Sunday, September 24, 2023

Hometown: Poetry Festival Weaves Words with Virginia Poets

Sofia M. Starnes, current Poet Laureate of Virginia and Williamsburg resident, speaking at this weekend's poetry festival (Photo courtesy of Joan Mazza)
Sofia M. Starnes, current Poet Laureate of Virginia and Williamsburg resident, speaking at this weekend’s poetry festival (Photo by Joan Mazza)

Rhymes and verses filled the air of the James City County Library on Friday and Saturday.

With workshops, readings and book signings, the Poetry Society of Virginia held its annual Poetry Festival for wordsmiths and lovers of lines.

The festival used to be held regularly in Lynchburg during the 1990s, but needed a new home in 2001. Ed Lull, a Williamsburg resident who was president of the statewide society at the time, brought the two-day event to the area.

He was at the helm of the festival for 10 years before turning it over to other leaders. This February, the executive committee asked him to take the reins, with just three months to plan instead of the usual 10.

“We’ve been working very hard in just a short period of time to put this together,” he said. Even on short notice, the festival was a compact conference of literary festivity.

Lull was most looking forward to the four workshops, which he said are of value for beginner and accomplished poets. The workshops’ topics considered poetry in grieving, poetic memoirs and – in a session led by former Virginia Poet Laureate Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda – defining the writer’s voice.

New this year was the chance for attendees to hear three of the five candidates for the next Poet Laureate of Virginia reading their own work. They are Tim Seibles, Jim Peterson and Henry Hart – a professor at the College of William & Mary – and all are vying for the accolade to be named later this year.

The laureate hopefuls were introduced by the commonwealth’s current Virginia Poet Laureate Sofia M. Starnes, a Williamsburg resident.

Lull said many guests look forward to the open reading session, held Saturday evening after a banquet dinner at Ford’s Colony on Friday and on Saturday afternoon.

“That’s the thing about poets, everybody likes to have their time at the microphone,” he said.

In the whole evening, he said there are rarely two similar poems presented.

To learn more about the Poetry Society of Virginia, visit its website.

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