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Monday, June 24, 2024 at 4:48 PM

Nevadan to Nevadan - Nevada Arts Council Newest Poetry Project

"What I Need to Tell You” - Letter Poems for Nevadans
Nevadan to Nevadan - Nevada Arts Council Newest Poetry Project
Quintessential Nevada photo by Jo Petteruti, and a perfect idea for a “What I Need to Tell You” letter poem.

Author: Jo Petteruti

By Leanna Lehman

Believe it or not, Nevada has a strong connection to poetry. While the Silver State was never home to classic American poet greats like Robert Frost, Edgar Allen Poe, or Emily Dickenson, it has long hosted the world’s largest Cowboy Poetry gathering and put several Nevada cowboy poets on the map. Additionally, American Mark Twain, who wrote over 120 poems throughout his lifetime and was one of our nation’s most iconic and celebrated authors, spent four years living and writing in Nevada during the silver boom of the 1860s. According to the “Routledge Encyclopedia of Mark Twain,” those years proved to be some of the most formative to his writing. Twain thrived in Nevada, despite a few “disagreeable experiences,” which he said he brought on himself, meanwhile learning just how far he could push a joke. All of which made him a perfect Nevadan.

Virtually everyone living in the Silver State has a collection of disagreeable experience stories and quite possibly bad jokes. Often Mavericks - outsiders and renegade remnants of the Wild West, Gold and Silver Rush days - Nevadans usually have much to say. If that sounds like you, the Nevadan to Nevadan “What I Need to Tell You” Poetry Project is waiting for your submission. 

The Nevada Arts Council and Poet Laureate Gailmarie Pahmeier invites Nevadans to submit poems to the 2023 statewide project. This project aims to encourage residents to speak to one another via poetry and tell one another something about living in this beautiful, complicated state. Instead of using the traditional poem writing method, “What I Need to Tell You” calls for an epistolary style or “letter poems.”

The project is about writing honestly, about the story, and about real things observed, experienced, and felt by those living in Nevada. Participants are encouraged to write letters to people and places in our state and share what matters to them. Each letter allows participants to weave their voices into what the project calls the “larger tapestry of Nevada culture.” 

Creativity and experimentation with different personas are welcome. For example, consider a less orthodox approach, like “What would Wendover Will want to say to Vegas Vic?” Through compassion and revelation, the project hopes to celebrate what it means to be a Nevadan by honoring our many voices and fragile climate.

“Remember that in the land of silver and sagebrush, there are a host of old friends that rejoice in your success.” – The Territorial Enterprise’s goodbye to Mark Twain as he left Nevada for San Francisco in 1864.

For more information, visit https://www.nvartscouncil.org/nevada-poetry-project/.


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