The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday January 22nd

West End Poetry Festival's star-studded lineup explores diversity in poetry

With Fall Break upon us, many students are looking forward to taking a break from midterm season and seeing their family for a few days. Don’t fret if you're stranded on campus over the long weekend, however — you can stave off your boredom and cabin fever with poetry.

The annual West End Poetry Festival will begin Wednesday with an ice cream social from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Johnny’s Gone Fishing on West Main Street in Carrboro. The festival will run from Oct. 17 to 20. 

All events during the festival are free and open to the public.

Festival events include a curated poetry open mic featuring over 40 poets, a reading by North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green and workshop with poet Sandra Beasley.

Beasley's poetry reading will cover a diverse range of topics, from the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. to Ore-Ida french fries.

“A poem doesn’t need to be an argument," Beasley said. "It doesn’t need to be an academic monograph. But I do love poems that require research, and need deep thinking about history and culture that lead us to the present moment." 

Jamie Fiocco, the owner of Flyleaf Books in Carrboro, will host a live reading event on Friday at the store. Shelton will participate, along with fellow N.C. poets William Davis Jr., Gary Phillips and and Lauren Moseley.

“It’s the role of an independent bookstore to host community events," Fiocco said. "We’re always in discussions and involved in events with customers, poets, local writers and activists. One thing that we can provide often is a space for people to gather.” 

Fiocco said the Triangle is rich with independent bookstores, and Carrboro has a lively poetry scene. Events like the West End Poetry Fest, as well as the proximity of large universities, create a thriving literary community.

The theme of this year’s festival is intersections. Philips said the theme has a lot to do with one’s identity.

On Saturday evening, well-known Arab poets Ruth Awad, Fatima Abdullah and Shadab Zeest Hashmi will be reading original poems prior to a free dinner.

“It feels like a really timely and extraordinary thing to have happen,” Phillips said about Awad, Abdullah and Hashmi’s reading. “It seemed to me really important that the intersection of women and Arab poetry was an important intersection to bring to the community.”

As Carrboro’s poet laureate, Phillips has a hand in choosing which poets will speak at various events in the festival.

Phillips said there has recently been a surge of spoken-word and live readings within the poetry community, which he feels is a way for society to hash out its problems.

“My perception of poetry is as public ritual, not just private words. Traditionally poets have been the processors of community,” Phillips said.

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