Brice Maiurro isn’t only a poet; he’s a habitué, a scenester and a Beat throwback working to carve more opportunities for his people in a tight underground world of word artists. Maiurro, the founder and former editor of Denver’s Punch Drunk Press literary journal and publisher, has now launched a new venture: the South Broadway Ghost Society, which publishes both online and eventually in a print journal, all while organizing pop-up readings and events along the way. Opportunities mean everything to poets. Get to know a guy who gets things done in that respect as he answers the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Brice Maiurro: I was up in Boulder with my friend Sarah Penney one day, and she told me that every full moon at midnight, a group of poets gather in a back alley to read poetry. I told her I didn’t believe her, but sure enough, I gave it a shot that full-moon night and went to the alley, at the time behind the Boulder Cafe, and found a small group of poets there waiting to read some poems. Being such a cold winter night, it was a small group: Matt Clifford, Eric Fischman and Natalie Doerre. Shivering, we read our poems, and they invited me back to their place, where we drank whiskey and stayed up all night talking and reading poetry. That night proved to be a big turning point in me feeling a sense of connection in a community and realizing that there are people out there who care about poetry and writing and make space and time to share it, so I have to say that Sarah Penney and her encouragement for me to go be a part of that magic was a huge catalyst for me as an artist.
From there, I started attending more events, writing more, getting involved, and found a feeling of acceptance for this thing that my whole life I’d done so quietly: writing, playing with words on my own, usually on the computer. Even before that, Varinia Rodriguez posted on Facebook that she was going to a poetry slam at the Mercury Cafe, and I asked if I could join her. That was huge for me — seeing people on that stage, seeing that Denver has poetry in its bones. The charm of it. Seeing Ken Arkind hosting, telling the audience how handsome they are, all while throwing in a solid dose of self-deprecation.
Before any of that, there was my mom. When I was in the fourth grade, our teacher had us write a lot. She posted an extra-credit assignment if anyone wanted to write a Halloween story and share it with the class. I told my mom I had an idea for a story called “The School of Horrors,” and she sat down with me at the computer and helped me flesh it out, beginning to end. If that weren’t enough, we then recorded the story to a tape player, with my mom doing the voice of the spooky narrator, sound effects pirated from Michael Jackson’s "Thriller" and guest appearances by my sister as the voice of the ghost cat. It’s something I’ll never forget. I’ve had someone guiding me into my art my whole life, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. My dad, too, is in all of my writing. He’s the most funny, down-to-earth person I’ve ever met, and I try to let that influence everything I write.
Denver is a muse. My competitive spirit is a muse. When I read a poem that I love, I almost always say to myself, “I can do that,” and then try to do it, whether I fail or succeed. Music is a muse; everything is, really. I told my dear friend Eliza Beth Whittington once that I’ve never really lucid-dreamed. They encouraged me to notice the symbols in my day-to-day life, the synchronicities, basically be aware of the dream I’m living in. Since then I feel like I’m always being inspired by the world around me. There’s a lot of finding something incredible in mundane moments in my writing.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
The best thing about the local creative community that I’ve found here in Denver and Colorado at large is how many people put in the work just for the love of it. There’s so much that’s just passion-driven. There are so many events that maybe at most ask a $5 suggested donation. There’s guerrilla crochet on trees on South Broadway. There are anarchist puppet shows. There are pun battles in the comedy scene, and there are compliment death matches in the poetry community. It’s just love. It’s the town living inside of Denver being kept alive.
The worst part is the illusion of culture in places that have been robbed of their culture. The illusion of culture to sell luxury apartments. SoDoSoPa.
How about globally?
I suspect that the same may be true globally. The best part of the arts is peoples’ passion, and the worst part is the manipulation of what should be an authentic, heartfelt thing for selfish gain.
What’s your dream project?
I have a lot of dream projects, but one of them is to string out a long scroll from Alameda and Broadway all the way down to Ellsworth and Broadway and write a poem on all of it. When I lived on South Broadway, I did that walk so often. Sometimes I’d walk down the back alley between Broadway and Lincoln to see how close I was to memorizing all of the buildings along the way, saying the names of the businesses as I went along.
If you died tomorrow, what or whom would you come back as?
If I died tomorrow, I’d really appreciate the opportunity to keep being myself. I’ve got a lot to learn still, and I’ve got a lot to be grateful for.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I love Denver, and I don’t want to leave it. I think Denver has a strong transitory nature to it. Ted Vaca notably calls this beautiful hub in the middle of a lot of not much else “Queen City of the Plains.” Jack Kerouac said, “Denver is lonesome for her heroes,” and I think that’s because there’s a sense that so many people are just passing through. There’s so much of the world that comes to you in Denver. I’ve still got so much fire inside of me, and part of me is too curious to see what becomes of Denver. My family and my chosen family are here.
One of my favorite things to do is go into downtown on a night when there’s a lot of snow on the ground. It’s really amazing to have the city to yourself like that. To be in the quiet with the giant buildings.
I love going to Mutiny Information Cafe when I have nothing to do and always finding someone to talk to there. Last night I went and just messed around with the piano. A lot of times, I’ll go there and play some pinball. I love going to the Corner Beet and eating delicious toast and bugging Nikki Hazamy or Moovy. I love Gio Barabadze, possibly the nicest human being on the face of the planet. He hosts the open mic there every Thursday night. I love the sheer terror of a car coming the other way when I’m driving through Cap Hill. I love being on the rooftop at Archer Tower, fifteen stories up, hanging with Aly Anchondo. I love that this interview has given me the chance to name so many people I love. I love drinking gin and tonics with Cliff at Charlie Brown’s. I love dancing at Milk Bar during this extremely latent and subtle goth phase I’m going through. I love driving from one end of Colfax to the other with a car full of friends. I love that Pablo’s on Sixth has no wi-fi. I love Union Station with the big tree inside at Christmas time. I love that I can’t sit down and capture everything I love about Denver in one shot, that all I can do is keep on keeping on in this beautiful city that has given me so much.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
There was a point back when I was running Punch Drunk Press, a publishing press where we hosted a lot of events, when I considered ceasing to do it to pursue another project with a media company here in Colorado. Sarah Rodriguez, who was assistant editor of the journal at that point, was not happy. She reminded me how far we’d come through with Punch Drunk Press. She reminded me that we’d built so much community around Punch Drunk, that we still had a mission to finish. If Sarah sent me a poem and I told her it was trash, she wouldn’t get angry or throw it away. She would hear me and keep hitting me with draft after draft of that poem until it was something she could stand by. Sarah legitimately has always been such a big fan of Punch Drunk Press and all my other projects. I’ve watched her grow from clutching a microphone and apologizing for her poetry to being the Editor-In-Chief/Queen of the Stage she is now. She says every poem is a love poem. She is a love poem. She is a Colorado Creative through and through, and I am incredibly grateful for her.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
My agenda for this year is South Broadway Ghost Society, and I’ve committed to ten years on this project. Stepping away from Punch Drunk Press after two years was hard, but I had some lessons to learn, and as this new project unfolds, I’m beyond excited. South Broadway Ghost Society is going to put out an annual literary journal, with our first one due in October. We currently have a GoFundMe campaign active to raise money for that. I want to get that distributed everywhere I can. Outside of that, I love that Ghost Society has allowed me the space to do whatever art project I’d like to. So far, we had our launch party at Mutiny, an open mic for letters, a really beautiful event at Green Lady Gardens with Tara Burke — one of the all-time greatest humans — and Claire Heywood, who is a truly phenomenal musician.
Our most recent event was my favorite I’ve ever organized. I’ve always wanted to curate an art gallery, and I finally did. We had an amazing pop-up show at Thought//Forms Gallery, which is a hidden treasure at First and Kalamath. More of that this year, and more of listening to the things I want to do and making them happen. More art, more love, more ghosts.
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Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
I think that the Writer’s Block poets should get way more attention than they do. I’m in my thirties now, and it’s been nothing short of amazing to see these younger poets owning their voices and holding space. I think Stain’d Arts is doing important, intentional things. I’m excited for everything, per usual: 2019 is going to be a truly incredible year.
Keep up with Brice Maiurro and his projects online.