Colorado Springs writer’s new collection of poetry on the subject of the state’s historic accident | The gallery

There’s a hungry lake in central Washington.

Located near Manson, Washington, an unincorporated community and census-designated place, exists Lake Chelan, measuring approximately 55 miles long, 1 to 2 miles wide, and over 1,500 feet deep in some places. .

It is also the final resting place of at least nine people – victims of the worst school crash in state history, when a school bus carrying a driver, 20 students and a woman skidded off the road during of a snowstorm in 1945, overturned an embankment and plunged into the lake. Six survived. Seven bodies were recovered. The others are still missing.

“Growing up on the shores of Lake Chelan, you were always aware from a young age of drowning and the dangers of water,” said Colorado Springs poet Amber Ridenour Walker. “You learn to swim at 2 years old. You absorb all the horror stories about things that have happened to children and teenagers in your hometown – the elders might still tell stories about some of the children they knew who died.

Manson is an equally hungry place to grow up. The town claimed the lives of many of Walker’s friends, through drugs and suicides. Many others lived in terrible family situations. Walker had a family whose father struggled with mental illness and committed suicide when his daughter was 21.

The running promise between her and her friends was to get out of Manson alive. And people left, but often, mysteriously, they were sucked in. She is the only one in her high school graduating class who does not live there.

Those formative years, spent living under a cloud of aquatic tales of terror, are the connective tissue that runs through her new book, “Surfacing,” a collection of poetry published last summer.

“It (the accident) made me think about all the different ways to drown in your hometown, especially in a very small town,” Walker said. “It almost becomes a sort of eulogy for a lot of people I’ve lost. It follows my experience of all the things that haunt and follow you and your own self-destructive tendencies. Even if you get out of there, find how not choosing the same things over and over again, but often you do.

The book, available at Poor Richard’s Bookstore, as well as online at and, begins with a teenage Walker, goes through her twenties and into the present, where she sketches evil rooted in her after the death of her father: attracting self-destructive, sometimes mentally ill and suicide-prone people, and figuring out how to stop trying to save them so she can save herself.

“Amber Ridenour Walker’s poems plunge headlong into moments of darkness and lust, with an undercurrent of impending grief. Her razor-sharp lines and visceral imagery display ‘torn language / thrown like flags’ while always accelerating one step ahead of you, pulling your brain on its powerful, invisible wires,” wrote Portland, Oregon, editor, publisher and writer Kevin Sampsell.

Walker broke free from her hometown after high school, making stops in Olympia, Washington, to earn a bachelor’s degree in creative writing at Evergreen State College, then Portland, Oregon, where she read her poems three to four. nights per week. at open mics all over town. She landed in the Springs ten years ago, where she completed a master’s degree in creative writing and poetry at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder.

Reading and writing have been constant companions since childhood, when Walker used them as a way to escape the turbulent waters of family life. His first poem dates back to the third year. His first published poem came at age 19, when he made his way into Gumball Poetry, a ’90s trend in the Pacific Northwest that spits gumball and folded poem from gumball dispensers. gum. Years later, she had poems published in numerous publications and two collections published.

“It was (poetry) a dirty habit that I couldn’t quit,” she said.

There was also another art form she had learned in high school that she couldn’t give up: cutting her hair. When she’s not rushing to coffeeshops to get her words out, she’s been circling a hair station at All About Tangles on the west side, where she’s cut cute pixies, shags, and razor cuts, and has been perfecting natural highlights for four years.

What runs through her veins, however, is poetry: “It feels more like possession,” she said.

The poems in her new book make her feel transparent and vulnerable, but she knows what makes her feel naked on the page often doesn’t translate to a reader, who might struggle to decipher the meaning. of a poem.

“It’s more about your emotional response than what you think the artist is trying to say,” Walker said.

“Most works of art are a kind of collaboration between the original intention of the artist and the way it is perceived. This is the space where the magic happens. Let go of the need to understand and just experience .

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