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Making poetry exciting

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By Kirsten Laskey

To some, poetry might not spark enthusiasm or produce more snores than cheers but poet Erika Wurth is working to change people’s attitudes toward the art form.

In her collection of poetry, titled “Indian Trains,” which was published in October from the New Mexico University’s West End Press, Wurth honors those closest to her, her family and community.

Growing up outside of Denver, Wurth, who is Native American and has blood ties to the Apache, Chicksaw and Cherokee tribes, writes about urban Indians who are living away from the reservations.

This includes her mother, her mother’s siblings, as well as thieves, prostitutes, train stealers, drug dealers, loners, jerks and dreaming alcoholics.

She describes the poems as “portraits of my family and community.”

And even though the people she has met and those in her family may be hard to understand, “I wanted to honor them,” Wurth said.

Wurth will be reading from the collection during the Authors Speak series at 7 p.m. Thursday at Mesa Public Library.

During the reading, people may not be hearing nursery rhymes, but Wurth said “poetry can be enjoyed and be joyful even if it is sad and mysterious.”

Her reason behind turning to writing is rather mysterious, she said.

“I was kind of a nerdy kid, books were my friends.”

She said she read a lot before she started writing seriously.

Influential writers include Sherman Alexie, Jhumta Lahiri and Junot Diaz.

Also two Native American poets who have incfluenced Wurth are M.L. Smoker and Sherman Bitsui.

“They’ve done a lot for me,” she said.

While “Indian Trains” is Wurth’s first published collection, she has published work in Boulevard, SAIL, AMCRJ and Cedar Hill Review, fiction in Fiction, Raven Chronicles, and Pembroke, a non-fiction essay in Generation What?

In addition to writing, Wurth teaches creative writing at Western Illionois University and is currently a visiting writer at the Institute of American Indians Arts in Santa Fe.

The Authors Speak series is free and funded by the Friends of Library and Best Western Hilltop House.

Everyone is welcome to attend the presentation.