Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Feast of Words



















Hard to believe that we're now only a week away from Wordfest, the new Asheville poetry festival. It hits the stage - or one of its stages - this coming Thursday, April 24th, with a 7:00 performance by Patricia Smith and Rick Chess at UNCA's Humanities Lecture Hall. It should be an interesting event, given the distance between the writing & performance styles of the two featured poets; Patricia comes from the world of the slam, and Rick from the halls of the university.

That difference, of course, is precisely the point, a signal of the range of poets and poetries the festival means to include.

The whole thing grew out of a series of conversations over coffee at Malaprops, Asheville's great independent bookstore, following Wordplay shows early last year. Laura Hope-Gill, then a Wordplay host, and Jim Navé, of the Writing Salon, had fond memories of the first Asheville Poetry Festivals, held for a few years in the early 1990s - festivals that I had missed - had been, in fact, only vaguely aware of. Those festivals had grown out of the slam scene in Asheville, a scene in which I hadn't been involved, and had found, given the directions my own work was then taking, of little interest. Some poets of real energy and authentic voice, though, had emerged from that scene, including Laura herself, and her good friend (and also occasional Wordplay host) Glenis Redmond. The longer we talked, the more our conversation turned to creating a festival anew, one that would honor all the approaches to poetry we'd variously come to enjoy and understand, that had come to have place in our community. You won't find it anywhere in the festival materials now, but when we initially tried to define a statement of intent for the festival, the phase we came up with was "echo and reach"; we wanted to honor the history of the arts of language in these mountains, home through the centuries to Cherokee singers and to the poets of Black Mountain College, to ballad singers and to beats, slam masters and professors of writing. Over the months we talked with our friends and fellow poets, and gradually came up with a list of poets we believed covered, if not the full range of activity we might wish to honor, a pretty decent part of it.

Here's the schedule:

RICHARD CHESS‚ PATRICIA SMITH

Thursday April 24 7:00 pm UNC-A Humanities Lecture Hall

SIMON ORTIZ‚ MARIJO MOORE‚ KATHRYN STRIPLING BYER

Friday April 25 7:00 pm UNC-A Humanities Lecture Hall

GLENIS REDMOND‚ ALLAN WOLF‚ JIM NAVE‚ LAURA HOPE-GILL

Re-Opening the Green Door: a Retrospective of the 1990’s Performance Poetry Scene
Friday April 25 10:00 pm Malaprops Bookstore/café corner of Walnut and Haywood St.

COLEMAN BARKS WITH ELIOT WADOPIAN

Saturday April 26 2:00 pm The Fine Arts Theater 36 Biltmore Avenue

WORDFEST AT MALAPROPS: RECEPTION AND SIGNING

Saturday April 25 4:00 pm Malaprops Bookstore/café

FATEMEH KESHAVARZ‚ GALWAY KINNELL

Saturday April 26 7:00 pm UNC-A Humanities Lecture Hall

POETIX LOUNGE

Saturday April 26 10:00 pm Bobo Gallery on Lexington Avenue

FLOOD GALLERY READING: GLENIS REDMOND‚ SEBASTIAN MATTHEWS‚ LAURA HOPE-GILL‚ JEFF DAVIS‚ and MARK PRUDOWSKY

12:00 noon. 109 Roberts St. at corner of Clingman and Roberts by the river.

LEE ANN BROWN‚ CATHY WAGNER‚ DEVIN JOHNSTON

This History Isn’t Closed: A Protospective of The Black Mountain College Legacy: Sunday April 27 2:00 pm Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center

WORDFEST LOCAL: DAVID HOPES‚LEE ANN BROWN, GARY COPELAND LILLEY‚ THOMAS RAIN CROWE‚ ROSE MCLARNEY, ALLAN WOLF‚ KEITH FLYNN

Sunday April 27 7:00 pm Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center, 56 Broadway in downtown Asheville.

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There's more information over at the festival website.

Glenis, Rick, Navé and I will also be providing workshops in various approaches to poetry; mine will focus, as you might suspect, on writing about or from what we usually call "Nature". More on those workshops in another post.

Come out if you can to catch us all at work, doing what we love most to do, celebrating language of the mind, heart and imagination.

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Thanks to Megan McKissack for creating the festival poster.

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Updated April 21,2008 to reflect last-minute changes in the schedule.

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