Not that anyone ever doubts a poet’s ability to make a living, but … sheesh! Local Poet David Mason just won a pretty spectacular prize from the University of Oklahoma! Says The Norman Transcript:

Poet David Mason, a professor of English at Colorado College, recently was named the 2009 Thatcher Hoffman Smith Creativity in Motion Prize recipient.

The $40,000 will allow Mason to focus more time on creating the libretto for the opera adaptation of his verse novel Ludlow.

The Creativity in Motion prize is a biennial prize honoring the creative process given by the University of Oklahoma College of Arts and Sciences.

Mason previously teamed with composer Lori Laitman for the 2008 opera Scarlet Letter, her first full-length opera. This will be their second project together.

Opera is a new addition to Mason’s career as a poet. With nine books written and edited, and poems published in The New Yorker, Poetry, The New Republic, The Nation, etc., Mason was inspired to adapt Ludlow after his experience with the libretto for Laitman’s Scarlet Letter.

Ludlow tells the story of a handful of immigrants — Greek, Italian, Scottish, Mexican — caught up in a labor struggle in southern Colorado, culminating in the Ludlow Massacre of April 1914.

While the monetary prize is certainly an eye-popper in poetry terms, make no mistake that the undertaking is Herculean. As Mason, also a Professor of English Literature at Colorado College, wrote in his proposal for the grant:

Turning this book into an opera libretto will be an even greater challenge than The Scarlet Letter. I’ve got to take a vast narrative canvas, something of a modern epic, and rethink the book as a series of dramatic scenes building relentlessly toward a disastrous moment in American history. I’ve got to rethink my own use of verse technique, both free and metered verse, and the kind of diction possible for sing-able lines. I’ve got to think musically as well, using the possibilities of chorus, aria, duet, trio, quartet, etc.

All this is to say nothing of the superhuman efforts the composer will have to make. Lori Laitman prefers to be inspired by the words when she composes, and has a particular gift for honoring the cadences of language in her music. If our previous experience is any indication, we will be lucky to have piano and orchestral scores completed in time for a 2011 premiere. Once the original producers at UCA [University of Central Arkansas] have their shot at the opera, we will of course try very hard to get it staged around the country.

Ultimately, what we hope to achieve is a great American opera, a work that brings new audiences to both music and literature, and new awareness of this historical event. We want to grow as artists within our own media and through collaboration with each other, the singers and musicians and stage directors we encounter. Opera is a great art form because it brings almost all other art forms together in a spectacle of intense energy and emotional charge. We think Ludlow’s story deserves such treatment and are eager to get started on the work.

You can read the rest of the story from The Norman Transcript HERE, and you can listen to Dave Mason read a passage from Ludlow right here. Just click on the arrow below:

(photo by Anne Lennox)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Get your copy of Ludlow HERE.

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One Response to If Only You'd Been a Poet!

  1. […] College Professor, Trinidad native and author of the much-lauded epic historical poem Ludlow—did just that: He got a poem published in what is probably the best-read magazine in the country […]


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