Aspen Poets’ Society returns Saturday with a new home, Explore Booksellers
After a five-year hiatus, community events hosted by the Aspen Poets’ Society will return on Saturday at Explore Booksellers.
“We are calling it a revival,” said co-founder Lisa Max Zimet. “Our mission in bringing it back is to hopefully influence people to get together and to write and read poetry as a community. This is our revival session.”
She co-founded Aspen Poets’ Society alongside Kim Nuzzo in 2006 kind of by accident. Back then, she was doing marketing for the now closed Zélé Café when Nuzzo approached her about hosting an open-mic night dedicated to the Beat Poets. She figured it would be a good way to bring the community into the café but never imagined what it would become.
“We had two nights of the Beat Poets reading, and it was standing room only,” she said. “We had such an enthusiastic attendance at that first meeting. And when I saw that, I thought, ‘Where in town do people go to listen to poetry? Where did they go with an open mic to share the spoken word?’ And there wasn’t any. That night, we saw an incredible cross section of the population showing up because they wanted to read their own poetry. They wanted to share their work.”
Although not a poet herself, Zimet was moved by the outpouring of expression and asked her bosses if they could host a monthly poetry night. That eventually turned into the formation of the Aspen Poets’ Society, which had a 12-year run and included the publication of two books, “A Democracy of Poets of the Roaring Fork Valley and Beyond” and “Journey Home: Poems and Stories of Catherine Garland.”
“We held monthly open-mic sessions for anyone who wanted to sign up. Totally nondiscriminatory and nonjudgmental about the poetry,” she said. “We attracted, I mean, just a wonderful variety of people from different walks of life. People shared some of their most personal experiences. It became important to the culture.”
Over the dozen years, due to the changing economics of Aspen and closing of venues, the society had to move venues several times, going from Zélé to Hotel Lenado, then Victoria’s Espresso and Wine Bar and the Mountain Chalet, where the most recent gathering was held in October 2018.
Zimet said the team decided to take a break in 2018 because of the stress of running a small non-profit and the changing demographics in town. Many in the community were now driving from Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, and even as far as Newcastle to attend events, which became cumbersome.
They thought they were just taking a break to reassess and reorganize, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, further delaying their plans until earlier this year when Zimet ran into Explore Booksellers Director of Programming Jeff Bernstein.
“I was at Explore and met Jeff, and when he heard about the group, he said, ‘Well, if you ever want to start up your readings again, by all means you can use the space here,'” she said. “And so that’s what gave rise to our May 6 event.”
While the Aspen Poets’ Society won’t hold monthly meetings, they are hoping to bring the event several times a year.
Saturday’s event will take place from 4:30-6 p.m. and feature musical artist Dylan Starrs, an open mic for poets of all ages and guest poet Tori Miner. The event is free, open to everyone, and Zimet encourages any storyteller or poet interested to sign up for the open mic.
“I am so amazed at poets and what they can say in a few lines,” she said. “You never know who’s going to show up. You never know what they’re going to say. It could be magic. It could be tragedy. No two poetry nights are alike; the content is limitless. We have no expectations. We just hope people will show up and share.”
What: Aspen Poets’ Society revival and open mic
When: Saturday, 4:30 p.m.
Where: Explore Booksellers, Aspen
More info: explorebooksellers.com/event/aspen-poets-society
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