Poetry

 Juan J. Morales, the author of three poetry collections and department chair of English and world languages at CSU Pueblo, is the guest reader at the Wright Opera House tonight. (Photo courtesy of Nicky Beer/PoetryFoundation.org)

Thomas Hardy called it “emotion put into nature.” The writer Paul Engle described poetry as “ordinary language raised to the Nth Power.”

In-person poetry readings, so popular in this region, took a step back during the pandemic. At last, they are returning: Tonight marks the second installation — five readings are scheduled between now and March — of Poetry at the Tavern, a new series at the Wright Opera House.

Call it a new-old series, with a couple of significant upgrades. Poetry at the Tavern is a successor to the Open Bard poetry series, cofounded by San Juan scribes Beth Paulson and Kierstin Bridger and formerly held at the Sherbino Theater.

The upgrades are welcome in winter: Unlike the Sherbino (and no knock on that atmospheric historic space), the tavern boasts a fireplace, and serves mixed drinks and small bites, in addition to beer and wine. There’s no change to the poetical “menu,” which was always excellent: As before, the guest readers will include poets who reside in this community, and readers returning from farther-flung locales by popular demand. Award-winning scribes Samantha Tisdel Wright of Silverton and Bridger of Placerville will be the guest readers in January and February, for example. This month and next — when travel across the Rockies is likely to be less-onerous than in deep winter — the guests will include CSU Pueblo poet Juan Morales, who will be in the tavern this evening, and poet Wayne Miller of CU Denver.

As always, following the main event and a short intermission, attendees will be invited to read a poem or two of at an open-mic session. The price of admission remains the same as before: just $5.

YOUTH POETRY NIGHT

Open Bard lives on in yet another incarnation: it has become a literary series in the Sherbino Theater. “We’ve been hosting an Open Bard Poetry Night for Youth every year, but had to postpone last year because of COVID,” said Tricia Oakland, the Sherbino’s programmer. “We wanted to make it extra special upon its return this year, and through a grant from Colorado Humanities, we were able to bring in Bobby LeFebre. He’s the state’s youngest-ever poet laureate, and the first Latinx person to receive that honor. It’s really special and phenomenal” to be able to have him as the special guest for Youth Poetry Night Oct. 23.

Earlier this spring, LeFebre “held a poetry-writing idea session/workshop that was free to all attendees on Zoom,” Oakland explained. “We’ve since reached out to local teachers, home school groups and the Voyager Youth Program” about the event next Saturday, which begins at 6:30 p.m. All are welcome: although the website invites local youth from Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel counties “from grades 6 through 12” to participate, “age is not a sticking point,” Oakland stressed. “If there’s a 3rd or 4th grader, or somebody even younger, who has put something together, we’ll never turn them away. We absolutely want them to read their work here.”

The deadline for admission is Tuesday (sign up at sherbino.org).

“The big thing to remember about this event is that it will not be judged,” Oakland added. “In the past, it was, and there were prizes offered. In our discussions with Bobby, he stressed that in general, poetry and writing are subjective things, and the idea of grading it” — with, say, a prize — “is not conducive to getting kids to create. He felt strongly about this, and we very much agreed. At the Zoom session, we really wanted to create an atmosphere where the kids felt they could share their creativity, and were inspired to write more — to continue to hone and craft their pieces.”

That spirit will prevail at the Sherbino next Saturday, where LeFebre will appear in person, offer a few remarks about what inspired him to become a poet, and then turn over the mic to local youth.

“We’d love as many people as possible to submit their poetry,” Oakland said. “We’ll have gifts for everyone who participates.”

The real gifts will be what the kids give back — through ordinary language raised to the Nth Power.

Poetry at the Tavern is held on the second Thursday of every month at the Wright Opera House at 7 p.m. Annual Youth Poetry Night at the Sherbino Theater, hosted by Colorado Poet Laureate Bobby LeFebre, Oct. 23. The doors open at 6 p.m., and readings go from 6:30-8:30 p.m.