January 1, 2010

Ken Arkind: Laureate of Denver’s Slam Poetry Scene

(Reprinted from www.ColoradoMusicBuzz.com)

Slam poetry, huh? But isn’t this a music magazine? It sure is, pal, and you did read that correctly. Denver is a wildly versatile city, one that embraces its politics as equally as its culture. Therefore, it is not really a surprise that different forms of art often come together to create an even better experience for the onlookers and participants alike.

Taking advantage of this cultural freedom, Hot Congress – a group comprised of local artists and musicians – recently put out a compilation album that showcases the talents of its members (and for which I fought viciously to snag my own copy). Amidst the songs, I discovered a hilarious, yet wrenching, love poem entitled “Maggie,” written and read by Ken Arkind.

Let it be known that – English major or not – I am not a lover of poetry. Yet it may actually be impossible not to adore Arkind’s writing and moving delivery. His poems can be frivolous (with only hints of a deeper meaning, like “1up”) or downright raucous, such as his ode to the bowel movements of soccer moms in “Dropping the Kids off at the Pool.” Yet he effortlessly shifts to confronting emotional matters in the gritty “For Wes,” as well as poignant racial issues in “Smoke.”

This local phenomenon caught national attention when he won both the Pablo Neruda Poetry Slam and Barrio Slam in 2004, the Denver City Slam in 2005, and finally (along with the Denver Mercury Slam Team) the National Poetry Slam in 2006.

Arkind’s work off-stage, however, has become just as noteworthy as his blossoming career. Over the years, he has taught at high schools, universities, and even correctional facilities, and has spoken at protests and rallies. Recently, he teamed up with Flobots’ Fight With Tools organization, working as a coach for Denver Minor Disturbance Youth Team. Arkind can be found touring with Spilljoy Ensemble (a quartet of renowned slam poets from around the country) and Dynamic Duo (alongside fellow National Poetry Slam champion, Panama Soweto).


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