Poets from Western North Carolina and the world will re-converge on Asheville this weekend for Asheville Wordfest.
“At the heart of Wordfest is our desire to draw communities together at the table of poetry,” says creative director Sebastian Matthews. More than 1,000 people came to last year’s festival, he says. “People were excited that it was all free, community-based, and very open.”
That’s the plan again this year, according to executive director and poet Laura Hope-Gill.
“Our goal is to celebrate diversity, multiculturalism, community empowerment and discover how poetry speaks to the full range of human experience in this age of change, crisis, invention, resilience and hope,” she says.
To that end, the poetry festival will be packed with readings and events at various downtown venues. Wordfest will feature the talents of local, regional, national, and even international wordsmiths, including the acclaimed Li-Young Lee, Quincy Troupe and Valzhyna Mort, among others. Don’t miss Thomas Rain Crowe and the Boatrockers performing at BoBo with special guest, renowned poet and translator Coleman Barks.
“The goal of WordFest is to inspire a connection between visiting poets, community poets, and the people of Asheville and North Carolina,” Matthews says.
WordFest’s primary sponsor, local non-profit Mountain Area Information Network, considers poetry to be a form of citizen journalism. Wordfest’s Media Outreach Project will offer live webcasts from the festival (in addition to live readings and radio broadcasts) via MAIN’s Web site.
“We’re creating a great archive of live poetry readings that can be used in classrooms or wherever,” Matthews says. “We’re proving that poetry matters and is current and newsworthy.”
Citizen journalism is a movement that breaks down the traditional gatekeeper model of news-gathering: “Regular” people use Web sites, video logs, podcasts, webcasts, Twitter feeds and more to get the word out.
“News is a description of something that has happened. So is poetry. The coining of the term merely opens a door for many art forms to be what they’ve always been—valid means of conveying information,” explains Hope-Gill, who says that poetry as citizen journalism is not new. “There are two realities—the active and the reflective,” she says. Wordfest explores both.
New this year: Sponsor a poet
In order to keep Wordfest free to the public, the organizers depend on sponsors and donations. This year, they’re offering a unique chance for anyone to sponsor the poet or poets of their choice. You can click on the sponsor-a-poet link on Wordfest’s Web site, then scroll down to read the bios of participating poets. For a $25 or more donation, you can sponsor your own poet.
General information side box
who: Local, national and international poets
what: Wordfest 2009
where: Venues include Jubilee!, BoBo Gallery, Malaprop’s Bookstore & Café and West Asheville’s BookWorks.
when: Thursday, April 3 to Sunday, May 3. Info at 681-5348 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upcoming events: Green Bash, a fundraiser for Wordfest 2010, on May 23 at The Star Factory (Seven Stars Green Events’ Warehouse); Poetry workshops from Keith
Flynn, Laura Hope-Gill or Sebastian Matthews on May 7, 14, 21 and 23. For cost and registration, call 828-649-9408.