Life of Lenny ‘Professor’ Chernila celebrated by Denver poetry community

Photo: Denver poet Lenny Chernila, Rock the Mic documentary still
This image of influential Denver Poet Lenny Chernila is on the cover sleeve of the 2015 documentary “Lenny C Rocks the Mic.”

The Denver poetry community bid farewell to one of its leaders over the weekend.

Lenny Chernila, the “Professor,” was a highly respected and beloved Denver poet, who was known for his passionate, bold verse and desire to mentor young poets. Westword also credits him for bridging the gap between Denver's beat poetry scene and the emergence of its slam poetry scene.

"What shall we do with this moment we are in? Rock the mic, rock the mic like this -- hot, hot, hot like that," Chernila could often be heard reciting into the microphone of Denver poetry spots such as Mercury Cafe or Bar Bar.

In a Facebook post on Saturday, Chernila’s son, Josh, wrote:

“I regret to announce the passing of my father, Denver's last true beat poet, Lenny Chernila; apparently of natural causes, a peaceful passing for a great... man.”

Denver-based Paper Cat Films features Chernila in a new documentary, “Lenny C Rocks the Mic.”

Kristine Hipps of Paper Cat Films spent two years documenting Chernila's performances and interviewing him for the film.

"Lenny was one of the good ones -- talented, fiery, kind, patient," Hipps said. "He was so interested in meeting new people, finding out about them, coaxing out their hidden talents. And... he was never afraid to voice his opinion on injustice and cruelty."

“Lenny C Rocks the Mic” screens May 6 at the Mercury Cafe in Denver. There will be tributes, poetry and live music during the screening.