Sunday, January 31st, 2016 was a big day for Beyond Academia Free School folks and for the Nederland Poetry scene. After the biggest monthly class ever held at Love Shovel Ranch (led by Forrest Lotterhos and Ellie Swenson on Confessional Poetry), six of the BAFS poets headed over in the softly falling snow to The Blue Owl, Blue Now! Poetry Open Mic at Blue Owl Books.
It too was packed. A private party, after hours. There were at least 14 people there, passing around the hemp beer and kombucha made by Thomas Ivory Jr. of the Denver Hemp Division. Also passed around free and delicious, was the astounding blackberry-blueberry pie made by the talented Kimba. I licked my plate unabashedly.
Nine fabulous poets read during the open mic, with the host, John, jumping in between with compliments and clever, affectionate poetry. We kicked off with a poet new to this reading, Salvatori, who read his Imbolc-inspired rhythmic chant. Then Thomas Ivory Jr., mainstay and man of enthusiasm, read a few pieces. His poem “Breathe,” where he exhorts us to “find strength in the release,” caused John to exclaim, “It took my breath away!” Thomas then read “Restless Feet,” a poem that I have heard a number of times but now it resonated more than ever. The restless feet of the poem insist “you don’t have time to be tired,” just as Thomas himself insists, pushing us all to be out at the readings and tirelessly working on publicity for the Boulder and Nederland poetry scenes. Burt Rashbaum, found frequently as the operator of the Nederland Carousel of Happiness, read next. His handful of poems were full of casual, yet careful, grace. On the topic of the snow outside he repeats sincerely: “It falls. We know.” On Burt’s emailed exquisite corpse, Zalen exclaimed: “A good one!”
Zalen, a Ward poet, who featured a couple months ago at this reading, came up next. He claims in one untitled work that he’s “swimming in a sea of lust, hoping that the buoy of love will keep [him] up.” His work functions to introduce his style and purpose better than I can: one of his hip hop flows announces “day by day I concentrate to make this world sweeter.” Indeed, each of his pieces are sweet and succinct.
The incomparable Caitlan Mitchell came up next with a few impressive pieces including “Requiem for Sonnetta,” which personifies the sonnet form and is an accomplishment of form and fluidity. Following Mitchell’s reading, we participated in the customary Book Bash, a Blue Owl, Blue Now! tradition. A kind of popcorn reading exquisite corpse found poetry conglomeration. If you wanna know more, you should stop by the reading next month!
Kimba was up after the bash and wowed the crowd with her welcoming and wondrous poetry full of lush settings and still centers. I was stunned into silence at the conclusion of “A Desert Unkindness,” but John murmured, walking up to the podium, “You mean I have to come back from that place and talk to you folks?”
“I’m still there,” chimed in Salvatori.
A poet I have never seen read before, Gurattan, came up next. Wearing a knitted sweater with a Rainbow Om on the front, Gurattan read 5 or 6 pieces, all meditative and comfortable, like his sweater. His poetry seems “to see the cozy self,” as he said in “Sacred Storms.” I look forward to hearing more from Gurattan in the future. I hear he will be reading the poetry of W. B. Yeats at the Frozen Dead Poet Slam (3/13/2016 at 2:00 P.M. at Frozen Dead Guy Days).
I went up next to talk about the Beyond Academia Free School class on Confessional Poetry from earlier in the day and to read one of the pieces I wrote during the workshop. After me, Marcus If read pieces from that workshop as well, all of which got murmurs of appreciation, especially his haiku manifesto. He also read a verb poem I haven’t heard before (despite the verb poem being one of his most discussed forms). “For That Unkindness” was that form at its finest, and he acted out the ravens of the poem in his Trickster best.
Marcus also read a couple more erotic pieces (as he does) and when he finished, John came up front, exclaiming, “Now that the whole room feels simultaneously violated and aroused…” and proceeded to introduce the featured poet.
Kevin McCarthy handed out packets of his work, calling them “hymnals.” As someone with a hard time gleaning a lot of information auditorily, I very much appreciated the copies of his poems in front of me as he read them. He read three pieces, “Buckhorn Gleaming,” “Crows Die Too,” and “Murphy Bed,” each with a satisfyingly complete ending.Then Kevin led us in chanting two pieces he wrote for his Gilpin County League softball team in order to “activate the larynx,” as he put it. He read a couple more pieces including a Nonet (nine stanza poem) which he read once and then led us in repeating with him. A very haunting experience. He wrapped up his feature by playing a song by Bruce Cockburn which inspired one of his chants. Throughout his reading, Kevin apologized for including the publishing information for his poems in the packet, explaining that he “sends them out compulsively,” but I was excited to see where this local poet gets published. It encourages me to get more organized and submit work finally; I would like to pick McCarthy’s brain on how he organizes the business side of being writer. Seeing what publications he has been published in exposes the other poets at the reading to unfamiliar publications, and gives them an idea of what those publications are looking for. Kevin was a professional, a strong reader, and a joy to hear. I enjoyed his stories setting up his poetry and the whole experience of his feature.
What do you need to know to be here for next month’s festivities? Blue Owl, Blue Now! Poetry Open Mic at Blue Owl Books in Nederland, Colorado. Sunday February 28th. There will be a Writers’ Warm-Up led by Marcus If at 6:30 pm followed by the Open Mic at 7:00 pm. After the open-mic there will be a feature yet to be decided. See you there!