In praise of poetry night |

In praise of poetry night

Ryan Johnson

Editors note: Live Poetry Night in Aspen celebrated its second birthday in October. Lisa Max Zimet, who co-founded the poetry evenings and is the founder of, sent us this commentary that local Ryan Johnson wrote and recited at the groups Oct. 26 gathering at the Hotel Lenado. I was so taken by Ryans passionate words that I felt they were more than worthy to share, not only with our Poetry night attendees, but with the local populace, she said. Lately Zimet says she is hoping to get local and statewide participation, and even international attention, on the website

Two years, 730 days, and how many poems? There may have been a few weeks there, on eggshells, but unlike our dear friends on Wall Street, we orchestrated not a bailout, but an upgrade. Let me repeat, upgrade. Transition is the nature of poetry. Once your poetry has become stagnant, call it dead. But once it is bouncing and moving and tricking you with each word, it will live with you, perhaps more than you want. That is also true of Hotel Lenado, quirky, cramped, cozy, friendly, resonating, yes, resonating. Once a month, at the Hotel Lenado, poetry is committed, not just read, not just shared but committed. We have all types here: visitors, commuters, regulars, mountain men, nine to fivers, first timers and every once in awhile an old pro. Our crowds differ from month to month, as perhaps they should, but the main message is, we have an audience and our poets are heard. For the most part our poets are realistic in their intentions. Almost no one is looking for fame or fortune, very few dream of being the next great American poet. Some of the poetry is amateurish, some heartfelt, some dull, some really f***ing good, so good it pisses me off and some just plain hot, smoking hot. We are a group of people who in one way or another have been turned on to poetry. Turned on to hearing poetry, yours, others. Poetry not only being read and heard but lived. There is presence in this poetry. Our format has changed, morphed but is essentially an open mic and feature format, similar to great poetry readings around the country. It is my hope that more and more of our open mic poets will go on to be features. After testing their chops, realizing what works and what doesnt and spending countless hours and emotions on their poetry, they will find their way to that immortal 15 minute spot and make sure everyone in the room leaves changed after it. For me, Hotel Lenado Poetry Night is a way to live. It is a way to breathe and scream and laugh, shout and whisper. Its a place where Ive made friends and colleagues with people from all walks of life with a hundred different stories. A poet and dear deceased friend, David Lerner, once wrote, Poetry is the rock of tomorrow, not that pop music is in spiritual receivership. I wish I could read my poetry in front of thousands of people like a rock star because I know that, if I did, I could eventually make them weep, hurt, be silent and at some point actually listen. But even if all that came true, if all my idealistic dreaming saw some light, I would still ramble down Aspen Street, notebook in hand, order my whisky and coke and listen to the best goddamn group of friends, people and poets a young man could ever ask for.

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