Skagit River Poetry Festival
Some of poetry’s biggest names and most provocative voices are in the lineup for this year’s Skagit River Poetry Festival, May 17-20 in the historic seaside town of La Conner, Washington. The seventh biennial poetry festival, one of the liveliest and largest celebrations of poetry on the West Coast, brings together slam poetry, cowboy poetry, political poetry, scholarly poetry, spiritual poetry, love poetry, and hard-edged verse that digs deep down, putting thought to the unthinkable.
The four-day event is a whirlwind of literary conversations, interviews, musical performances, and intensive three-hour writing workshops with artists who revere words, whether they are written, spoken, or sung. “This year’s festival is an eclectic plate of savory poetic voices, guaranteed to stimulate, challenge, and enhance our notions of the world around us,” says festival director Molly McNulty.
In the lineup are:
- Carolyn Forche’, human rights advocate and renowned “poet of witness”
- Nikki Giovanni, international celebrity, once called the “Black princess of poetry”
- Simon Ortiz, a leading figure in the Native American literary renaissance
- Red Pine (aka Bill Porter), Chinese scholar and translator
- Alurista, whose work played a central role in the ‘60s-‘70s Chicano movement
- Marie Howe, the poet of “intimacy and intensity”
- Tony Hoagland, whose edgy poems function like “improvised explosive devices,” according to a New York Times reviewer
The exciting lineup also includes Canada’s pre-eminent poets Lorna Crozier and Patrick Lane, musician/poet Kurtis Lamkin, master of the 21-string West African kora, and Ellen Bass, a writer of “frighteningly personal poems,” according to poet Billy Collins.
The four-day event kicks off at May 17 at Maple Hall in La Conner with an opening night Poet’s Table Dinner, where attendees share luscious local food, wine, and conversation with the poets seated at their sides. Following the dinner is “Celtic Night: An Evening of Poetry, Storytelling, and Music” featuring the lyrical poetry of Dublin’s Tony Curtis, storytelling with Will Hornyak, and music by Randal Bays and Friends.
Sunday is dedicated to workshops, including a six-hour “Fishtown” trip down the Skagit River in North Cascade Institute’s 36-foot Salish-style canoe, with poet Tim McNulty and artist Bo Miller leading storytelling, poetry readings, writing exercises, paddling and discussions.
The festival is a fundraiser for the Skagit River Poetry Project, which brings poets into classrooms year-‘round to promote literacy, develop an appreciation of creative language, and encourage interaction with culturally diverse communities. Every year, the Poets in Schools project puts artists into more than 200 classrooms, serving more than 10,000 students. Since the program began, more than 300,000 students have explored their poetic voices working with project artists.
The first half-day of the festival on Friday, May 17 is set aside for students only. It’s a ripe opportunity to watch renowned poets work their magic on teenagers – who often surprise the artists by asking them for their autographs.
There are so many wonderful stories to report as this remarkable festival unfolds. Please consider joining us for one event, one day, or more.
Tickets: brownpapertickets.com; Next Chapter bookstore, 721 S. First Street, La Conner