Well-versed: It's the little things in life that make it more palatable, and perhaps that's why National Poetry Month deserves attention. Or at least more attention than what's afforded by a few bad jokes. The art of verse, after all, serves no pragmatic purpose; it's there simply to make us look at things differently--like the color of Grandma's roses, or the way we feel after it rains. Maybe that's why National Poetry Month falls in early spring, when our sun-struck brains invariably turn to mush. Luckily, Denver has plenty to offer this month in terms of literate stimulation.
Two local enclaves of spoken-word aficionados kick off the special month with a handful of readings and activities. The Naropa Institute, where the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics provides a year-round forum for bards, presents Roots and Leaves: A Whitman Celebration, with Naropa faculty, including Jack Collom, Anselm Hollo, Andrew Schelling and Anne Waldman, honoring the American poet. The event, which runs from 8 to 10 tonight at the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St. in Boulder, features multi-arts performances in addition to the readings; admission is $5 to $10. Call 546-3578. In Denver, the weekly Auraria-campus poetry get-together, Toads in the Garden, throws an open reading for anyone brave enough to step up to the podium from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sign up between 7 and 7:30 (you may also reserve a space by phone during that time) at the Daily Grind Coffee House, Tivoli Student Union, 900 Auraria Pkwy.; for details call 573-JAVA.
Whether you are a seasoned poet, an amateur or someone just looking for a kick, you'll also be able to versify spontaneously--for all the world to see--at the Plex, 14th and Curtis, beginning Friday. How is this possible? An eight-foot-tall, crowd-sized Magnetic Poetry Wall, similar to those interactive mix 'n' match word kits you'll find stuck to every bohemian fridge in town, will be at the entire city's disposal there, throughout April. The wall, brought to you through a collaboration by Magnetic Poetry founder Dave Kapell and the Colorado Center for the Book, will be introduced tomorrow between 6 and 10 p.m. with a ribbon-cutting, readings, children's activities and free poetry-book handouts. And who knows? It could turn out to be your fifteen minutes of a lifetime: Poems created on the wall may be considered for a book scheduled for publication in September.
Last but not least, on Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Bug, 3654 Navajo St., Jafrika and Open Rangers collaborate in Random Axe of Rhyme, a monthly evening of ever-changing multimedia performance with a poetic bent. Joining them for April is Jawbone, a trio of Colorado nature lovers that expresses its predilection in poetry, story and song. Tickets are $8 ($6 Bug members); call 477-5977.
Great acoustics: One thing about the cream of the Nashville musicians crop--those pickers are so darn good that you just can't keep 'em down on the farm. Super-trio Douglas, Barenberg and Meyer (that's dobroist Jerry, guitarist Russ and bassist Edgar) prove that point when they play together, weaving stunning, blue-ribbon instrumentals that can't and won't be fenced in by category. Which means that when they haul their instruments on stage tonight at the Boulder Theater, 2130 14th St. in Boulder, the audience should be prepared to watch and listen in sheer amazement. Call 786-7030 or 449-6007 for tickets; they're $15.
In the raw: Essayist and National Public Radio commentator David Sedaris took the concept of "elfin wit" to a higher level back in 1992, when his hysterical recounting of his Christmas-season experiences as a Macy's elf had listeners across the country rolling on the floors. Though his high-pitched voice, rather elfish in itself, seems the perfect vehicle for that and subsequent on-air musings, Sedaris has also proven himself a side-splitting humorist in print: His first book, Barrel Fever, was a bestseller, and the second, Naked, should follow suit. Sedaris drops in tonight at 7:30 at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 E. 1st Ave., to read from and sign copies of the wickedly funny sophomore try; for details call 322-7727.
Barre brawl: The Colorado Ballet is finishing off its season utterly Colorado style, with a rootin', tootin' trio of Western-flavored works. Buffalo Bill's Saloon, a contemporary piece moved along by Richard Jarboe's snappy barroom score as recorded by bluegrass artists Tim and Molly O'Brien, provides the program's focal point; Balanchine's Western Symphony and Martin Fredmann's Centennial Suite complete the bill. Performances begin tonight at 7:30 at the Auditorium Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex; subsequent programs continue tomorrow and Wednesday and on April 11 through 13. Tickets range from $14 to $50; call 830-TIXS for showtimes and reservations.
Mixed metaphors: One of the nicest things about music is its wonderfully plastic nature, which allows for open, lively cross-culturalism. In that spirit, it would seem that tonight's the night to compare and contrast classical and folk idioms as they rub elbows at two separate concerts.
For pristine listening and a good chunk of low-key humor, an altogether pleasant bill shared by classical guitarist Liona Boyd and idiosyncratic twelve-string picker Leo Kottke can't be beat. The pair performs--Boyd on the nylons, and Kottke on grittier steel strings--tonight at 7:30 at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Pl.; for tickets, $13.50 or $18.50, call 830-TIXS.