Spiking Poetry

Landmark readings honor Kenneth Koch

SAT 4/19

Naropa University graduate and poet Mary Kite says she doesn't like things to be too easy, and that credo is made even clearer by the projects she willingly takes on: In addition to helping compile Naropa's massive Audio Archive Project of recorded poetry performances, Kite is also at the organizational forefront of this Saturday's Transcontinental Poetry Reading, a groundbreaking event linking poets at nine college campuses across the nation for a combined live and Internet-streamed reading celebrating the work of late New York School poet Kenneth Koch. Hosted locally by the University of Colorado at Boulder and Naropa's Summer Writing Program, the Colorado component will feature poet Anselm Hollo, reading live in technological tandem with his scattered colleagues at CU's Sibell-Wolle Fine Arts Auditorium, beginning this evening at 5:30. After nine months of painstaking coordination, Kite says all systems are go, in spite of the difficulties involved in dealing with nine different tech crews and a stable of poets located all over the map: "This is like the poetic version of the completion of the transcontinental railway."

Not unlike the leadup to pounding in that historic golden spike, there have been plenty of problems, though some are decidedly 21st-century in nature. For instance, one of the participating sites, Columbia University's Butler Library -- where high-profile poets Lisa Jarnot, Kenward Elmslie, Anne Waldman and Ron Padgett will read -- is subject to tight post-9/11 security measures, including pass cards. "The unusual part is that, ordinarily, anyone can go to a poetry reading," Kite says. "At Columbia, it's a different state of affairs." In an attempt to alleviate the problem, the coordinating committee came up with some "Monty Python-esque" alternatives, including shouting code words.

Here's what to expect visually: "Seven images will be thrown up simultaneously on a single screen, each featuring live poets in front of a live audience in each location," Kite says. "I think the actual imagery will be a mixture between the Brady Bunch and Piet Mondrian." And in round-robin fashion, the gathered poets will read Koch's Twenty Poems, break for an intermission and dance performance from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and finish with additional readings from the poets' own work. "It'll be like a giant jigsaw puzzle of verbiage," Kite predicts. The meter's running: Log on to http://arts.internet2.edu/poetry-reading.html for details. -- Susan Froyd

Wild West Internet

Calling all cowboys, rodeo clowns, saloon girls and knife-throwers: A new Web site, www.WildWestPerformers.com, is designed to lasso big business for Western acts out here on the range.

"Looking around on the Internet, I realized that it was easy to find a balloon artist or magician, but not a Western performer," says Robert Basgall, a trick roper from Salinas, California, who created the Web site that advertises Western-themed acts. "Americans are going to back to their roots, so I decided to create a place where you can find a cowboy or cowgirl."

Posting a general listing on Basgall's site is free, but he charges $10 per month and up for artists seeking bookings. Says Basgall, who considers Will Rogers his idol, "I love the Western stuff, and I love the Internet, so why not put them together?"

He just might be on to something: In the past three months, more than 1,000 Western buffs have submitted their information to Basgall's database. So far, historical re-enactors and celebrity impersonators have gotten the most work. "I've got a guy who does an amazing John Wayne," says Basgall. Trick roping and whip-cracking are two other hot categories.

But it's more than just rodeo work. "A lot of these performers travel around the world to do corporate events and big theme parties," Basgall notes. They won't work for peanuts, either: Some charge as much as $3,000 per hour. -- Julie Dunn

Kid and Buddy
THUR 4/17

Christopher "Kid" Reid made his mark in the 1990 comedy House Party (which also moved into two sequels). And for a while, his fresh face and rocket hairstyle were splashed around the scene. But times changed, and so did Reid. The locks have been lowered, and he's now throwing a comedy house party. But he sometimes gets bothered by fans who can't change with him. "You think I still have a fade?" he says incredulously during one bit. He quickly urges the holdout fan to move into the new century -- "and lose the [M.C.] Hammer pants, too." Reid will be joined by Def Comedy Jam buddy (and ex-cop-turned-standup) Billy D. Washington, who likes to play with racial-identity observations. Billy swears that he was once in a Cherry Creek-like mall with his six-year-old son, and the kid, who wanted a Donkey Kong game, instead blurted, "I want Honky Dong!" He says his son just about got him killed. "True story. Honky Dong." The veteran pair will be on the Comedy Works stage tonight through Saturday. Call 303-595-3637 or visit www.comedyworks.com. -- Ernie Tucker

Surround Sound
The Acoustic Carnival is women's work.
THUR 4/17

If your CD changer is chock-full of hits by chick rockers like Bonnie Raitt and Shawn Colvin, this Thursday's Acoustic Carnivalwill strum your heartstrings with a "singer-in-the-round" format featuring Maggie Simpson of Laramie, Wyoming, Liz Barnez of Fort Collins, and Ann McWilliams from Indianapolis. "The audience really seems to enjoy the variety," says Simpson, a former Boulderite who has been organizing regional Acoustic Carnival performances for more than four years. "I like to say that we offer all of the facets of the diamond at once: You get to hear different personalities and different musical styles in a really intimate space."

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