Skagit River Poetry Festival
May 8, 2016
It only happens every other year and it’s coming right up. So in case you haven’t put it on your schedule or purchased your tickets, here’s the full text of the recent press release for the Skagit River Poetry Festival, May 19-22, 2016, in La Conner, Washington:
This year brings a world of fresh, provocative voices to the Skagit River Poetry Festival, May 19-22 in the historic town of La Conner. The celebrated four-day event, with performances, readings, workshops, and discussions, features some of the most renowned and diverse names in poetry, including Pushcart Prize winner Naomi Shihab Nye, an Arab-American writer described as “international in scope and internal in focus.”
The festival opens with a literary bang on Thursday, May 19, when celebrated spoken word poets take the stage in a program called “Wake Up. Speak Out,” challenging and provoking audiences with new poetic ideas and forms. Participants include Jeanann Verlee, who has represented New York City ten times at the National Poetry Slam; Jamaal May, Detroit poet and filmmaker; Bangladeshi-American poet and spoken-word artist Tarfia Faizullah; Daemond Arrindell, curator of the Seattle Poetry Slam; and Seattle Grand Slam champion Matt Gano, emcee of this event. The popular Northwest band Rabbit Wilde will provide the musical stomp.
Over the next two days, the festival presents some of the most thoughtful voices in contemporary poetry, reflecting cultures from around the world. The lineup includes:
- Natalie Diaz, a member of the Mojave and Pima Indian tribes, and former professional basketball player
- Aimee Nezhukumatathil, who writes at the intersection of Filipino, Indian, and American cultures
- Norman Fischer, Zen Buddhist priest and poet
- Lorna Dee Cervantes, a major voice in contemporary Chicana literature
- Garrett Hongo, celebrated Japanese-American poet
Top Northwest poets on the bill include Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellow Richard Kenney from Port Townsend; Canadian musician, philosopher, and award-winning poet Jan Zwicky; and Washington State’s new Poet Laureate, Tod Marshall, a professor at Gonzaga University dedicated to bringing humanities to underserved populations. “Poetry matters — not just to poets, professors, and students: poetry matters to everyone,” said Marshall.
Special events include a Thursday night Poet’s Soiree extravaganza preceding the “Wake Up. Speak Out” program. This mixer includes wine and delicious locally sourced hors d’oeuvres, along with the chance to meet the poets one-on-one.
Back this year are popular Sunday writing workshops with festival poets, including sessions on “Found Poetry,” “Poetry and Silence,” and “Invoking Magic” with Jeanann Verlee. Poet Tim McNulty leads a special three-hour session on nature writing that takes participants outdoors with their journals, and Kevin Craft, editor of Poetry Northwest, offers attendees tips on writing and getting published. New this year are individual consultations with festival poets. Writers can have a poem critiqued in a 20-minute session for $20.
Tickets to all festival events, including all-festival passes, are on sale at Brown Paper Tickets. You can also go to the Festival website for a direct link and description. Special discounts are available for students with ID and seniors over 65. Unless sold out, tickets will also be available at the door.
The biennial festival takes place in venues throughout La Conner, which is transformed by poetry for four days. “The festival turns La Conner into a town filled with poetry, from its churches to its museums, its community center, and its bed and breakfasts,” says poet Susan Rich. “Where else can a person sleep, eat, live, and breathe poetry for a spring weekend?”
The festival, one of the largest celebrations of poetry on the West Coast, is put on by the Skagit River Poetry Foundation, a non-profit organization that brings poets into school classrooms year-round to promote literacy, an appreciation of language, and youth participation in culturally diverse communities. All proceeds benefit the foundation’s mission to support lifelong literacy and cultural diversity through the writing, reading, performing, and teaching of poetry in Northwest Washington schools and communities.