Poets from across the country and around the world will gather in the picturesque seaside town of La Conner May 20-22 for one of the largest, liveliest, and finest celebrations of poetry on the West Coast. The 2010 Skagit River Poetry Festival includes three days of poetry performances, conversations, interviews, workshops, films, feasting, singing, strumming, and storytelling. Participants include such literary luminaries as:
- Sherman Alexie, National Book Award winner for “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” screenwriter for “Smoke Signals” and recent winner of the Pen/Faulkner award for his collection of poems, essays, and short stories “War Dances”
- Ted Kooser, two-time U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner for “Delights and Shadows”
- The Dickman brothers, Matthew and Michael, profiled in The New Yorker and Poets and Writers
- Samuel Green, Washington State poet laureate and winner of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry
The biennial Skagit River Poetry Festival is a three-day whirlwind of verse and song and creativity. National award-winning poet Jane Hirshfield called it “one of the jewels in the poetry crown” and poet Mark Schafer described it as “a magical, inspirational, eye-, ear-, and mind-opening experience.”
It’s a festival for everyone – a populist people’s festival of powerful, accessible, connectible, living poetry. “We’re not about poetry you can’t understand,” says festival director Molly McNulty. “We want to push poems off the page and into the lives of our audiences.”
Master artist Ted Kooser epitomizes the festival’s push for connection. In a recent interview, Kooser discussed the hard work of making poems clear, economical, and “useful,” a process that sometimes requires forty or fifty drafts. “I look at a poem and say, ‘This particular word is a familiar word to a substantial number of people who might read this poem, but if I use this other word instead, I could draw even more in.’ ”
Events kick off this year with a gala Poet's Table dinner May 20. Participants will share luscious local cuisine, fine wine, poetry, and conversation with poets seated at their table. Following is a not-to-miss evening of "Sherman Alexie Unplugged." The Native American writer from Seattle, called “one of the major lyric voices of our times” by the New York Times, doubles as a stand-up comic, and his performances are punch-on.
The next two days of the festival are jammed with poet readings, interviews, discussions, music, story-telling, and a series of three-hour intensive writing workshops. The lineup includes more than 40 artists, including haiku master Michael Dylan Welch, co-founder of Haiku North America; Tony Curtis, a lyrical, lilting Irish poet; M.L. Smoker, award-winning poet of the Sioux/Assiniboine tribes; and pitch-perfect “Hip Logic” poet Terrance Hayes, winner of the Whiting Writers Award and Pushcart Prize.
The festival is sponsored by the Skagit River Poetry Project, which organizes readings, events, and places poets in local classrooms for 75 days during the school year. Recently awarded a Golden Apple Award for excellence in education, this project has an amazing impact on the lives of young people, providing poets to 200 classrooms every year and affecting an estimated 10,000 students. One of those students concluded: “Poetry gives us music, a tune to live by.”