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Durango recruits its first Poet Laureate

Distinguished poet Esther Belin published two poetry books through University of Arizona Press and won American Book Award
Esther Belin was named the city of Durango’s first-ever Poet Laureate on Dec. 1. She will serve a three-year term and receive an annual stipend of $2,000. (Courtesy of the Durango Poet Laureate Program)

The Durango Poet Laureate Program announced last week the city of Durango’s first Poet Laureate and Rising Poet Laureate, who will bring a touch of artistry to community occasions through the spoken and written word.

Esther Belin is the Poet Laureate, and Zoe Golden is the Rising Poet Laureate. They will officially start their roles in January.

Gail Lovell, a member of both the Durango Poet Laureate Committee and Friends of the Durango Public Library, said in a news release that “it was such a hard decision to make, but it was so gratifying to be a part of the process of uncovering how many talented poets live here in our town.”

The committee received 33 nominations for the Poet Laureate position and 12 applications for the Rising Poet Laureate role.

“The selection committee embarked on a weekslong review process. Top candidates were invited for meetings to discuss their passion for poetry and their vision for promoting the poetic arts in Durango,” the release said.

Durango Public Library Supervisor Daisy Grice also served on the Poet Laureate Committee, saying, “We are so excited to see the poets in action starting next year.”

“We think there will be an aura of more poetry around Durango, hopefully fostering a sense of creativity and beauty,” she said.

Durango High School junior Zoe Golden was chosen to be the city of Durango’s first Rising Poet Laureate. She is charged with engaging the youth voices of the Durango community. (Courtesy of the Durango Poet Laureate Program)

The Poet Laureate and Rising Poet Laureate will provide a constant presence of poetry at community events, per the release. A poetry column in The Telegraph and poetry installations on city buses will contribute to that presence, helping “bring the magic of poetry to everyday life,” the release said.

Belin will receive an annual stipend of $2,000, and Golden will receive a stipend of $500. Both will serve three-year terms.

The release said Belin has lived in Durango since 1997 and has published two single-volume poetry books through the University of Arizona Press, one of which won the American Book Award in 2002. She was also one of four editors for The Diné Reader: An Anthology of Navajo Literature, which won the American Book Award in 2022.

Belin teaches in the Native American & Indigenous Studies department at Fort Lewis College.

“The best poetry is generated when the person releases the self and becomes a conduit to the free play of creativity and imagination,” she said in the release. “When people are guided into spaces of vulnerability and safety, poems that reflect on relationship, participation and contribution to society are achieved.”

Golden is a junior at Durango High School and has published poetry in the Cambridge-Hall Poetry magazine.

She is a bicycle coach for Everypedal, a member of the National Honors Society and a member of Durango Climate Action, according to the release.

In her role as Rising Poet Laureate, she is charged with engaging youth voices, which she’s already done at DHS and The Hive.

“Poetry has changed my life and I believe it has the power to change the world,” she said. “Being the first Rising Poet Laureate of Durango is completely and utterly a dream, my dream, and I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity as well as very excited to share the joy and journey of poetry with the community.

“While I will claim poetry as my best confidant throughout the years, poetry lingers and grows in everyone, belongs to everyone, and I am more than delighted to spark fires of poetry into the hearts of all here to listen.”


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