For more than four decades, Artcore’s Music & Poetry series has showcased many of Wyoming’s best writers and musicians.
The summer series intersperses poets and other writers reading their works along with musicians’ sets. This year, the sessions will be held Monday evenings from July 23 through Aug. 20 at Casper’s Crescent Moon Coffee Stop.
Former Wyoming Poet Laureat Patricia Frolander of Sundance kicks off this year’s Music & Poetry season along with Casper trombonist Bob Meloy and organist and painist Beverly Reese.
The series began with the late Charles Levendosky, also a former Wyoming poet laureate, while he was a writer in residence for the Wyoming Arts Council. The series moved under Artcore after he co-founded the organization, which turns 40 this year, its executive director Carolyn Deuel said.
The series features a wide variety of musical and writing genres — not just poetry — in an intimate setting where musicians and audience members alike can take in the performances and mingle between sets, Deuel said. There’s even an open mic night for any writers who want to share.
“We do it pretty much to highlight our local and state performers,” Deuel said. “It’s a nice at intermission, everybody visits and everything — It’s kind of a low-key, fun evening for everybody.”
Pat Frolander was Wyoming’s fifth poet laureate and plans to bring a mixture of her work, including some selections from her upcoming book of poetry, she said.
As a semi-retired rancher, the central theme in much of her poetry is the land, the livestock and the lifestyle, she said.
Among her latest work is cowboy poetry, which she’s been writing more of since being invited to the National Cowboy Poetry gathering the past three years, she said.
Family and nature figure prominently and tie together in her work, as well as open spaces, she said.
“I’m a real proponent of open space, carrying this on the next generations and I think that my writing reflects that,” she said. “I have great grandchildren and I want those spaces available to them. I want the beauty of this state, I want to retain that and protect it as best as I can.”
Music and poetry go hand in hand, she said.
“To me, poetry is musical in and of itself,” Frolander said. “And when someone puts it to melody, somehow it just enhances the whole experience, I believe, for most audiences.”
Casper musician Sue Morrison brings a set of her all-original music to the series, paired with writer Barbara Smith, who taught English and creative writing at Western Wyoming Community College and has earned honors including the Wyoming Governor’s Arts Award, the Wyoming Arts Council Literary Fellowship and the Neltje Blanchan award for nature writing.
Morrison attended Music & Poetry sessions and was thrilled to be invited to perform one for the first time, she said. The performance will debut some of Morrison’s latest music, she said. Morrison brings fellow musicians including her daughter, Mackenzie Morrison on mandolin.
Poetry segues into music, which is a form of poetry itself, she said. Original works, especially along autobiographical themes, are among her favorite pieces to hear, she said.
“You get a little window into what they’re thinking, into their soul or how they’re feeling,” she said.
Rock Springs poet and essayist Rick Kempa makes a return to the series Aug. 6 along with the Charlie Ledbetter Trio of Casper.
Kempa has had more time to write since recently retiring from his teaching career at Western Wyoming Community College, he said. He plans to bring a wide range of work about a variety of subjects, and aims to entertain the audience.
“Poetry ought to be exciting and lively, and I’ve got some good stories to tell,” Kempa said.
He’s known for his writing about Grand Teton National Park and the Grand Canyon, where he’s twice worked as an artist in residence, according to his bio.
He’s hiked those spaces for about 45 years, but always finds something new.
“No place is the same twice,” he said. “And those places feed my spirit and it’s always special to go there and take my notebook with me.”
The Music & Poetry series is an event that makes everyone in the community richer, he said.
“I’m grateful for the organizers for putting this ongoing long-term effort to bring words and music to people’s ears, and I think it’s a wonderful thing,” Kempa said. “The spoken word like music is best shared.”