Fayetteville will be officially celebrating National Poetry Month for the first time this April with poetry events for all ages, thanks to a joint effort from the Fayetteville Public Library, KUAF, and local poet Houston Hughes. Over 15 poetry-related activities such as performances, film screenings, and writing workshops are planned over the course of the just 30 days. Special performances will include the FPL Author Series: An Evening with Maya Angelou and later in the month a performance by two time World Poetry Slam champion Buddy Wakefield.
National Poetry Month carries deep Arkansas roots, having been first officially proclaimed by then-President Bill Clinton in 1996. While Fayetteville has hosted poetry related events in celebration before, this will be the first time there has been a concerted effort to celebrate the entire month.
The co-ordination began with Hughes, who took up the reins when he found out there was no celebration officially planned: “I asked the Mayor’s office if the city was doing anything, and their response was, ‘we would love to, but we don’t have the manpower to coordinate anything.’ But they gave me the resources and said the folks in the library might be interested, so I decided to just run with it,” he said.
Hughes is no stranger to running poetry events; in addition to the monthly Last Saturday variety show and poetry slam at the Fayetteville Underground, he also hosts monthly events in Springdale and Eureka Springs.
As luck would have it, the Fayetteville Public Library had already scheduled Dr. Angelou for April 11th, and was deep into planning out the details of the evening. But library director David Johnson was still enthusiastic to take on even more projects for the month. “We are excited about having Dr. Angelou at the library, and it will be a special evening. Furthermore being involved in Poetry Month Fayetteville helps give people of all ages the opportunity to develop a love of poetry through a variety of workshops, films, and performances here at the library.”
The library will play host to most of the month’s events, starting with a parade to the square on April 3rd for First Thursday. The public are encouraged to dress as characters from their favorite poem or rhyme (or their favorite poet) and parade from the library to the Fayetteville Square, where a Mayoral Proclamation will be presented. The proclamation will be followed by a special children’s performance “Blues Funs” presented by the Ozark Blues Society, and readings from select local poets.
The University of Arkansas’s Creative Writing program will welcome award winning author Joyce Carol Oates as part of their Distinguished Reader Series. Oates will speak at the Fayetteville Towne Center on Monday, April 21st at 7pm. The event is free and open to the public.
The rest of the month will be packed with activities, including a performance by two time World Poetry Slam champion Buddy Wakefield, free poetry writing and performance workshops for young children, teens, and adults, and a screening of the poetry related documentaries including the award-winning film Louder than a Bomb. Additionally, a number of monthly poetry events around the city will be having special activities, such as a lyric writing panel discussing with Candy Lee, Barret Baber, and Shawn James, Ozark Poets and Writers Collective hosting a reading from Fayetteville High School’s Connotations, and the Burning Chair Poetry Reading Series hosting a release of new collections from two local authors. The capstone for the official celebration will be Last Saturday, which will have a number of special guests and double its monthly poetry slam prize to $100 for whoever performs the two best poems, as judged by the audience.
A media sponsor of Poetry Month Fayetteville, KUAF will be running a creative campaign to spread the word about events around town. Listen to winning haikus from area poets on KUAF throughout the month.
For a full schedule of National Poetry Month events, to register for workshops, or to find out more about the celebration, see www.faylib.org/poetrymonthfayetteville or check out Facebook Poetry Month Fayetteville.