If I leave you out do not be offended. This was such an amazing whirlwind of a weekend that it's impossible to thank or give mention and praise to everyone. This is going to be quite the random entry.
First off. I want to thank Gina Blaurock for being a great member of the Word is Art Committee. She went to more meetings that me for heaven's sake! She made herself available. Her insight, taking hits for the team and being a friend shows what an asset she is to the Columbus poetry community.
Speaking of community. Columbus, you stepped up. It was so great to see such a diverse section of the city come to the Arts Festival. Not only as poets, but as spectators and supporters. The crowds were great all weekend long, even on Friday night when I froze my ass off the last two hours because I forgot a sweatshirt. That was one of the two mistakes I made this weekend, the other buying a corn dog that cost six bucks.
Friday got off to a shaky start when the theater people did not show up. Then one of the member's of the Writers Guild could not make it. I have to say the kids from Flip the Page turned things around, brought a great crowd and youthful energy to the stage.
Secrets of Oshun was great. From the group piece opening they had the crowd, but when Izetta Thomas did her first solo piece, the area froze. Even the vendors stopped to pay attention. They had to, Izetta was on this weekend. All weekend long.
Then Kim Brazwell came on, told her tales of intestinal woe, killed the crowd and dropped the mic. She's incredible.
I was physically miserable during Page Meets Stage but Louise Robertson moderated a very cool poetry session between Jennifer Hambrick and Scott Woods.
Day two, Saturday, started out with more promise. The weather held up. The riverfront looked amazing. The place was packed. The beverage booths ran out of wine and margaritas. Art and food was being sold. Poetry was again heard.
Amy Dalyrmple of the Writers Guild did a reading about her special needs daughter that was quite moving and real.
There was a terrific early set by Michael Stout as I think he read all of his short poems!
If I had to pick a favorite set this weekend it was by John Gibson. I always like the man's work and as he was shuffling through his papers I suggested he read one of his nostalgia poems about Columbus, which he did, and it went over very well. A person came over to me and asked me who his name was. Yes, he was that good.
As I said at the start on Saturday. All of the poets who appeared on stage earned that spot during the auditions, and they proved their worth during their sets. Some poets have different energy levels than others. Some poems have different reactions when read to a small group of people in an enclosed room versus an open space of people strolling by while gnawing on a turkey leg.
Here is where I thank Wali Crowder for representing and hosting the show for a couple of hours in the afternoon. His energy was great and much appreciated.
T.M. Gottl gave the day a strong sense of justice and humanity with her work, which I do not get to hear enough of as she from the northeast part of Ohio.
Fred Kirchner left the mic, went to the front of the stage and brought out his yo-yo, shouting his poem the whole time. Beautiful.
Will Evans did an absolutely hilarious poem about doing repair work around the house when his infant daughter is in motion around him. Fatherhood has helped with his sense of humor and it's great to see it unfold on and off stage.
Hayden Brown brought his entire class over, it seemed, and delivered a set that had people paying attention. All weekend long it was great to watch the crowd, and see the people stop in their track to listen. Some even ended up grabbing a seat.
James Aaron Techumseh Sinclair has what may be the longest name of any poet to appear at the Columbus Arts Festival. He wore a skirt, was very secure in his delivery. He was also the second runner up. It may have been a bit cerebral for such an open space and stage, but his methods and words were quite precise. It was his first set in at least twenty years. Wonder how he was back in the grunge era?
Meg Freado is a joy to listen to. The first runner up. I'm not to familiar with her work, but her energy and words are quite moving. A poem she wrote for her father's wedding was quite impressive.
And our Champion, Izetta Nicole Thomas, was so wonderful and on point. Delivering a set of schoolyard sentimentality with the wisdom of a talented teacher. This was her weekend.
To close Saturday, Scott Woods hosted a slam that was as every bit hilarious as it was entertaining. I cannot say how engaging Scott was with the audience. He put together an hour that was as every bit perfect as it was irrelevant. Ethan Rivera danced, Izetta had things thrown at her, Rocky Horror style, and I got a four.
Sunday, today, was another gorgeous day on the riverfront. It got hot. But our first poet, from The (OSU) Journal was a cat who never read his poetry in public before, and he did an amazing job.
Hanif Abdurraquib took over emceeing at this point and did a great job interacting with Gumby and name checking the music that was played during breaks. We also had a great sound man all weekend. Joe was there when he had to be and did his best to keep good levels despite shouting poets and one or two vendors complaining about the noise. Sometimes poets shout, especially when they're in a wide open space, it can't be helped.
Hannah Stephenson and her poets from Paging Columbus did a fine job keeping the energy going.
I love what the Storytellers of Central Ohio do. There were six of them and they really are quite entertaining, with good humor. One of them recited Casey at the Bat, off paper. Yes, awesome!
The Docents at Thurber House were brief, but did some good work. One of the youth told a short story about war that was quite emotional and he even did some singing. Brave when your voice is wavering. It was great to have The Thurber House involved in this year's festival. I really wanted to get some kids involved in the weekend and Meg Brown has been very accommodating in getting her charges to the stage after school has let out for the summer.
The people at Wild Goose Creative finished off the year with a gentle goose. Fun stories in a speak easy session. I can't thank Andy Anderson and his crew enough for being involved again.
A few more shout outs before I close this rambling thing out.
Louise Robertson did a great job helping vet the initial entries. Her insight has been an asset to the whole committee this year and I'd be in very bad shape if she did not provide sunscreen yesterday.
Alex Fabrizio also helped with the vetting of the initial entries. She's been busy with a major move but her presence was very welcome and she did a fine job organizing her poets from The Journal.
Steph Killen lent us her music stand for the weekend. Thank you!
Beverly Wilkinson hung out with us for most of the first two days. She's dedicated and delivered a fine set of work Saturday afternoon.
My wife, Emma, has taken in a lot of venting and my stress about this for many months. She watched my son while I was out attending meetings and more. None of this could have happened without her help. And she delivered me lemon shake-ups all weekend long!
Finally I doubt I would even be in this position without Scott Woods. He was the one who recommended I join the committee last year and it spring boarded into me being committee chair this year. His expertise, advise and consult has been a great help to me this year during this process. I've never been in charge of shepherding anything like this before. So thank you, Scott.
Again, we did this.