Get some Cascadia!

October 8, 2016

Cascadia Poetry Festival

This is a guest post by Paul Nelson

The fourth Cascadia Poetry Festival happens Thursday through Sunday, November 3-6, 2016, at the Spring Street Center, 15th & Spring in Seattle, and three other venues. Inspired by the Taos Poetry Circus, the fest features Academic, Democratic and Performative aspects, as well as late-night events that have more of a party feel.

The Academic portion of the fest is handled in two ways: Workshops and Panels. One workshop, Poetic habitat now (Daphne Marlatt), will investigate what Wendell Berry’s call for a “biocentric” vision to replace our dominant anthropocentric one might mean in poetry. “Our challenge is to create a new language, even a new sense of what it is to be human.” This challenge is a call for a radical shift in our attention, one that foregrounds our relations with other species and with the elements that make up our habitat, one that recognizes how interdependent, even coterminous we are with them. Daphne Marlatt, the brilliant (and much overlooked south of the border) Vancouver poet, will facilitate and incorporate a notion from Denise Levertov, to whom this iteration of the fest is dedicated. (More about the Denise Levertov plaque project here.)

The other workshop will focus on the creation of beautiful hand-made artist books and be led by Portland poet Marilyn Stablein.

Panels happen on Saturday morning and will focus on the confluence of water and poetry in Cascadia, as well as Levertov’s legacy. That Marlatt, Sam Hamill, Tim McNulty and Brenda Hillman will be on the same stage talking about Levertov is something anyone interested in her legacy should not miss. In addition to the main stage poets already mentioned there will be UW Professor Emeritus Colleen McElroy, whose poems about her youth each equal about a thousand Black Lives Matter speeches; Sarah DeLeeuw of Prince George, BC, whose book-length poem Skeena looks at that mighty river from the river’s perspective; JM Miller, the UW-Tacoma faculty member and healer, whose new book is Wilderness Lessons; Peter Munro, the NOAA Fisheries Scientist who runs the popular EasySpeak Seattle reading series (& facilitates the panel); David McCloskey, the Father of Cascadia who gave the bioregion its name; Jordan Abel, the Vancouver indigenous poet whose erasures of settler texts was an award winning book, the place of scraps; and Elwha storyteller Roger Fernandes, among others. The closing reading will happen at Open Books.

A daily Democratic reading is Living Room, in which all poets can share their original work with other poets. The late night readings, called the After Party, are curated by Seattle poets Matt Trease and Greg Bem and happen at the trendy Common Area Maintenance, and a Cascadia Invitational Slam happens at Black & Tan Hall in Hillman City on Friday and Saturday nights.

On a personal note, the fest is part of a 20-year Cascadia Bioregional Cultural Investigation which also includes a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Innovative Cascadia Poetry, the first Cascadia Poetry anthology, Make It True: Poetry From Cascadia, interviews under the banner of American Prophets and soon Cascadian Prophets and my own serial poem re-enacting the history of Cascadia so far in two hunks: A Time Before Slaughter and Pig War & Other Songs of Cascadia. Through these efforts I hope to discover the Sh’te or animating spirit of place and become a fully re-inhabited Cascadian. See you at the fest.

Gold Passes for entry to every event (except the workshops and the Slam) are $35 and available at Brown Paper Tickets. Admission to single events will be available at the door for $10.

. . . . .
Paul NelsonPoet/interviewer Paul Nelson founded SPLAB & the Cascadia Poetry Festival, published: American Sentences (Apprentice House 2015); A Time Before Slaughter (Apprentice House, shortlisted for a 2010 Genius Award by The Stranger) and Organic in Cascadia: A Sequence of Energies (essay, Lumme Editions, Brazil, 2013). He’s interviewed many poets, including Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Sam Hamill, Robin Blaser, Nate Mackey, George Bowering and Brenda Hillman, presented poetry/poetics in London, Brussels, Qinghai & Beijing, China, and published work in Golden Handcuffs Review, Zen Monster and Hambone. Awarded The Capilano Review’s 2014 Robin Blaser Award, he writes an American Sentence every day and lives in Seattle in the Cedar River Watershed.
(Author photo by Susan M. Schultz)

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