Paul Davis takes the mike. He's wearing loose plaid shorts, he lunges when he walks, and his glasses are smudged.
"'Clocktower Physics!!'" he announces, then continues: "Motion! Emotion! Men and women/are in motion. They are not defining God./They are PIERCE-nosed boys and TATTOOED girls/under the clocktower. They hang out an answer./ The girls groove, move about in clusters like inkspots/sprawling out their THIN, WHITE ARMS wide in ultraviolet!"
As Davis hits his stride, his poetic boys and girls begin to zing wildly through the room like the parts of atoms. "Light as paper, they imagine they are words in print./They are GROUND! and BOUND! together./ Smoking cigarettes in sweaters of SOLID. BLACK. WOOL,/they know where their silver-ringed fingers TOUCH!/ All around them are the boys, who are rolling in ORBIT!/on PHAT! SKATEBOARDS! around Skyline Park!/ LOOKING FOR LOW CLIFFS TO FLING! OFF! IN WIDE ARCS!/LOOKING FOR RAILS TO RIDE! AND SLIDE! DOWN ON/IN HIP!!, SKINNY!!, COOL!!, GRACEFUL CROUCHES/DESCRIBING IN CONCRETE THE SMOOTHEST POSSIBLE WAVE!!!/They RIDE with their HEADS. DOWN! Imagining objects/they might NEVER! TOUCH! OR! BECOME!"
Wild hoots, hollers and applause. Paul Davis is humble as he steps down from the podium. He smiles and lunges back to his table. At Toads in the Garden, a weekly poetry reading at the Daily Grind coffeehouse on the Auraria Campus, anyone can sign up to read. And you might hear anything--from lukewarm scatology or ersatz Beat posturing to something that could hook your heartstrings. If you let it.
No one really knows why poetry readings are suddenly in vogue. "This is going to sound kind of cynical, but poetry has become the MTV of literature," Davis offers. "Poetry is a literary experience in a short attention span, a pop of images, WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! Not to take away from it--from the depth of that experience--but I think it's becoming a sort of substitute for experience."
Metro State College creative-writing professor Renee Ruderman requires students to read in a coffeehouse setting. She admits that even the hallowed halls offer little sanctuary to those who write and read verse. "It's not considered the kind of thing that professors should be doing with their students--it's a little bohemian, it's a little off-kilter, a little suspect," she says, then adds that it ultimately gives those misunderstood poets a much-needed boost.
Throughout April, several local groups will be waving the poetry flag in celebration of National Poetry Month. Whether you're fully involved or just casually curious, there'll be something to appeal--from the Tattered Cover's Poetry Karaoke event to the Mercury Cafe's marathon Podeo, a twelve-hour roundup of readings by just about everyone who's anyone on the local scene. The Denver Word Affiliate, a loose organization of area poets, is sponsoring a number of readings, and at Capitol Hill Books, poet Cynthia Morris will write instant poems based on suggestions from passersby every Friday from noon to 2 p.m.
If it sounds disparate, it is. In fact, there's only one thread holding these groups together: They want you to give them a chance. "People give you this sort of wry smile if you say you're a poet. Or they pity you secretly," Ruderman laments. "And let's face it, most people don't publish. This is a form of audience reception that you don't get otherwise."
National Poetry Month events, through April. For complete local listings, see Literary Events, page 28.