Between the Lines: Kalamazoo Poetry Fest

Apr 13, 2015

Credit iStock Photo

It’s best to stop analyzing so much and just let that poem wash over you. So says Marion Boyer, who's poet and a member of the board running the second annual Kalamazoo Poetry Festival. This year’s “Celebration of Community Poets” will be held on Thursday, April 16, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. It's free and open to the public.

Marsha Meyer, the librarian of the Portage District Library and poet herself, was there at the beginning of the festival in 2012, along with George Martin and Kathy Jennings. After years of planning, the first festival in 2014 was such a success that the committee decided to make it an annual event. Meyer says the festival promotes reading, writing, and the sense of connection that comes from the sharing of the spoken word.

“Poetry is a way for many people to access their emotions,” Meyer says. “It is very close to all the arts: it is musical, it can be painterly, it can be performance…it really touches raw emotion.”

That makes Boyer smile, “And if you don’t like one poem, just wait.” Just like Michigan weather, “In just a few minutes, there’s another one coming!”

Marion Boyer and Marsha Meyer
Credit Michael Dunn

The organizers of the Kalamazoo Poetry Festival pride themselves on representing the wide range of diversity in the community. It will include readings and performances by people from the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, New Issues Poetry & Prose, the Combat Veterans Writing Group, Peace Pizzazz, the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Kalamazoo College, Friends of Poetry, the Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center, the Roving Poet – Marianne Houston, the Black Arts and Cultural Center, FIRE, the Hispanic American Council, and Education for the Arts.

While the first festival brought together poets from across the nation, alternate years like this one will spotlight the poets of greater Kalamazoo. The organizers’ hope is to break through the intimidation that some feel about poetry and help them discover that it can be very accessible— to hear, read, and write.

“If poetry could be taught with less emphasis on figuring it out, and just allowing it to wash over you,” says Boyer. She recommends falling in love with the words first before worrying about form and meaning. “What resonates with you, what image sticks for you, what do you like, which words, which lines…then I think you can just appreciate it, and not worry about it like it’s a puzzle.”

Listen to Between the Lines on WMUK every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m.