Between the Lines: 2017 Kalamazoo Poetry Festival

Apr 21, 2017

Diane Seuss at a public poetry reading
Credit Kaitlin L. Martin

The Kalamazoo Poetry Festival celebrates its fourth year of poetry readings, workshops, and panel discussions, April 28-29. This year's featured poet is Pulitzer finalist and Kalamazoo College professor Diane Seuss.


“Diane is from Niles, Michigan, and that figures hugely in her work, so I always make a point of saying that,” says Gail Griffin, the moderator of “Healing Self and Community Through Poetry: A Panel Conversation” at the festival. Griffin taught for 36 years at Kalamazoo College. She's the author of several nonfiction books and a poetry chapbook, and a close friend of Seuss.

“Seuss’s third book, Four-Legged Girl, was one of two finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 2016,” Griffin says. “She’s a terrific reader, and she also speaks very compellingly about poetry as an art form, and so she will be doing the major reading Saturday night at 7 p.m. in the KIA Auditorium, talking about her work, and doing a book signing.”

“We have a number of poets sharing their work during the Festival,” says Donna McClurkan, the festival programming committee co-chair and writer. “Our youngest poet is a fourth-grader, Destiny Hughes.”

Participating organizations in the 2017 festival include Alchemy Collaboration, Eastside Arts and Science Experiential Learning, Encore Magazine, Education for the Arts, FIRE, Friends of Poetry, the Hispanic American Council, Humans Beyond Boxes, the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center, Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo Literacy Council, the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Out Front Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo Valley Community College's Center for New Media, the English department at KVCC, New Issues Poetry & Prose at Western Michigan University, Read and Write Kalamazoo, the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy, Speak it Forward, WMU's English department of Western Michigan University, and the Wick Poetry Center.

“One thing that’s always been compelling to me about the Festival — and it’s a very young phenomenon — is that the planning committee reaches further into the community to bring people together than any other organization that I’ve been involved with,” Griffin says. “It’s really impressive. There are always children involved. It is always multi-racial. It always includes all parts of the community.”

The Kalamazoo Poetry Festival Steering Committee was formed in November 2012 to find a new way to celebrate the area’s many poets. In 2014, it became a nonprofit arts organization. The festival is possible thanks to financial support by the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation. Additional support comes from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts as well as many individuals and corporate or organizational supporters.

This year’s festival is dedicated to the memory of Conrad Hilberry, a Kalamazoo College professor emeritus who passed away in January 2017. Hilberry wrote 11 volumes of poetry and was a beloved and greatly respected mentor of many poets in southwest Michigan, including Diane Seuss.

Events at the Festival will have ASL interpretation for the deaf.

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