Poet Ken Arkind on his new book, Denver, and the purpose of poetry in a music-driven world
When they met a few years ago, Ken Arkind and Charly Fasano became fast friends. Like Arkind -- an American National Poetry Slam Champion who tours the world performing and teaching poetry as executive director of the award-winning Minor Disturbance Youth Slam Team -- Fasano liked to perform poetry at rock-and-roll shows. An artist and filmmaker, he also shared Arkind's compulsion to be creative. The two soon began showing up on bills at indie gigs, trading turns at the mic in between sets by up-and-coming bands like Achille Lauro and Hot Congress.
This weekend, Arkind and Fasano celebrate their first official collaboration: Denver, a new book from Fasano's Fast Geek Press that explores a spirit of Western restlessness and futility: "Raising glasses in Denver is a middle finger against natural law....We still live in a cow town/but it's full of wolves," Arkind writes. Fasano's linocut block illustrations recall both ancient wood art and modern, DIY-screenprints, and reference landmarks from Tom's Diner to the Lion's Lair.
Arkind and Fasano celebrate Denver with two events this weekend: On Friday, there's a free, all-ages multimedia art show at the Fast Geek Boutique, 311 West 11th Avenue, 7 pm. The party continues Saturday with a reading and music from special guests at Deer Pile, 206 East 13th Avenue, at 8 pm.
Arkind's prose has an stark, epic feel -- an exploration of Denver that expresses both jubilance and despair. A Colorado native, reared in Aurora, Arkind waxed about writing with honesty, the state of slam and his unwillingness to explain Denver.
Westword: How did you and Charly meet?
Ken Arkind: We heard about each other, for years, kind of bumming around the same circle. and he was like the original punk rock poet of Denver. And he's recorded with Lucero. He's the only poet I know who has a seven-inch, which is pretty sweet.
Really? You know a lot of poets.
Nah, I don't know any of them that do, except for Charly, I mean not that have put out a record record. And now I want to. He made me want to do it. So he was kind of like that guy who would play with bands and so stuff. Then he moved to Chicago for two years and he came back and there was this like asshole hipster kid doing what he used to do, who was me. And traveling with the same kind of circle and opening up for bands and doing that. There's no other poets in Denver that really do that. I'm not sure why. There's poets that read with hip-hop groups and stuff like that. more funk bands and stuff. It was cool to be part of Hot Congress and those bands. It's my favorite realm to read in.
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