Poetry gatherings in metro area let you go out with your inner self

Denver area offers many venues for sharing poetry


Depression and struggling with her identity put a roadblock in Sophia Manion’s passion for poetry, but when she walked into Blush and Blu, an LGBTQ bar on Colfax Avenue, she found her voice again.

“I was inspired when I stumbled into this open mic and was instantly welcomed by this crowd,” said Manion, 30, who lives in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood.

The bar is just one of the well-known spots in the Denver metro area’s poetry scene, where people of many backgrounds — and age groups — come together to hone their skills, wax reflective about the world, make connections and share their selves.

Along with displaying influence from smartphones and social media, poetry appears to be riding an upswing in popularity in the area, local aficionados say.

“Poetry is still important in our culture because it touches our hearts through the emotions behind the words,” said Alice Aldridge-Dennis, president of Castle Rock Writers, a regional group. “In a fast-paced world, getting in touch with our inner selves is vital to our well-being.”

Text on tech

Poetry imitates life in today’s tech-fueled era, as Curtis Pierce, vice president of the Poetry Society of Colorado, has observed. Texting, social media and cell phones appear more often lately as subject matter, Pierce said.

“For example, we had a contest a few months ago, and the theme was cell phones. And there was actually some great poetry about cell phones,” said Pierce, whose nonprofit group meets in Lakewood and has monthly workshops. “You seen the movie ‘Her’? The idea of loving someone who doesn’t physically exist (came up).

“When you’re texting, you’re using short-form words ... those things are making way into writing maybe as something kind of clever.”

Manion, one of the hosts of the All OUT open mic at Blush and Blu, also sees poems that reference how people communicate via texting or social media, she said.

Aldridge-Dennis, whose group holds monthly workshops and meets at the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock, said she’s noticed other modern influences on similar writing.

“I think rap music and performance arts reflect a new way of communicating through rhyme and rhythm on social issues,” Aldridge-Dennis said. “The popularly of the musical ‘Hamilton’ attests to this. The story is about our country’s early days, but the messages are still relevant today.”

Not just teen angst

Currents in the country’s political waters influence locals’ poetry, too, said Suzi Q. Smith, poet and community engagement coordinator at Lighthouse Writers Workshop.

“Most of the poets that I have been connected to locally have been politically vocal for years and continue to be so,” said Smith, whose Denver literary center holds workshops, a literary festival and programming, including in schools. “Our current political climate provides opportunity for these poets to share their work in forums that haven’t necessarily been as politically active as they are now.”

Manion’s seen political messages at Blush and Blu, the only open mic she knows of in the area with an LGBTQ focus.

“There’s a touch of the political because we’re gay,” said Manion, who identifies as transgender. But “the personal and the political are the same sometimes, like with (poems on) #MeToo,” the recent movement to discuss sexual harassment and assault.

The idea of poets as “the prophets of the time period” comes up in the writers’ world, Pierce said.

“There’s a lot of angst in the writing,” Pierce said. “People who wouldn’t normally write politically are writing politically or are just writing about what’s going on in the news.”

‘Ineffable’ asset

In an era with so many media and sources of entertainment, members of the metro area’s writing scene say poetry remains relevant, even among young people.

“Mainly because it’s a steppingstone. For example, music,” Pierce said. “Often you’ll hear music and poetry are connected. So poetry is a way to get into music or other things.”

Pierce’s Poetry Society is involved in youth poetry, and he said young people tend to “graduate” to other art, like music or long-form writing, but sometimes come back to poetry.

“The popularity of poetry, it definitely is on the upswing,” said Pierce, who also volunteers for Castle Rock Writers.

Interest in poetry has increased, with people calling the group to ask where they can learn more about how to write and publish their poetry, Aldridge-Dennis said.

Andrea Dupree, program director at Lighthouse, said poetry still resonates today because of its ability to help people cope with and process their lives.

“Poetry is about transforming the things in the world that can feel chaotic and overwhelming — injustice, suffering, loss, and even joy and happiness — into something beautiful and meaningful and concrete,” Dupree said. It “adds to that ineffable warehouse of survival techniques we have in our hearts and minds. Ultimately, all art and writing are about connection. That’s something we can, all of us, use more of.”


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