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Carrboro’s West End Poetry Festival promotes local writers

Between blocks of poetry at the West End Poetry Festival at the Carrboro Century Center on October 15, the East Cackalacky Ascetic Marching Death Band entertained a growing audience. Band members, Sharmini Wijeyesekera, 27, originally from California, and Tom Senkus, 27, originally from New York, have been traveling around the country together for about a year and a half. "I suffer from a disease called 'Wanderlust,'" said Wijeyesekera. Instruments included the guitar, a tambourine, a wooden box used as a bongo, a small keyboard powered by air and a saw and bow. 'Wanderlust,'" said Wijeyesekera. Instruments included the guitar, a tambourine, a wooden box that acted as a bongo and a saw and bow. Here, Senkus wears his robot box hat.

Ricky Garni stood in front of an audience of about 30 in the Carrboro Century Center Saturday, launching into a lusty blank verse about Eleanor Roosevelt.

Over the course of his 15-minute set, the author of 250 publications read everything from a haiku about his love of peaches to a free-verse poem about love songs.

Garni was one of 25 poets to perform his works at the annual West End Poetry Festival in Carrboro.

“Listening to Ricky read poetry is not like listening to anyone else read poetry,” said Jack Bookman, a professor of mathematics at Duke University.

Garni is a four-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize, which honors excellence in literature published on a smaller scale.

The poets represented a variety of different backgrounds. Some were highly accomplished in the Carrboro poetry scene, while others were lesser-known writers.

The festival, which is in its sixth year, was created to promote local writers from North Carolina and poetry in any form. It has attracted more artists and a larger audience over time.

“Each year it evolves and improves,” said Kim Andrews, Carrboro recreation supervisor.

“Carrboro is a very artistic community.”

Andrews said she had to limit the number of people reading for the first time this year.

Poet Jodi Barnes of Cary is a veteran of the West End Poetry Festival who made the jump to reading this year.

“I was an audience member for three years, and this is the first year I’ve gotten to read,” she said.

Barnes, the writer-in-residence for Wake County schools, read from her book, “Unsettled.”

“It’s the stuff that’s necessary, and people need to hear it,” Barnes said of poetry.

During the festival, many poets sold their collections of poetry outside of Carrboro Century Hall.

After the 10-hour-long reading, a youth poetry team, Sacrificial Poets, also held a poetry slam — a competitive event emphasizing stage presence and the spoken word.

Carrboro is one of the few municipalities in the United States to have its own poet laureate, currently attorney Jay Bryan.

UNC professor Hassan Melehy was impressed by the caliber of poets at the festival as well as Carrboro’s dedication to the arts.

“There’s a very large number of extremely talented poets close by,” he said.

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