Poetry Festival draws crowds

By The Elm - Apr 11,2019@12:00 am

edited.BookPlatePoetryFestival4_HeberGuerra-RecinosBy Erica Quinones

Elm Staff Writer

Literature filled downtown Chestertown as Kent County’s writers celebrated the art of language at The Bookplate.

On the afternoon of Sunday, April 7, the twelfth annual Kent County Poetry Festival was hosted at The Bookplate. The store’s backroom was filled to near-capacity with local artists — some standing in the doorway waiting for chairs.

Due to the crowding, Director of the Kent County Arts Council John Schratwieser said, “The good Lord be willing and about another half-a-million dollars, next year we can do this in the gallery of the Arts Council building when it’s rebuilt.”

Despite the crowds, the group was entranced by its readers, excited for both their own turn and the next piece.

The night’s master of ceremonies Robert Ortiz was also excited by the sheer number of people.

“In previous years, the list has been shorter, and times have been longer. I think it’s a note of the success of the ever-growing poetry festival, that we have more people and shorter times,” he said.

The volume of people did not slow the crowd as a stream of diverse readers flocked from Kent County and the surrounding areas. They brought with them a myriad of topics to discuss, from light-hearted to deeply complicated. Some readers indulged in humorous depictions of their dogs; the audience likewise being entertained by The Bookplate’s cat, Kiki, at their feet.

Others explored trauma, intersectional feminist politics, mental illness, love, strife, and war. Each reader took a unique look at themselves and their history through the pieces they chose, be it their own writing or someone else’s.

Readers like junior Heber Guerra-Recinos looked to the future.

“Seeing so many of you who are more than twice my age because it makes me happy knwoing that if you guys can write beautiful poetry and write well into your years, there is hope for me yet,” he said.

On the opposite spectrum, Ortiz was excited by the number of young readers present, and said, “it gives me great pleasure to go to things with more people in the audience than people who have just white and gray hair.”

Ortiz said the number of college readers was higher than years before. There were not only college students but also faculty. Students like sophomore Sarah Bowden,  juniors Guerra-Recinos, Abby Wargo, and Stephaney Wilson, and senior Mai Do were joined by Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing Kimberly Quiogue Andrews, and the Dean of Library and Academic Technology Mary Alice Ball.

The Washington College representatives read as diversely as the rest with horror poems, non-fiction short-stories, and a poem read in German by Andrews.

As the afternoon turned to evening and the celebratory cake consumption dissipated, the night closed with a meditation on Tennyson, a tribute to the late Mary Oliver, and some final words from Ortiz.

He said, “I get a sense that if you have a soul and a beating heart, you’re all a potential poet.”

The Elm

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