Pikes Peak Poet Laureate Project - Home
Current Laureate: Susan M. Peiffer
Susan M. Peiffer was inaugurated as the 5th Pikes Peak Poet Laureate on April 24, 2016. Susan will serve as Poet Laureate until April 2018.
Susan Peiffer is a published and nationally recognized poet who studied creative writing and theology at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. With graduate degrees from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Susan taught at a private high school in Delaware for six years, toured the United States as a poet, and then worked as program director for a non-profit in Philadelphia until 2012. Since relocating to Colorado Springs in 2012, Susan has become deeply invested in the local community. Currently executive director of Hear Here Poetry, she amplifies her intention to encourage all people to listen, write, share, and engage the world with their words. She facilitates workshops and classes on different aspects of writing and performance and hopes to help inspire the unique circumstances into which crafted poems arrive. Susan is eager to continue connecting different facets of the Pikes Peak Region through the shared experience of poetry.
It is the observation of Dr. Martin Luther King day in the United States. And unlike our several years prior—this year it has gone largely unrecognized. The celebration and remembrance have been dampened and the mission threatened—because it has never been more obvious than now that the work is not done. As the inauguration looms before us, we must focus on the revolutionary words of a civil-rights pioneer—to honor his message we are required to become heroes ourselves. Peace —SMP
Villanelle for a Burning House
Black women kneel in churches with flames around their feet as
a caustic smoke sneaks to cover this confederate place—
Black children litter American streets where both bullets & protests
stoke the heat of badges, black hoodies, and race—
Black mothers watch from barred windows with flames at their feet—
Begging for breath and throat choking a black man weeps and
drops like a concrete corpse with a blood and blue stained face—
Black boys are littered on American streets and black girls wail as
their mother’s leap from killing heights to land in defeat as
death-crazed officers attack with tasers and
black fathers perch on ledges, flames burning their feet—
We carry quick-trigger rifles and people can’t sleep while
scorched-wing black angels fall to grace in gunshot embrace.
Our black children like litter on American streets.
They gaze at those imprisoned behind steel bars and at
the freight of unnamed bodies filling cemetery space—
Black people pray in this house with flames burning around their feet—
Our black people litter American streets.
Happy New Year, friends—
2016 was full of more challenges than joys for many people and I am not sorry to have a fresh year starting. It was a year where governments upheld cruelty, where the political climate became absurd, where countless nameless people died, where so many have had their civil liberties threatened, and where millions seeking safety were turned away. It has been a year of progress, but I don’t know in what direction—I’m afraid calling it “congress” might be an issue.
It has been a year of accomplishment and success in many areas and I am so grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given in open doors and chances to serve others. I have learned a lot, written a lot, and shared a lot—but I’m left feeling relieved that the year is done.
May 2017 grant you each the peace and happiness you deserve. May your joy be overwhelming and your challenges be blessings in disguise. May you learn much and love much and create and be kind. May your heart be full and your motivation lively. May you make a difference and be comfortable with change. May you find and rest in a place you cherish as home and may you be always deeply loved.
Cast aside this cut-hard year
slap in the face year
pleading for change year—
Let its casket lily stench waft away—
Grieve what didn’t blossom
flowers mistaken as weeds
fruit that went unharvested
& bouquets you didn’t give
from could-have-been calendars
Stow months with mothballs
& pack up days—
Time is fleeting on careless wings—
we only change what tomorrow brings.
Happy Holidays! When I first moved to Colorado Springs I was coming from a job as program director for a non-profit in Philadelphia whose services supported children with guardians who identified in the LGBTQIA spectrum. We ran a year-round speaker’s program and a two week long residential summer camp in the pine barrens of New Jersey. The creative arts were essential to our activities—poetry was a means of expression the young people eagerly responded to and embraced. I have found their enthusiasm to be universally present—especially among the queer youth of the Pikes Peak region.
In Colorado Springs, Inside/Out Youth Services launched as a program for LGBTQIA youth in 1990 as a program of the El Paso County Department of Health and Environment. Inside/Out is known for trusted, high quality and engaging youth development and recreation programs, as well as referrals for at-risk youth. They are often the only safe space in the city for a queer or questioning young person. An army of volunteers and small staff advocate and empower young people and their allies so that safety, acceptance and liberty breathe across the city, not just behind the doors of our youth center. The creative and outspoken work they do encourages compassion and story telling.
Inside they provide safety and acceptance for LGBTQIA youth and their allies.
Out in the community they provide understanding, respect, and equality.
I am proud to share this poem, written for Inside/Out, with you.
For you whose chest is rainbow fractured—
—you tired seahorses
& unexpected heroes with the birds-nests
worried into your hair—
whose struggle to silence the screaming
has blocked out dove psalms—
There are sparrow seeds sprouting
from the shine seeping through
the cracks of your opening heart.
Your flame flickers in darkness
& grows brighter with the wind.
We have come out of the closet
& have seen scars in the mirror
We have lit candles
& left the house—
Strengthened our spines
by growing wings—
Taken aim & flown
past the moon.
We see her reflection
& plaster her glow
like a smile on the mirrors
of our faces.
We use the light of each other
to fly our way home—
In the safety of our house
nestled in the embrace of branches
& the flutter of wings
we find friends who are ever-enduring shadows
& un-lying mirrors
Candles lose nothing when they share
the warmth of their flames—
There are millions waiting in the dirt of flower pots
for the warmth of owning their own names.
When a flower fails to bloom
you build them a new home—
you do not give up
on their blossoming at all—
To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.
We poets who trade in our lives for a living
were once, too, parchment waiting to be inscribed—
We burn our eyes by staring too long
at our bright burning star of a sun—
& we wonder
at the burn of our own reflections
—& at the mirrors we’ve become.
Look what you can do with this world
& a wind-pipe
& a poem
—a whistling bird call
always drawing you home.
-Susan M. Peiffer
Penrose Library was the scene of a winter-themed poetry reading on December 11. Pikes Peak Poet Laureate Emeritus Price Strobridge emceed the event that featured some of our areas best and best-know poets, including Jim Ciletti, Teever Handal, Loring Wirbel, Julianza Shavin, Amie Sharp, and Evan Kendrick.
The Classical Academy 5th graders brought hand-knitted hats and scarves, socks and hand warmers, while PPLD provided hot cocoa and cookies to excited Penrose Library patrons.
This is the 2nd poetry and warming clothing give-away that the Pikes Peak Poet Laureate Project has held at Penrose Library.