Hey, hey, my, my,
The Boulder Poetry Tribe can never die
There’s more to the picture than meets the eye
Hey, hey, my, my…
– Neil Young, RockStar
Neil Young wrote these words after witnessing The Tribe up close on a 1970’s trip to Boulder. I was not there at the time, and this might not be even close to something that actually happened, but I have heard third or fourth hand the Canadian rocker was so inspired by the strength and perseverance of our poetry scene that he had to write a hit song about it at once. Whether he was ever here or not, I have been here for over a decade and I can say with confidence that at least the feeling of Young’s lyrics are 100% accurate.
A poet is a fragile and unpredictable thing. One moment they’re on top of a roof shouting lines like “The revolution is happening right now! And it’s ME!” and the next they’re pouring spoiled pasta sauce over their entire life’s work and stuffing it all down the garbage disposal because their poetry only belongs with the rancid and the chopped. I’ve seen it happen a million times and even to myself.
A year ago I was riding high. I had helped turn The Boulder Poetry Tribe into website form and the internet was soon flooded with articles about how awesome The Scene was. Everyday I’d check the WordPress statistics and they’d report back that I was doing something pure and necessary and my poet allies were all in love with me. But this was unsustainable for a Sensitive like me. It didn’t take long before I was knocked back down hard by taxi driving and girls, power struggles and insomnia, stomach pains, whiskey and the straight up cold and dark of winter. How was I supposed to write a blog post when I couldn’t even see the sun ever? I could only focus on pure survival, the simple putting of things in my mouth and the shitting and pissing of them back out later. The Boulder Poetry Tribe was too complex and had to be abandoned. Sometimes people would come up to me and go, “Hey, Jonny, when’s the next big event?” and I’d just go, “Haven’t you heard? The Scene is dead.”
What would the great Neil Young have done if he knew I was telling people things like that? Would he have grouped me in with all the George W Bush style assholes of the earth? Would he have given me The Stare with those sharp-brow hawk eyes? Would he have defiantly recorded a 1980’s doo-wop album in my face? Or would he have completely and totally understood? Yes, I like that one. I believe he would’ve sympathized and consoled me with a high-pitched and slightly out-of-tune lullaby – Hey, hey, my, my Jonathan-baby it’s alriiight. Because this was exactly what he was talking about when he wrote about us in the first place all those years ago. The poets here were burning out and fading away in rapid order. Even the seemingly indestructible ones like Elvis and Johnny Rotten. They say The King and his sideburns used to rock The So You’re a Poet Reading Series every Monday night, but suddenly he was dead on a toilet. And how could a Poetry Tribe survive without a chief like that?
But it did! The conditions for a poetry scene were proven to be uncommonly favorable here. There were two universities, The Ghost of Allen Ginsberg, and big spiky rockface mountains that can be seen from miles away on the plains, luring in masses of fresh Poets to take the fallen ones’ place. Neil Young saw this for himself and knew The Tribe was made up of more than just Poetry. It was a certain Spirit that’s always necessary at the edges of our culture, made up of things like Courage and Creativity, Self Empowerment and Passion, Love and MeTooing. It’s about Hearts of Gold and Rockin in the Free World. Neil Young saw the Big Picture, the endless march of young seekers heading with purpose toward The Flatirons, and knew something unstoppable was going on.
Eventually I got fed up with being sick again. I got away from the job for a couple months and got my head straight in The Woods. I wrote and hiked and started meditating again and got working on my long overdue transformation from Jonny the Cab Driver to Professor Montgomery. And when I returned to Boulder I wanted to put my renewed energy into The Tribe again but I wondered if maybe it was too rotten and brown, too cracked and grown over from me forsaking it to even be salvageable again.
But my heart and eyes were open and I could see that Neil Young is never wrong and it was actually impossible for The Boulder Poetry Tribe to die without me. Tom Peters is still hosting at The Laughing Goat and Asalott at Innisfree. StarWater Wednesdays at 303 Vodka is even more vibrant than ever. Rad-dish Collective still packs the house every last Tuesday and Lingua Rodeo is taking off at Upslope Brewery every first Monday. A new LuNaMoPoLiS and Love Shovel Review are in the works and Hive is about to be released. Elyse Brownell is passing the Bouldering Poets torch to Ellie Swensson and Michael Malpiedi. Meetings are being organized to start a multi-purpose physical Tribe space. Conversations are being had at every event asking how we can become stronger and more empowered. And poets from every direction are lending their hands to help relaunch this website.
The Boulder Poetry Tribe is not just Jonathan Montgomery and it’s not just you. It’s something we’re a part of that’s bigger than all of us. It’s here to take care of us and let us know we’re doing something right and good. All it asks is that you add a little of your fire when you’ve got it. The flames are high and bright right now and they can never go out. And as Neil Young knew, even after the destruction of the planet, the cosmic matter of the galaxy will still be enrolling at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, will still be find a warehouse space to start a new open mic and will still be shouting lyrics down from an overlook on Flagstaff Mountain. And like an oft-played track from Rust Never Sleeps, the whole thing will be recorded here at boulderpoetrytribe.com.