The new poetry reading series in Sloan’s Lake isn’t like most literary events.
For starters, the crowd takes an active role in the process. Each reading lets attendees contribute to a group poem, shattering the notion that poetry isn’t for everyone. That poem is written on one long scroll, a testament to how Jack Kerouac captured his iconic novel “On the Road.”
And did we mention the readings are held in a movie theater?
The just-opened Alamo Drafthouse Sloans Lake hosts the monthly affair, part of the theater’s effort to embrace the arts in all forms. Each month’s poet opens up for a Q&A session with the crowd, further breaking down the notion that poets exist in a rarefied air. The poet also decides on the perfect movie to pair with his or her readings, bringing the cinema connection full circle. Denver poet Khadijah Queen chose “Purple Rain” to complement her August appearance.
The combination of prose and film makes more sense when you consider the purpose of each medium, says Denver poet Travis Cebula. He’s an internationally renowned poet who oversees the program.
“The idea of the screen is that it filters things, reflects them back,” Cebula says. “Poetry reflects back, too.” John Keats described poetry as holding opposite ideas together in order to foster new thoughts.
“It’s like the light and dark of film in 24 frames per second,” he says.
The “Ham on Rye” readings, held at 7 p.m. on the first Wednesday of the month, take place in the theater’s BarFly hall. It’s named after the 1987 movie starring Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway about famed poet Charles Bukowski. The space offers the perfect venue for both local and nationally renowned poets. Old-school typewriters and portraits of poetry greats line the hall. Yet a fully functional AV setup allows poets to bring a multimedia edge to their presentations.
The local poetry scene is on the rise, Cebula says. It’s a meritocracy-based community aided by the steady flow of new arrivals. The positive response to the “Ham on Rye” readings testifies to that fact, he says.
The Austin-based movie chain prides itself on connecting to the communities in question. Cebula’s series is highlighting Colo.-based artists for now, but he’d like to expand that to bring internationally renowned poets “who wouldn’t ordinarily come to Denver.”