Sheer poetry: Bet you didn't know April is National Poetry Month. True, the fragile, sometimes-ridiculed literary genre won't change the world, but it does, by virtue of its rich, metaphoric language and deep insights, help make our mean old planet a slightly nicer place. That's reason enough to celebrate--let us count the ways. Maybe you'd like to start by thinking about poetry: To that end, the University of Denver's 1996 Salons Denver program, a series of three-session community discussions on cultural or political issues, presents Writing in the American Grain: American Poetry and Poetic Tradition, with DU English prof Nina Solomon, beginning tonight from 7 to 9 and continuing on Thursday evenings through April 18. Held in private settings, the salons cost $65 per series. Reservations are recommended because space fills up quickly; call 871-2466. One of Denver's most consistent poetry readings, Toads in the Garden, is a regular occurrence on most Thursday nights at the Daily Grind Coffee House (Tivoli Student Union, Auraria campus). Toads usually commences with open reading, offering a glorious hodgepodge of verse at 7:30 p.m., followed by a formal guest reading, featuring local performers and published poets, at 8. Admission is $2 ($1 student with ID); call 573-JAVA. New Mexican bard Judyth Hill guests tonight. Hill will also be on hand for the Monday Night Poetry Series offered regularly by the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 E. 1st Ave. The T.C. is hosting a spate of April poetry events, including a nuts-and-bolts panel discussion on How to Get Your Poetry Published, with editors Tom Auer, Bin Ramke and Lee Ballentine on Saturday and, later in the month, a "Poetry Karaoke" event, a children's poetry storytime and separate readings by poets David Lee, Mark Irwin and James Kavanaugh. For details call 322-7727. Elsewhere this Saturday is the Ferril Fest, a daylong 100th-birthday tribute to the late Colorado poet laureate Thomas Hornsby Ferril beginning with a full morning of celebrity readings, remembrances, performances and more at the Tivoli Union. The fest continues with a trek to City Park for a christening walk around the newly renamed Ferril Lake; then it's on to the historic Ferril House (the poet's Downing Street boyhood home, which now houses the Colorado Center for the Book) for a tour. Registration costs $15 ($7 students) at the door; for information call 556-4830.
Larger than life: The works of Edward S. Curtis, who photographed images from early-twentieth-century Native American life for more than three decades, have always been astonishingly beautiful, drenched in grainy detail and a timeless, dignified aura. Ken Paul--an award-winning camera-wielder in his own right--reproduced seventeen of these images in eye-popping large scale using modern photo-imaging technology for the exhibit Edward S. Curtis at Large. The show opens tonight for a brief run at the Camera Obscura Gallery, 1309 Bannock St., with a reception from 5 to 9; the huge, startling reproductions are on display through April 14. For further information call 623-4059.
Fill it up with regular: He's not a flashy guy, and though he's plenty talented on his own, Bruce Hornsby, who once toured as an honorary member of the Grateful Dead, has always been just as happy working in someone else's shadow. But on his recordings Harbor Lights and Hot House, the stars--Jerry Garcia, Pat Metheny, Bela Fleck, Chaka Khan and Bonnie Raitt among them--came out to back Hornsby, giving the Grammy-winning songwriter and pianist an opportunity to shine. Hornsby's solo act will brighten the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Pl., tonight at 7:30; for tickets, $19.50, call 534-8336 or 830-TIXS.
All Miles: Denver's jazz community is far from lightweight, and Ron Miles is one of its smartest contenders. The brilliant trumpet player is the proud new papa of a national release on Gramavision and can also be heard on a CD by guitarist Bill Frisell's bold, rhythm-sectionless quartet. Closer to home, he'll lead the Ron Miles Sextet tonight as part of the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art's monthly Perforum Series. The concert, which will be held in BMoCA's upstairs Public Theater space, 1750 13th St., Boulder, begins at 8; for tickets, $3-$5, call 443-2122.
Just folkies: Although Woodstock the festival has in some ways grown to symbolize the excesses of the music business, the rural Hudson Valley region that hosted the original is home to a ton of rustic, low-key musicians--some of them well-known, like Bob Dylan or Arlo Guthrie, and some of them sweetly obscure, which is probably how they like it. Don Haynie and Sheryl Samuel, a folksy duo whose ingenuous harmonies, sharp guitar work and clever tunes are reminiscent in tone of Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant," pleasantly fit the latter description. Haynie and Samuel can be heard tonight at 8:15 at the similarly folksy shop Acoustic Music Revival, 1934 S. Broadway (reservations suggested; call 744-1737). Or see them Wednesday at 7 at the Chautauqua complex at 900 Baseline Road, Boulder (call 440-7666).
Take a hike: While half the nation is out looking for the Easter Bunny, you could be out in the wild, communing with nature. With a little luck, you might even see a weal wabbit--or an eagle's nest. Volunteer naturalists at Barr Lake State Park will bring their experience and insights to a pair of hour-long Barr Lake Nature Hikes, offered today at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. All ages are welcome; call 659-6005 to register. Park programs are free to the public; a $3 day pass or annual park pass gains each vehicle admission to the grounds at 13401 Picadilly Road, southeast of Brighton.
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It's a kick: It doesn't get any better than this for area dance enthusiasts: The Paul Taylor Dance Company, one of the world's most respected troupes, performs tonight in Boulder as a guest of the University of Colorado's excellent Artist Series. Three Taylor works--"Cloven Kingdom," "Musical Offering" and "Offenbach Overtures"--will grace the stage at 8 at Macky Auditorium on the CU-Boulder campus. Admission ranges from $10 to $35; for reservations call 492-8008.
Shooting to kill: Provocative issues raised recently in the Denver Post about the authenticity--or lack thereof--of events filmed for television nature programs get a local workout tonight on How Wild America?, an evening of related programming put together by KBDI-TV/Channel 12. Controversial scenes from Marty Stouffer's Wild America and the entire Nature segment "Jaguar: Year of the Cat" kick off the evening, followed by a live discussion show moderated by local talk-show personality Erin Hart at 8. Adding to the contentious pot is an episode of Ted Nugent Spirit of the Wild, which airs at 9 and features the notorious rock star/bow hunter stalking prey, as well as the Nuge's own taped interview about the show's subject matter. It's not the usual couch-potato fare; tune in beginning at 7.
Dead reckoning: The true story behind Tim Robbins's film Dead Man Walking is the subject of Angel on Death Row, tonight's installment of the PBS documentary series Frontline. The real-life views of Sister Helen Prejean, the Baton Rouge nun who served as spiritual advisor to four men on death row, are presented in counterpoint to those expressed by Elizabeth and Vernon Harvey, whose daughter Faith Hathaway was murdered by one of Prejean's wards. Also included are the varying perspectives of such people as rape victim Debbie Morris and Deputy Sheriff Mike Varnado, who found Hathaway's body, offering a well-rounded look at the issues surrounding the death penalty. Frontline airs at 9 on KRMA-TV/Channel 6.
Big fish in a little sea: Anyone who's ever told a story about the one who got away will feel vindicated viewing The Living Sea, the latest four-story-high feature on the Denver Museum of Natural History's IMAX screen. Narrated by Meryl Streep (who knows what accent she'll be using--Atlantis-speak?) and featuring music by nature-lover Sting, the IMAX voyage to the bottom of the sea is a visual extravaganza of huge jellyfish and whales, coral reefs and crashing waves. The Living Sea shows daily through September 26; admission is $4 to $5 (museum/IMAX combination tickets available); for showtimes or reservations call 322-7009.