Saturday, October 19, 2013

FESTIVAL OF WORDS, 2013


For at least seven years, one of my favorite poets has been Naomi Nye, a woman who lives in San Antonio, Texas and often "speaks to my condition," as the Quakers say. Nye, a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, first inspired my readings of her work with her poems about the Mideast in a book entitled 19 Varieties of Gazelle.
As I lived in Iran for two years during the early 70's, I have an interest in the life and problems of Mideasterners, and Nye's work resonated with me. Her wonderful poetry about her background as an Arab-American and life with her Mideastern family includes a poem highlighting her Palestinian grandmother who lived to be 106. In the introduction to 19 Varieties of Gazelle, Nye writes that she always "tried to remember the abundant humor and resilience and the love of family," and she achieves this goal with poignant reminiscences in this volume, the proceeds of which were donated to Seeds of Peace. Her book inspired me to write one of my books of poetry about Iran entitled The Holy Present and Farda.
Since I'll be returning to Louisiana after spending seven months on The Mountain here at Sewanee, I plan to get a glimpse of this notable poet. She'll be the featured poet at the Festival of Words in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, November 6-9, and I hope to meet her, but I don't know if I'll be able to interact with her since the Festival is crowded with literary occasions: drive-by poetry readings and writing workshops for participants in rural St. Landry, St. Martin, and Lafayette parishes.
Nye will be joined by another one of my favorite poets, Darrell Bourque, whose recent book of poetry, Megan's Guitar and Other Poems from Acadie, has been widely touted in Acadiana and further afield. Darrell, my mentor and friend, is a former Poet Laureate of Louisiana. Other readers/instructors will include Rebecca Henry, Fabienne Kanor, Akeem Martin, and Genaro Ky Ly Smith. Creative Writing workshops in public schools, grocery stores, beauty shops, fast food places, and other unusual venues will be offered at the Festival.
The Festival of Words had its birth in the studio space of Casa Azul Gifts in Grand Coteau under the auspices of Patrice Melnick, a poet and writer living in this small town of 1,000 residents, and the event has attracted over 750 people from throughout the South. It is funded by private donors and has a Kickstarter website named Festival of Words, Louisiana, 2013 where you can pledge support for this event that inspires young and old, "wannabe" and established writers. The deadline for pledging is November 5, only two weeks away, so take time to help kickstart this wonderful literary arts festival. It may be the birthing scene of another Naomi Nye!  
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