Poetry to the people

It's time to get your poetry on again — because Asheville's Wordfest wants to bring poetry to the people, all of us, rather than leaving verse in a dusty college closet where it's only accessible to a few.

Their slogan is "poetry changes things": Renowned translator Coleman Barks reads at BoBo Gallery last year (top). Wordfest director Laura Hope-Gill (bottom).

"I know lots and lots of people are writing poetry," says Laura Hope-Gill, poet and Wordfest executive director. "We want them to come out and share their work and be part of this community, no matter who they are or what their background is."

Proving that many of us are poets at heart, more than 1,500 people attended each of the four-day Wordfests in '08 and '09. Hope-Gill hopes for even more participation this year. Each year's fest features a new batch of diverse poets, some of whom are internationally known.

This year's group includes Mark Doty, the only American poet to have won Great Britain's T. S. Eliot Prize, Linda Hogan, a Chickasaw poet, and Raúl Zurita, winner of the Chilean National Poetry Prize, among others.

Hope-Gill describes Zurita as "the premiere poet of Latin America — the Neruda of his generation."

New 2010 Wordfest activities include a poetry "hike and write" on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a family scavenger hunt at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial site, and a youth poetry reading at Firestorm Café.

Nationally known writer, poet and lecturer David Whyte will present on and offer a workshop on the subject: "Three Marriages: Re-imagining Work, Self and Relationship." Although all other Wordfest events are free and open to the public, the events with Whyte will be ticketed. Cost is $50 for the Saturday morning lecture, $125 for the afternoon workshop, and $150 for both.

"David's work is incredibly relevant for people who are trying to balance work, relationships and self-awareness," Hope-Gill says. "David uses poetry to relate to different aspects of life and work, which totally fits into Wordfest's mission of connecting poetry to everyday life."

"Though we'd like Wordfest to be completely free, this year we decided a paid event was needed to help offset the costs of the rest of the festival," she says, adding that everyone on the Wordfest organizing team is a volunteer.

Hope-Gill refers to the festival as having different branches — one being outreach to local businesses (such as teaming with MAHEC for Whyte's visit); another being outreach to those from culturally diverse backgrounds, and another being community journalism (again, primary sponsor MAIN will video and archive the festival).

"Even though I'm a poet, I'm really, really interested in communications and social media, and I love the idea of poets as citizen journalists," says James Nave, poet and Asheville native who performs at the festival. "I'm interested in how people can communicate poetically."

For more information and to purchase tickets to the David Whyte events, visit www.ashevillewordfest.org.

Production please box:
Wordfest schedule of events (check www.ashevillewordfest.org for updates)

Wednesday, May 5
2:30-5:30 p.m.: Workshop with Laura Hope-Gill and James Nave, The Hawk and Ivy Bed & Breakfast in Barnardsville. Followed by pot luck and sharing circle.

Thursday, May 6
6 p.m.: Youth (aged 11-16) poetry reading and open mic, Firestorm Cafe.
7-9 p.m.: Keith Flynn, Kathryn Stripling Byer, Holly Iglesias, Katherine Soniat, John Hoppenthaler, Jubilee! Community Church.
8:30-10 p.m.: Asheville Poetry Slam, The Hookah Bar.

Friday, May 7
4-6 p.m.: Wordfest reception, Malaprop's Bookstore.
7-9 p.m.: Cathy Smith Bowers, Linda Hogan, Nickole Browne, Raul Zurita, Jubilee!
10 p.m. on: Drinks, music and open mic poetry, Hotel Indigo, with Trey Moore.

Saturday, May 8
9 a.m.-noon: Hike and write on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Starts at Folk Art Center. Led by author and Xpress contributor Danny Bernstein.
10 a.m.-noon: Poetry and songs for children by Chris Martin and his troupe of young performers, Spellbound Children's Bookshop.
10 a.m.-noon: Family poetry scavenger hunt and workshop. Thomas Wolfe Memorial Site Visitor Center.
10 a.m.-noon: MAHEC Presents: The Three Marriages: A Talk by David Whyte, MAHEC Auditorium, $50.
2-5 p.m. MAHEC Presents: A Workshop with David Whyte, MAHEC Auditorium, $100.
7-9 p.m.: Glenis Redmond, Mark Doty, Natasha Trethewey, The Flying Words Project, Jubilee!
9 p.m.: Keith Flynn, poet and editor of the Asheville Poetry Review will join double bassist Eliot Wadopian at Hotel Indigo Lounge.

Anne Fitten Glenn is an Asheville-based freelance writer. Reach her at afjones@bellsouth.net.

what: Wordfest 2010, local, national and international poetry festival
where: Most events will take place at Jubilee! Community Church. Check schedule for other locales.
when: Wednesday, May 5 to Sunday, May 9 (David Whyte's talk and workshop will be held at MAHEC auditorium at 501 Biltmore Ave. All events are free and open to the public, except for Whyte events. www.ashevillewordfest.org)

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