Aspen Poets’ Society Releases an Anthology of Poetry by Local Students

Erica Massender was recently asked to read her poetry to an international crowd at the Aspen Ideas Festival—a huge step for the once-shy girl who for years practiced, as she says, “keeping her lip buttoned.”

Massender, a 2018 graduate of Glenwood Springs High School who has risen to the challenge of overcoming dyslexia, stands at 6’2”. For someone who has always stood out in the crowd, poetry seemed like the gateway to self-expression and understanding.

Massender took her initial step into the world of verse six years ago by showing up at Live Poetry Night at the Mountain Chalet in Aspen, an event that has been sponsored for more than a decade by the Aspen Poets’ Society, founded by Kim Nuzzo and Lisa Zimet.

This month, Massender’s verse will be included in “Rising Voices,” an anthology of works by young poets from Parachute to Aspen. “Rising Voices” will be the third poetry collection published by the Society. It will distribute copies to local incoming high school students in an effort to encourage them to write and participate in the spoken word. Copies will also be on sale.

Many poets appearing in the new anthology, like some who attend the Society’s monthly poetry readings, are new writers, finding their voices, taking their first halting steps in the literary world. It can be a long, chilly journey—sometimes literally. To reach an early Live Poetry Night in Aspen, one youth journeyed by bus all the way from Rifle in a blizzard.

“From day one,” Zimet comments, “we encouraged people who never performed poetry to come.” It takes courage, so the Society ensures that the environment is welcoming and non-judgmental, in marked contrast to the competitive vibe of poetry slams. “These young poets are sharing some emotional parts of their lives,” Zimet notes. “One Sunday night a young woman talked about her impending surgery which could have resulted in the loss of her foot. We have laughed, too. One poem was about a men’s ‘birthing competition.’”

“Rising Voices” has been supported by a grant from the Aspen Thrift Shop and received editorial assistance from Aspen Words. Board members Marjorie DeLuca, a poet/editor/publisher, and Cameron Scott, a poetry teacher/river guide, edited the volume with assistance from Zimet and Ellie Scott of Aspen Words. For more information, contact Marjorie DeLuca ( or Lisa Zimet (


Alien (abridged)

by Erica Massender

Selected for publication in “Rising Voices”


I was not born in the Milky Way.

I was born in a galaxy of purple stardust and darkness.

On a cold unfeeling planet made of rock, ice, and magma.

My body made from synthetic plastic pieces.

Spastic—and rusty—too tight on the neck and back, never quite fitting right.

With a cold unwavering heart and lack of a soul.

Sent to Earth by my own free will, I saw a planet full of warmth and chaos.

Filled with humans that fought and loved and lived.

Judging each other for the flaws in themselves that they never appreciated.

Humans were like mirrors to other humans.

Nothing made sense to me.

Humans that dyed their hair to look more colorful than they were born to be.

Humans that dressed in frilly clothes.

Humans that dressed in baggy clothes. …


And immediately, immediately I was outcast because I was not like the humans.

The ones with the painted-on faces judged me.

The tall giants that had muscles the size of my head called me weak—and yet!—

every human I saw came to me for comfort because unlike them I was steady

and they were weak and wavering.

Never have I understood the souls of humans—beautiful things…

that broke like glass—how do you break a soul?

How does another human break a soul of its own kind?

It was an unnerving sight.

I have found no way a measly alien—like me—could protect something so


Nothing an alien like me could do to save all the humans who still had a

soul—broken and shattered, but a soul. …

How could an alien save something that

was never mine to save?


A poet, writer, artist, and performer, Massender will attend Colorado Mountain College this fall to study art and media. One day, she hopes to create animated television shows.