Words to live by

Laura Hope Gill likes to share what she loves. And she loves poetry.

“For millennia, poetry has held cultures together even in the face of great changes,” she says. “We’re just building on its ancient role. Poetry unites people. It’s what we as poets do.”

In that spirit, she and several other local poets dreamed up and then organized a festival to celebrate poetry. Galway Kinnell, Patricia Smith, and Simon Ortiz are just a few of the poets who will be reading from their works at the inaugural Wordfest in Asheville from Thursday, Apr. 24, to Sunday, Apr. 27. The four-day festival will include workshops, readings and spoken word performances with both visiting and local poets.

Wordfest culminates with a reading by renowned Rumi translator and scholar Coleman Barks at the Fine Arts Theatre on Saturday, April 26, at 2 p.m. Other participating poets, including Kathryn Stripling Byer, North Carolina’s poet laureate, and Iranian poet Fatemah Keshavarz, will gather for a reception and signing at Malaprop’s Bookstore and Café after Barks’ reading.

The festival will be free and open to the public. Workshops and readings will take place at various downtown locations. Workshops include “Writing from the Imaginative Storm” with James Nave, “Divining Poetry” with Glenis Redmond and “Immersed in Verse” with Allan Wolf. The festival readings will be webcast live via Mountain Area Information Network.

Wordfest 2008 is sponsored by the Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center, Mountain Area Information Network, Malaprop’s Bookstore and Cafe, and the University of North Carolina at Asheville’s Literature and Language Department. The festival currently is looking for both funding and volunteers.

To sign up for workshops and see events schedule, visit the festival website at www.ashevillewordfest.org.

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