Tara Trudell
Tara Trudell

Las Vegas, N.M. — New Mexico Highlands University presents Tara Trudell’s narrative documentary film Poem Home June 1 at 6:30 p.m. in the university’s historic Ilfeld Auditorium at 900 University Ave.

Trudell, 44, of Las Vegas is an award-winning filmmaker and poet who will graduate from Highlands University fall semester with a BFA in media arts with an emphasis in filmmaking.

Poem Home chronicles Trudell’s January poetry reading events in California and her journey to the legendary Alcatraz Island prison in San Francisco Bay. As a young child, Trudell lived with her family on Alcatraz during the Indians of All Tribes occupation in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

“It’s important to me to represent my spirit and voice in my poetry and combine that with film to create visual art that has emotional impact,” Trudell said. “With Poem Home, I wanted to connect again with the energy of being young and fearless at Alcatraz. During my journey through Arizona and California, I was embraced into a community of poets, artists and social activists, which was empowering.”

Four of Trudell’s poems weave through the narrative documentary, which includes haunting images important in her life — stark scenes shot at Alcatraz, towering trees and water flowing over rocks, a garment worn at her first Lakota Sioux ceremony, footage of her poetry readings, her four children, and more.

Trudell’s films are rich with what she calls her earth shots — a flowing river, trees thrashing in the wind, a hawk soaring overhead, clouds filling a leaden sky, a lingering sunset.

“In both my poetry and filmmaking, I tell my story through the earth and elements. I’m a reflection of what I love in the natural world. Poem Home also incorporates nature sounds I recorded, like wind, rain, thunder, crickets, and an orchestra of frogs,” Trudell said.

She has another image from nature to describe her poetry process: “Writing poetry can be like catching butterflies. The words flutter so quickly from deep within and I capture them as quickly as I can on paper. Then I go back and shape the poem, looking at how the words interact.”

Trudell has taken several filmmaking courses with media arts professor and department chair Kerry Loewen, including experimental video, high-definition cinema workshop, audio for video, and surround sound and installation.

“Because Tara is a poet, she has an innate ability to tell stories through visual imagery,” Loewen said. “She’s worked hard to master the technical aspects of filmmaking and her pieces include stunning high-definition images that convey powerful emotions.

“Like all good artists, Tara is able to take what is intensely personal and give it a very universal appeal,” Loewen said.

Trudell’s Native American and Latina heritage is also woven into her poetry and films. She is Lakota Sioux on her father’s side and her Latina roots run deep in Northern New Mexico on her mother’s side — dating back seven generations. Villanueva was named for Trudell’s great-great-grandmother Manuela Villanueva.

Trudell is also a human rights activist, with a passion for immigration issues. Her poetry is included in the anthology Poetry of Resistance: A Multicultural Response to Arizona 1070 and Xenophobic Laws, which the University of Arizona Press will publish in 2014.

Her first poetry book, Poem Home, is in process and includes poems from the film and others penned over the last three years.

“José Crispin, who just graduated in media arts, is designing my poetry book. He’s extremely talented and we want the book to be a visual art piece,” Trudell said.

While the Ilfeld screening is free, donations will be accepted. Money raised will help with expenses for the poetry book as well as Trudell submitting Poem Home to several national film festivals.

Trudell said she has dreamed of her film screening in Ilfeld and is looking forward to the reality.

“It’s such an honor to have my film screened in Ilfeld, which is so beautiful. I want to offer Poem Home first to my Las Vegas community, and then take that energy and propel it to the west coast on a trip I’m calling my Poem Home Road Tour. In June, I leave for California with my children,” Trudell said.

While in California, Trudell will read her poetry at venues like the Bluebird Gallery in Los Angeles, a performance art workshop in Santa Cruz led by well-known poet Gitana Martí­nez, and the La Lunada poetry festival in Watsonville.