Swirling out of The Vortex: The Tribe Says Goodbye to Michael Malpiedi (for now) by Jonathan Montgomery

One day Shana and I were walking down the Boulder Creek path, and we were drawn to an eddy along its bank.  It was autumn, and fallen leaves were everywhere, and they were swirling around in the water.  They each had their own separate destiny.  Some moved round and round the whirlpool.  Some got stuck on the rocks.  Some got half-stuck for a little while and just hadta be patient before they started moving again.  Some moved together in groups.  Some moved as a couple at first and then solo.  And some were so far on the edge they were actually able to escape the vortex altogether.

“Fuck!” I said to Mike, “the website is going to shit again.”

“Alright” he said “let me take a look at it.”

Michael Malpiedi came to Boulder in 2012 from various parts of New England so he could get a Master’s Degree of Fine Arts in writing from Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School.  He already had a background in organizing and emceeing spoken word events, and an awareness of the beat spirit.  Eventually he sought past his in-uteroversity surroundings and found our Boulder Poetry Scene, where he filled the role of host and co-organizer of the Bouldering Poets monthly reading series, taking over with Ellie Swensson for Elyse Shugrue in fall 2014.  He would get up to the mic, so tall, so bearded, and capture our attention with his booming voice, so that everyone would have no doubt who was reading next and what their biography really was.  If you were lucky you’d get to hear his blue-eyed soul vibrato belting out acapella renditions of Hosier, Alicia Keys, or The Little Mermaid soundtrack.  We’d cooperate on getting articles on BP features for the website, and by early 2016 he’d joined the team directly, filling the position of contributor/web designer/general handyman/shoulder to complain on.

“What’s the exact problem?” Mike said.

“It’s hard to put my finger on,” I said, “but something’s not right.”

“Is it the hackers again?”

“No, they’ve calmed down.”

“The calendar’s not updated?”

“Of course it’s not.  But I’ve accepted that.”

“We haven’t posted anything new for months?”

“That’s close, very close, but not quite it.”

Mike is leaving Boulder at the end of the month.  It’s for reasons we can all understand.  After years of creating space for all of our voices, he finds his own voice neglected and unfamiliar.  He needs some time and a new setting to regroup and figure some important things out.  Can’t be done in Boulder, too familiar, too many old habits, rent way too fucking high.

“What if…” I said “what we’re doing is not that… important.”

“No,” he said “poetry IS that important.”

“Says who?”

“You wrote that on my copy of your book.”

“Oh yeah.”

I’d written that under the influence of a book release party.  But it had stuck with Mike.  He’d included it in an epic poem that called out all the most inspiring parts of the Boulder Poetry Scene and which he read whenever an audience really needed to be lifted up.  And I suppose that’s what we’re all about here.  In this culture which  gives the poet little attention or treasure, but which has taught everyone that we must seek validation from the outside making the establishment of faith-in-self an ongoing challenge that often seems just out of reach, it helps just a little to reflect back our value if only to ourselves.

“Thanks, man” I told him, “you’ve always had my poetry back.”

And now Mike leaves us back to various parts of New England, maybe Cape Cod, maybe Providence, maybe The Seas of Atlantic Mermaids.  He may be back one day, but until then I hope we can remember poetry IS that important without each other.

And just like many poets in The Scene that came before him and many that will come after, he reminds me of this one day at the Boulder Creek.

There was one bright purple-red leaf in the eddy.  It stood out so much amongst all the other brown and dead ones. We followed it as it went round and round.  It was fast and strong and broke thru every trap.  It was still so purple-red even as it got dunked underneath before it was able to pop back up.  “What a beautiful leaf,” we said. “Go leaf go!”  And then suddenly it veered to the outside track and raced for the waterfall of freedom.  “Can it do it?  Can it do it?”  It did, it caught hold of some other current and floated away from the whirlpool and toward the center and over the rocks til we couldn’t see it any more.  We felt really great for the leaf, but we were also sad there wasn’t anything as beautiful to look at anymore.  And then it was time to walk away from the vortex and continue down the path back home.

You can say goodbye to Mike at his final Boulder performances for ALOC Media’s Jazzetry Night 8-11pm Wednesday 1/18 at The Laughing Goat and Bouldering Poets 6:30pm Saturday 1/28 at Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe.


Jonathan Montgomery is the editor-in-chief of boulderpoetrytribe.com.  He’s a graduate of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics (MFA ’05) as well as the author of Pizzas and Mermaid and Taxis & Shit.  Look for his novel The Reality Traveler sometime in 2017.  Go to his website jonathan-montgomery.com for more!