Cheer on the youth poets of Minor Disturbance at tonight's Grand Slam

Photo by Daniel Sawyer Schaefer for Brave New Voices.
Nobody knows how deep the talent goes in our local youth slam-poetry community better than Denver poet and youth mentor Ken Arkind. He's been on the side of young poets -- and at their side as they represent Denver at the national Brave New Voices youth slam competition on the Minor Disturbance team -- as a coach and cheerleader for many years. So if he crows a bit about his kids, it's only because he's seen firsthand how good they really are.

See also: Denver's Minor Disturbance youth slam poetry team takes the nation again at Brave New Voices

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Remembering Ludlow: A roundup of commemorative events

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The Ludlow Memorial.
A century ago this week, a long-simmering conflict between miners on strike in the southern Colorado coalfields and troops of the Colorado National Guard erupted into the deadliest labor war in American history. A raging gun battle on April 20, 1914, resulted in the destruction of the strikers' Ludlow tent colony and the deaths of nearly two dozen people -- most of them women and children who'd sought refuge from the shooting in a small cellar under one of the tents. The Ludlow Massacre, as it became known, is one of the darkest yet most neglected chapters of state history -- but a slew of commemorative events planned to mark its hundredth anniversary could help change that.

See also:
Best History Book 2009 -- Killing for Coal: America's Deadliest Labor War

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Poet laureate Jovan Mays talks about Aurora, his hometown

Categories: Poetry

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Ben Lzicar
Aurora poet laureate Jovan Mays.
Jovan Mays, the first-ever poet laureate of Aurora, wants his poetry to capture the voices of the city's people, who first inspired him to write and perform poetry. An Aurora native and graduate of Smoky Hills High School, Mays has been invested in the Aurora community since he was a kid. "We lived in a tiny house next to the old Stapleton airport. Our back yard was planes, our front yard was trains," he laughs.

But what he loved most about growing up in Aurora was the social aspect. His dad delivered bread to grocery stores around town, so everyone knew him and his family. And every time Mays came home from college in Chadron, Nebraska, he found more muses among his Aurora neighbors. "There are so many kinds of people, it's a beautiful balance," he says. "Aurora is a gleam of the original ideal of middle class."

See also: Aurora's got a poet laureate but Denver doesn't? You can bet the Big Blue Bear's butt on it!

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Poet Yosimar Reyes on the power of personal narratives

Categories: Activism, Poetry

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Courtesy of Yosimar Reyes
Yosimar Reyes is an award-winning poet bringing the stories of undocumented queer people to audiences across the United States.
Your story matters, says poet Yosimar Reyes, who denies the dominant narrative of United States citizenship, that "real Americans" are blue-eyed, blond-haired, white, upper-middle class men fully assimilated into the American Dream.

This isn't historical; this isn't reality, he says:This is a nation founded on immigrants. Living in the United States is about more than having a social security number; it is about connecting to a rich cultural tradition. For Reyes, that cultural heritage spans the stories that his grandmother passed down about Mexico all the way to James Baldwin's writing. Reyes is a constant reader who rejects the idea that poetry requires training; poetry is accessible. Anyone can write it. Despite risking arrest and deportation, he travels across the country performing and teaching others to connect with their own histories, and he will be in Boulder today for Undocuqueer Voices: Stories of Growing Up Queer and Undocumented. In advance of his appearance, Westword spoke with Reyes about his journey as a writer, performer and teacher.

See also: Queer undocumented artist Julio Salgado speaks out

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Poet Ken Arkind discusses Denver's outlaw magic, gentrification and his new book, Coyotes

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As American National Poetry Slam Champion and executive director of the award-winning Minor Disturbance Youth Slam Team, Ken Arkind gets to share his words with the world. A lot of those words are about his native turf of Denver, Aurora and the Colfax Avenue connection, and his second book, Coyotes, shares the poet's frustrations and triumphs with the place he calls home.

On Tuesday, March 11, Arkind and some of his artist friends and poetry counterparts will celebrate the release of Coyotes with a show at Deer Pile. In advance of the gathering, Arkind spoke with Westword about the book and his feelings about this changing city.

See also: Poet Ken Arkind on his new book, Denver, and the purpose of poetry in a music-driven world

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100 Colorado Creatives: Suzi Q. Smith

Suzi Q. Smith in her role as Method Man with Lady Wu-Tang Clan.
#2: Suzi Q. Smith

Suzi Q. Smith's power lies in her words as well as her heart -- and the great gift she has for sharing both so freely, both as a poet on a stage and a bedrock cheerleader behind the scenes. But the 2012 Westword cover girl and nationally known slam poet has, over the years, found still more ways to touch hearts -- as a mentor, activist and just plain wonderful person, whose greatest inspiration is her own daughter.

We love the work she does; here's what she has to say about it.

See also: 100 Colorado Creatives: Poet Ken Arkind


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100 Colorado Creatives: Julie Carr

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#15: Julie Carr

Julie Carr started out a dancer before turning to poetry in a long traversal from the raw artistic life in New York to the more structured worlds of academia, business and family. The award-winning author of four books of poetry, with more on the way, Carr now also teaches at the University of Colorado at Boulder. But her literary and creative life extends still further: Together with her husband, Tim Roberts, Carr runs the independent literary press Counterpath, which also hosts free readings, art shows, video screenings and performances by artists who might not otherwise be seen or heard of outside of the academic world -- a pastime that earned the couple a Westword MasterMind award in 2013.

How does Carr balance a brilliant career with the grassroots quest to bring a curated selection of new ideas and works to Denver? Find the answers in her 100CC questionnaire, which follows.

See also: 100 Colorado Creatives: Paul Moschell


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Comedian Andy Sell on Pablo Neruda, UFOs and meeting Ray Bradbury

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Ben Semisch
Reading is about more than following a narrative or learning facts; it can also be a profound shared experience that culminates in a better understanding of ourselves and each other. In that spirit, welcome to the Westword Book Club, a weekly feature celebrating the books that inspire Denver artists.

Andy Sell is a Colorado native who moved to Los Angeles, where he performs standup, writes poetry and hosts the inventive podcast People We Know, which features Sell and his guests lionizing their favorite fictional characters. The prodigal Sell has returned for the holiday season, and has a slew of intriguing performances scheduled: from Too Much Fun tonight and Narrators tomorrow night at Deer Pile to Epilogue Comedy on December 28 at Mutiny! Information Cafe and Propaganda! on December 29 at Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret. Westword met up with Sell to discuss poetry, UFOs and meeting Ray Bradbury in an interview that was repeatedly interrupted by hug-seeking Denver comics.

See also: Comedian Roger Norquist on Paul Auster, postmodernism, and not having sex with people who don't read


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Local author Robert Rutherford on his debut poetry release

Categories: Books, Poetry

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As a member of Rabbit is a Sphere and Everything Absent or Distorted, Robert Rutherford helped bring some of Denver's finest indie rock and pop to life. Those bands have since ceased to be, but Rutherford is still writing in the same idiom, even if the final form is a little different. Channeling some of the same angst and aggression that drove his work as a songwriter, Rutherford spent two months in near isolation writing the poems that would become Dragging Out the Old Cheer, his first poetry collection. This Saturday, December 14 at Deer Pile, the book gets its official release. Before that happens, we caught up with Rutherford to talk about how the book came to be, the role of public transportation and how he's still just an indie rock kid at heart.

See also: Guns, cars and gambling: Travis Heermann aims to put the fun back in speculative fiction

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Conceptual writer Robert Fitterman on his new book, Holocaust Museum

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Poet and conceptual writer Robert Fitterman tackles a heavy topic in his latest work, Holocaust Museum, a recontextualization of captions for photographs displayed in the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Fitterman sees modern poetry moving toward appropriation as a means to critique and create conversation around a range of texts.

This Friday, November 22, the New York-based author will be in Denver for the release of Holocaust Museum, which is being published by local non-profit Counterpath Press. In advance of tomorrow's reception and reading, Westword spoke with the writer about his latest work and why he chooses appropriation as his method.

See also: Artist Vanessa Place wants you to confess for The Lawyer Is Present

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