems "are performance pieces, meant to beread aloud. To the wind. To the sea. To the mountains, where so many of themfirst found their way into my life." His poems are direct, "notechno-gimmicks, celluloid tricks. No dazzling mechanical arrays. Justvoice."
Art was born in the San Francisco Bay area:"floating in the sac, I sucked the blood of my mother’s cigarettes. Amasked man slapped the life into me. I was born craving nicotine and the smellof her skin." His ancestors came to Monterey in the 1790s and no doubt hadcontact with the Esselen peoples. Growing up, Art saw "in a cave nearTassajara a wall of hands. A cloud of white prints set dancing on stone, hintsat some forgotten rite. Initiates pressing skin against rock and the rockremembering."
Art worked as a VISTA volunteer on the Crow Reservationin Montana and as a van driver for handicapped people doing service as aconscientious objector during the Vietnam War. The projects in the Fillmore andat Hunter’s Point gave him a first hand glimpse of the crowding socharacteristic of "the indolent urban grids where most our speciesthrives." Now he lives with "vistas free of rooflines. Whole countieswithout stoplights."
Even though Art loves the West with its "roadkillcoyote sprawled across the centerline, eyes glassy as marbles, the cold lastlook of it all" or "skinning the elk I go inside to wash my hands butI’m marked for life. Its meat becomes my meat, spirit leaping from shape toshape" -he still has a strong connection to the Pacific Ocean:
Huge waves crash ashore
Wake up myths thousands of years old
asleep in the dunes
Punch-drunk rollers cooking all the way from China
rips spray off the heads of ten foot combers
Any semblance of human hand
& crushed in the surf
Whole redwood ripped up by the roots
Sand flea bubbles bursting on the beach
Wave after wave after wave after wave
soak deep into the land mass
the serpentine locked in the Turtle’s heart
A person once asked Art if he believed in God."Belief is a lame horse when the posse carries guns," he replied."God. Coyote. Everybody names names. Only some get fooled by the lariat oftheir own rope trick." Instead, Art looks for direct experience: RegardingCloud Acre, he says: "Listening to this one place, its moods, itswhispers, has taught me more about earth and its deepening wisdoms than anytext."
Art’s no solitary scribbler. He’s an organizer andinstigator, particularly well-known as the founder of the Talking Gourds SpokenWord Festival that takes place in Telluride, Colorado, since 1989. Art will beperforming along with many other poets this month.
A final word from Art to us "Jurassiclatebloomers": "Less carbs. More love." u
Harold Carr is bassist with Blue Haiku and Red RockRondo. We first met him at Talking Gourds about 17 years ago, and look forwardto seeing him there again this year.