Poetry in Action

The Poets Are In: Khalil Jazz Jenkins (left) and Kyle Sutherland work the Poetry Booth. Sometimes, too much of the time, I live in my head. Writing, reading, stewing. 

What a relief it is to come up for air. To find a world alive with good people and poetry.

I was recently revived at the Denver County Fair.  Now in its sixth year, this new-fangled fun has been called the "craziest county fair in America." It's a mix of old and new, with pies, pickles, drag queens, trick pigs and more. And amid the side-show antics, poetry shines.

As the Director of Poetry, I get to orchestrate all kinds of fun: a poetry contest, a poetry performance, and a poetry booth.

Winners of the Poetry Contest, from left: Carolyn Oxley, Emma Miner, Laurie Duncan.

The Poetry Performance featured Art from Ashes, a nonprofit literary youth organization that jolted us with a reminder of the power and purpose of creative expression; Jovan Mays, poet laureate for the City of Aurora, and instructor at Lighthouse Writers Workshop; and Judyth Hill, my mentor-friend, who years ago taught a writing workshop at the Taos Institute of Arts that turned my head and heart to poetry. 

Poet Jovan Mays performs at the Denver County Fair.

Judyth Hill shares her internationally-known poem, Wage Peace.

Nearby, the Poems-Write-Now table hummed with poets-in-action. Poets penned on-the-spot poems for "customers" (donations benefited Art from Ashes). This was poetry as verb. Sunday morning reverence meets freak show mystery.

"Jazz," an Art from Ashes poet, wrote a poem for my teenage niece. She provided limited info — her name, what was on her mind, and we wandered away to watch the bug eating contest. When we returned 15 minutes later, he had turned out a complete and surprisingly perceptive poem. In the busy hall, with its rumble and echo, we clutched together, bending in to hear his words lifted from page to ear, and we stood teary-eyed and awed. 

Sometimes I'm too much in my head. That day I was all heart.