National Poetry Month began April 1, but Denver is without a poet laureate.
Chris Ransick minded our metaphors for four years as the city's master of rhymes and verse; his second term ended just before National Poetry Month in 2010 and, because of funding cuts, a replacement was never named. Not that it's a huge deal: Ransick is the only living person to ever hold the post, which was created in 2004. Our first poet laureate was professor and longtime activist Lalo Delgado, who died that year and was given the title posthumously by then-mayor John Hickenlooper.
"We just didn't have the resources," says Jan Brennan, director of Denver Office of Cultural Affairs. And it probably won't for a while. The city is planning to merge DOCA with the Division of Theatres and Arenas in order to save $1.2 million (a decision that could be final this week). "But as city revenues recover, the poetry program would be at the top of our list of things to restore."
So how much does it cost to have a part-time poet on staff?
About $2,000 a year, but "it turns out even that was too much to muster," Ransick says via e-mail. "I can tell you that at the time my term was coming to a close, DOCA was grappling with reduction of arts funding...so there were some sad days when we realized the program would likely go dormant. I hope that is temporary, but much depends on how the economy turns around and what priorities the next mayor has."
In addition to his stipend, the office spent about $18,000 placing placards inside 800 RTD buses that featured verses from local students and poets; it also did outreach in Denver schools. "The $2,000 is the least of it," Brennan says. "To make the poet laureate effective, there has to be a program that that person can support. It doesn't make sense to just have a guy in name only."
Ransick says he hopes the program will come back soon. Denver's burgeoning literary community is "more lively than it's been any time in the last two decades," he says. "So if and when we get another laureate, I hope that person can pick up where I left off and keep building connections, community, and a love of poetry and literature."
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Smoked: On April 11, the Senate Judiciary Committee is slated to discuss HB 1261, which would set impairment limits for driving under the influence of marijuana. If approved, the bill would allow up to 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood: anything over that and a driver would be considered too stoned for the road. In theory, the notion is commendable. But THC doesn't work like booze. With alcohol, the general rule is that a person can metabolize about one drink per hour (with slight variations for weight), but the alcohol dissipates a few hours later. With pot, though, the residue binds to fat cells in the body and lingers in the system. So even if someone hasn't smoked in as long as 28 days, he might still have a measurable amount of THC in his bloodstream.
Westword critic William Breathes is pretty skinny – but we're guessing he has more than 5 nanograms per milliliters of THC in his body at any given time. To test that theory, we sent him to Any Lab Test Now in Englewood a good fifteen hours after he'd smoked his last joint to have his blood tested. And then, after Breathes smoked a bowl of Triple Diesel (about 18 percent THC) and two dabs of hash oil (about 80 percent THC), he went back to see if his blood level was now as high as he was.
We'll post the results on the Latest Word blog as soon as they come in.