The Austin International Poetry Festival 2014

Wow. Simply wow.

I am a writer of many things, but at heart, I am a poet. Any chance to share poetry is a chance to share my soul. And, with April being National Poetry Month, there is nothing like a poetry festival. The Austin International Poetry Festival (soon to have a new website, but for now, that is accurate) was one of those chances.

This year was the 22nd Annual festival. Last year was the first time I had heard of it. That’s unbelievable. I have vowed to help trumpet its existence from the rooftops so that we can grow this into the Festival it deserves to be. It is amazing, but it should be bigger. 🙂

Austin is a vibrant environment for poetry.  The festival is presented by the Austin Poets International. Also available for poets in Austin is the Austin Poetry Society. Open mics abound in Austin, like the Spoken and Heard event at Kick Butt Coffee every Sunday, which I hope to start frequenting more regularly.

But this post is to celebrate the festival. So I want to focus on the events of the weekend. And what a weekend it was. Thursday started early, with registration running 10 to 10 at Strange Brew Coffee — one of the awesome spots in town to write all night if you feel the urge. My husband dropped me off for the day, and I plunged into poetry.

It was good to start reconnecting with the people I met last year. Lynn Wheeler Brandstetter; Joe Brundidge; Rod Stryker; Fatima Hirsi…a long list. 🙂 And then the poetry started. City Reads (groups of poets sharing their work) at Kick Butt, Strange Brew, Full English Cafe. Open mics gave me an opportunity to share, and free time between gave me my first poem of the weekend. I had been concentrating so hard on prose lately that I had written very little poetry. This weekend broke the dam!

 

Two Birds

Two birds wheel
in azure skies
intricate patterns
invisibly traced.

They dip and weave
bob and swirl
dancing a pas de deux
on an airy stage.

They move in courtship–
Urgency under intricacy
that hints the dance
must end embracing.

 

The evening ended for me with reading my “Foxes at the Window” from the Di-vêrsé-city Anthology Launch.

————————————————-

Friday morning, I was so excited I couldn’t even sleep to the alarm. Off to Austin Community College for the first day of workshops. This is one of my favorite parts of the festival, getting the synergistic energy of poets writing and sharing together.

First up was Rod Carlos Stryker’s  “Sacrificial Poet” workshop. We brainstormed a list of words, and then traded them off to write a poem. Though the small size of the group changed the parameters slightly, switching off made some great poems, and the most fascinating part was seeing the diverse results people got from the same list of words.

One of my workshop pieces:

 

No Boundaries

Where are you? Somewhere
Where am I? Nowhere
Lost between
I reach but find
no balance.
A teeter-totter world.
Dichotomy everywhere
Hate and love
Passion and glory
Selfish and selfless
We fall between all.
Abiding in glorious ignorance…
I think, therefore I am…in tune at last.
Yes! Yes! Yes!
The secret exposed.
I find ecstatic congruency.
If I could,
I would
Share with you my prize–
for here,
There are no limits to love.
No boundaries.

 

Our next workshop, Caressing the Flame/Writing the Difficult was led by the beautiful ire’ne lara silva. Getting in touch with emotions and events that are difficult to share deepens you as a poet. The results are powerful. As writers, we can explore events and emotions that we haven’t been through ourselves…like this one:

 

I Thought I Was Alright
I thought I was alright.
I’d always been before…
Leaving the bar
with a light buzz
that made the neon brighter
and the nerves feel alive.

But the lights dazzled
my insufficient attention
distracted
a split second longer
than an unimpaired mind.

I see her face in their rear window.
A child of ten
looking out with wonder
on the world
she’d never live to see.

 

The final workshop of the day was delivered by my friend Fatima Hirsi. In it, we explored writing from the perspective of someone or something we disapprove of or dislike. I’m not sharing the poem I got from this one, because I intend to send it out on the submission circuit. 😉

Then it was off to another open mic at Kick Butt before the Mad Macabre reading midnight to 2 AM at Full English. Some images from the Madness. 🙂

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Hosted by Seth White, it was extremely cool.

———————————————————————

Saturday started with “In the Words of Womyn Writing Circle” with Jenuine Poetess. Affirmation and acceptance. Wonderful vibrations in the air:

 

My Voice

My voice is sometimes a whisper–
timid and afraid to share its secrets.

My voice is sometimes boisterous–
carefree and childlike with wonder.

My voice is sometimes defiant–
shouting freedoms I dare to claim.

 

My voice is sometimes Mother–
calming children never to be.

My voice is sometimes Child–
seeking again a parent’s approbation.

My voice is sometimes Lover–
speaking the words of intimacy.

 

My voice is sometimes silent–
but it is always mine.

 

Ken Jones talked to us about making lyrics from poetry. But even his non-musical poetry sounds like music.

 

Then Cindy Huyser showed me that revision can really pop out the meat of a poem.

Original:

Poetry in Motion

Dancing in my car–
only movement on the
parking lot highway.
Jamming to music
from childhood…
Finding new favorites
in today’s bright beats…
Today into tomorrow–
Stalled in place
but dancing.
Inhibitions fallen away
with the music.
Rocking rhythm.
Drumming on the wheel.
“Sweet Home Alabama”
flows into “Firework”
without pause.
I sing to both–
dancing between decades
alone with the music
and the poetry in motion.

Revised:

Dancing in the Car

Dancing in the car–
on parking lot highway.
Rocking rhythm in bright beats
Drumming on the wheel
“Sweet Home Alabama”
flowing into “Firework.”
Singing to both–
dancing between decades.
“Poetry in motion.”

I usually don’t revise, but I could learn to like it. 🙂

 

I read at the Barnes and Noble at the Arboretum as part of the City Read circuit.

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It was more intimidating than Kick Butt. 😉

 

Then home for a nap before the All-Night read at Strange Brew. This is one of my favorite events of the entire festival. Open mic from midnight to 6 AM. the atmosphere is like no other. And I won a gift card which will come in handy for writerly moments.

———————————————————————

 

Sunday morning, out into the light rain with the Instant Anthology created by the poets who participated. A light nap, and over to Austin Books and Comics for the Nerd Read. It was great. Especially discovering the new games annex Outlaw Moon Games and Toys. What a gorgeous venue. We had a great audience turn out:

20140406_152021

 

My new friend Megan R F Alfaro reading her poem about The Silmarillion.

20140406_152139_2

 

Megan is also an Austin poet — and she hadn’t heard of the festival before this year either. This is something we want to change.

Although I didn’t get elected to the Board for next year, I am going to volunteer as much as possible. I want to see poetry explode! Join me?

This is probably more than you wanted to see in one post, but what can I say? Poetry is breathing. 🙂

 

About RieSheridanRose

Rie Sheridan Rose multitasks. A lot. Her short stories appear in numerous anthologies, including Nightmare Stalkers and Dream Walkers Vols. 1 and 2,  and Killing It Softly. She has authored eight novels, six poetry chapbooks, and lyrics for dozens of songs. She tweets as @RieSheridanRose.
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2 Responses to The Austin International Poetry Festival 2014

  1. Carie says:

    Great recap, Rie! I love your group pic of us at the Nerd Read. 🙂 I am going to try to start being more active in the poetry community too. Maybe I’ll see you again at an open mic soon.

    Like

  2. You, me, Megan and Jeff should get together at Strange Brew or something. 🙂

    Like

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