100 Colorado Creatives 3.0: Eleanor Perry-Smith

Eleanor Perry-Smith in a video still from her poem "Hey Lady, Thanks Lady."
Eleanor Perry-Smith in a video still from her poem "Hey Lady, Thanks Lady."
David Grauberger

#72: Eleanor Perry-Smith

Born and raised in Colorado, Eleanor Perry-Smith is a writer from the inside out, a natural poet with an eye for the interdisciplinary. She mixes words with graphic imagery, sing-songs poems in performance, writes and edits fiction and prose, and recently made a splash as a TEDx Mile High 2016 presenter. Spend a little time in Perry-Smith’s world with her answers to the 100CC questionnaire.

Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?

Eleanor Perry-Smith: William Morris. He had a gift for interpreting natural patterns without being ostentatious or hackneyed. He was a fervent creator who didn’t limit himself to a single craft. He wrote poetry, painted, engraved, weaved, printed — and did it all exceedingly well. We share many values: minimalism, expression, the working class, beauty, bacon and wine. Plus, neither of us are fans of formal education, although we both got one. I think we’d have been buddies.

Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why? 

British poet Robert Montgomery sparks my interest. He’s found brilliant, simple ways to lift poems off the page. He mows words into hillsides and crafts verses with wood that he sets aflame. He creates atmosphere with poems without causing a sense of gimmick.

What's one art trend you want to see die this year?

Beyoncé fever. Not, like, actual death, but I don’t find her ideas or lyrics groundbreaking and compelling, like everyone raves. Although, variety is the spice of life. To each his own. 

A page from Semblance.
A page from Semblance.
Words by Eleanor Perry-Smith, calligraphy and drawing by Jake Weidmann.

What's your day job?

I write full-time. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.

A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?

Give it back. Or maybe I’d buy a pony and a pool, then get back to work.

Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?

I was born here, and as long as my family stays, I’m happily anchored. I love my friends, the weather, the vast wilderness, that I can always find a cheap drink and a parking spot in five minutes or less. I belong in a mid-sized city. 

What's the one thing Denver could do to help the arts?

Slow down. I’m watching friends get pushed out of their longtime studios in RiNo. It’s a universal problem, but it’s harder when it happens to people you love. But one of the great things about artists is that many of them adapt. They accept, march and rebuild, like an army of ants.

"Awning," a poem from Perry-Smith's book Revelry & Rhyme.
"Awning," a poem from Perry-Smith's book Revelry & Rhyme.
Eleanor Perry-Smith

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

I admire artists who make the best of unfavorable situations. They teach us how to live. Patrick Marold has done this with his beetle-kill-sourced "Shadow Array" project at DIA, as well as his "Solar Drones" project made from a flood-damaged piano. He partners with nature in astounding ways. I heard Patrick speak at a small gathering last year and was moved by his hard work, humility and vision.

What's on your agenda in the coming year?

I have a few summer poetry recitations planned. I’m then finishing my next collection of poems, called Dunbar’s Number, that I’ll submit to publishers in the fall. I save fiction writing for winter. I have a novel draft to polish, and am also working on a second novel, for some reason.

Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?

Chloe Heglin — if you’ll pardon my cronyism — is my best bud and an underground artist of immense talent. We collaborated on a children’s book, and although I was aware of her abilities in comic arts, her breadth of skill blew me away. She’s has a repertoire of Mucha-inspired ladies, Beastie Boy bunnies and dinosaurs with bazookas. She’s on the up and up. You can find her online.

Eleanor Perry-Smith will speak and read from her book Revelry & Rhyme at MCA Denver’s inaugural Make & Tell event from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 20. Learn more about Perry-Smith online

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