Ever since Susie Temple bought the Jackson Hole Book Trader three years ago, she’s imagined the space as a place to cultivate the literary community in a town so often defined by outdoor recreation.
“Literature is the bedrock of culture, and having a literary community is probably one of the most important things we can do,” said Temple. “But you have to have places to do that — we have a vibrant library, the Teton Literacy Center, and the Center for the Arts, and I wanted to add a more intimate space to that list.”
To celebrate Jackson’s rich literary tradition, the Book Trader will host a poetry reading on Tuesday with the help of the nonprofit Jackson Hole Writers. The event will bring together local and regional poets to share their original work.
“We envision this space to be welcoming to all authors and poets, and all supporters of the literary arts,” said Abbie Stanford, the Book Trader’s events coordinator. “Teton Verse, Vol. 001 dedicates a night to our poets and their talent.”
The writers who will read include Adrian Croke, Betsy Bernfeld, Connie Wieneke, Dondi Tondro-Smith, Fran Lunney, Jill Naylor-Yarger, Jo Ann West, Leah Shlachter, Matt Daly, Nancy Shea, Rick Kempa, Shawn Meisl, Susan Austin, Jennifer V., Stephen Lottridge and Margo Caslavka.
Matt Daly, a celebrated poet and the assistant director of Jackson Hole Writers, helped bring together writers for the evening’s lineup, drawing from networks of friends and colleagues in the local writing scene.
“I like that nobody’s featured,” Daly said. “You wouldn’t know anyone’s credentials, and that’s not the point. It’s about creating community.”
What each poet will bring to the table is a mystery, although Daly anticipates there will be an emphasis on landscape and place-based writing. The only parameter placed on writers is that their reading must be three minutes or less.
The floor will also open up for an open mic during the middle of the event, at which time anyone is encouraged to read their original work.
The gathering is free and family-friendly, and people of all experience levels are invited to enjoy the evening, whether as a listener or as a reader during the open mic. It will be a casual night of spoken word, rather than a formal poetry recitation. Refreshments will be provided.
The event also serves to spotlight the hard work and dedication of the Book Trader and Jackson Hole Writers
Although Jackson Hole Writers was originally formed to host the annual Jackson Hole Writers Conference, it has expanded to partner with bookstores and school districts to promote literature in the community. The organization hosts a youth writing conference in the summer, aptly titled “Almost Authors.”
Daly said the organization hopes to foster writing as an “avocation rather than a vocation.”
Jackson Hole Writers also hosts three regular critique groups every month, open to anyone who would like to receive honest feedback on their work from other writers.
“These groups are rooted in a common interest in helping each other get better,” Daly said. “They create a space that is space, but not necessarily comfortable — they’re bluntly supportive.”
The poetry group convenes on the first Wednesday of every month, while the prose group meets the third Thursday of every month. A group for people writing young adult books meets on the second Thursday of every month. All critiques take place in the Center for the Arts conference room from 6 to 8:30 p.m.
Temple said the Book Trader is just getting started in its role as a community hub for events, discussions, and collaboration in the valley.
“The more our communities focused on literature can partner with one another, the better and stronger we are,” Temple said. “As I think about the next generation of readers, I have lots of respect for the Literacy Center and the library — there’s so much competition these days for kids’ attention, and I am so impressed by the schools, educators, and all the people making sure kids are still reading.”
Temple plans to host more events at the Book Trader and the Wilson Book Gallery. She also hopes to bring a book festival to Jackson, perhaps as part of the yearly fall arts festival.
“I think Jackson could do a super successful literary festival that brings authors and publishers, and shines a light on the literary scene here,” Temple said. “We want to acknowledge that books are art, too.” ￼