The Poets Project at Casa Grande


April 5, 2022

After a pandemic delay, we celebrate the cultural, literary, and community contributions of nine Colorado poets.

This National Poetry Month, we revisit The Poets Project at Casa Grande, a collection published by The Denver Foundation in 2020. At the time, we thought our move into Casa Grande, the historic building in Capitol Hill purchased by the foundation in 2018, was imminent. The pandemic, of course, had other plans. Earlier this month, we finally moved in. We look forward to welcoming the community to Casa Grande, whose conference rooms bear the names of the poets celebrated here.

As The Denver Foundation planned its move from Cherry Creek to Casa Grande, a historic building in Capitol Hill, we sought a theme to unite the spaces where our staff and the community will do our work together. We wanted the meeting rooms and gathering spaces to reflect a new era of The Denver Foundation, now physically rooted even closer to the communities we’ve served for nearly 100 years.

Our thoughts roamed across Colorado, exploring nature, mountains, trees, rivers, and animals. We considered neighborhoods and landmarks from across the sprawling seven-county Metro Denver region, where our work is concentrated: Red Rocks, Colfax Avenue, Chautauqua Park, and Five Points. We realized that we wanted to celebrate the people of Colorado. We considered naming rooms after underrepresented historical figures, civil rights freedom fighters, activists, and Indigenous Native American leaders.

Ultimately we agreed that the neighborhood surrounding our new home provided the perfect theme. Built in 1929, Casa Grande is part of the Sherman/Grant Historic District, known for its stretches of distinctive Art Deco and Streamline Moderne buildings built for Denver’s burgeoning middle class. On one of those stretches, known locally as “Poets Row,” most of the buildings are named for Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, Thomas Carlyle, Emily Dickinson and other traditional literary giants.

We elected to embrace the spirit of the district by naming rooms in Casa Grande for contemporary poets in Colorado. Our goal was to honor the legacy and living history of poetry in Colorado while celebrating poets who embody The Denver Foundation’s vision of a creative and inclusive future. All of the buildings on Poet’s Row are named for white writers; we wanted the nine meeting spaces in Casa Grande to more authentically represent the diverse backgrounds and points of view of poets, and people, of Colorado. We asked the community for help.

In April 2020, The Denver Foundation issued an open call for nominations to The Poets Project at Casa Grande. We received dozens of nominations for poets from across the state and read scores of their poems; each one provided a view into the experiences and insights, joys and challenges of people who share our Colorado home. Volunteer members of a review committee made the final selections.

This collection is a sampling of work from the nine extraordinary poets that were chosen for The Poets Project at Casa Grande anthology: Frederick Bosco, Linda Hogan, Bobby LeFebre, Sheryl Luna, Jovan Mays, Adrian H Molina, Chris Ransick, Suzi Q. Smith, and Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer.

They are very different people who write very different poems, but they have many things in common. The first is excellence, as evidenced by the poems themselves as well as the stack of honors and awards that attach to their biographies. Among these artists are five Poet Laureates (Bosco, LeFebre, Mays, Ransick, and Watola Trommer), winners of the Colorado Book Award (Hogan and Ransick), and a Guggenheim Fellow (Hogan, again), and many others. Second, they share a deep engagement with their community, serving as teachers, mentors, advocates, organizers, and leaders as well as scribes. Though Bosco and Ransick have passed on, their impact is felt not just in the enduring power of their words but in their legacies as educators and visionaries.

These poets also share a symbiotic and multi-dimensional relationship with place: Their experiences and observations reconstitute as words and poems, which provide both reflection and record of the places they inhabit and share with others. Poets see the same places differently, in different lights at different times. The Denver that Thomas Ferril (Colorado’s first lLaureate) wrote in and about in the 50s and 60s is very different from the one Bosco illuminates in “Ode to the City and County of Denver,” which asks “If we can dream of a great city we can build it. But whose dream is it?”

Every poem is a statement. This collection includes bold commentary on gentrification, mental illness, institutional racism, and police brutality against Black Americans — issues that The Denver Foundation works to address, using the tools of philanthropy.

There are also, of course, meditations on love, death, and, befitting a Colorado theme, mountains, rivers, and birds. Nature is a constant theme in these pages, a source and symbol not just of beauty but struggle, history, power, and hope for renewal and peace.

Each one of these poems was written to connect with you, the reader, to inspire reflection and maybe even a poem of your own. We hope you enjoy this collection, which is The Denver Foundation’s gift to our new neighbors as well as the communities we’ve worked alongside for generations.