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West End Poetry Festival brings healing through poems

Gary Phillips is a member of the Carrboro Poets Council and is on the festival’s volunteer committee. Photo courtesy of the West End Poetry Festival. 

Gary Phillips is a member of the Carrboro Poets Council and is on the festival’s volunteer committee. Photo courtesy of the West End Poetry Festival. 

In collaboration with Carrboro’s Recreation and Parks Department and the Carrboro Arts Committee, the Carrboro Poets Council will host the annual West End Poetry Festival today and Saturday.

Carrboro’s 2016 to 2018 poet laureate Gary Phillips said that as poet laureate, his job is to help bring poetry to the town’s public and civic life.

“We begin our event with a poetry reading of five poets on Friday night and that’s an extraordinary bunch of poets,” he said.

The first event will take place at Flyleaf Books from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. tonight. On Saturday, the events will start at noon and go until 8:30 p.m. at Century Center in Carrboro.

At 3 p.m. Saturday, one event will address the theme of healing connected to poetry.

Grace Ocasio, one of the poets on the panel, said she applied to be a part of West End Poetry Festival because of its reputation and the topic.

“I addressed the prompt about healing and poetry, how healing can help the world get better and poetry can serve as a form of healing,” she said. “It can’t solve the problems of the world, but it can serve as an antidote to the ills of it.”

Ocasio said poetry serves different purposes for different people, but the main drive for her is that it helps her heal and come to terms with things in her life.

“Without poetry, I don’t think I would be quite the same,” she said. “It fills a void that happens on a human level, where there is so much going on in the world and you need something, some creative outlet to express yourself and what is going on in your life.”

Phillips said all are welcome to join in on the readings during the open mic portion of the day.

“We believe in the democratic process of poetry. If anybody who wants to contribute a poem or read a poem, they will write their name down on a piece of paper and put them all in a big hat and we will draw them out one by one,” he said. “There are two minute timers so we can fit in as many poets as possible.”

Carrboro Arts Committee member Dan Cefalo said the event gives authors a unique platform to display their work and has helped past poets reach bigger audiences.

“The fact that they take two and a half days that are just truly dedicated to poetry — I personally in 46 years don’t know another place that has that level of commitment to spoken word and to authors,” he said.

Phillips said this love of the spoken word is because Carrboro is an arts town.

“The fact that it supports spoken and written word is a really powerful testament to its progressive quality,” he said.

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