Florence Poetry Carnival aims to unite people through accessible public art

April 19, 2022 | Ryan Feyre

NORTHAMPTON – The second annual Florence Poetry Carnival is set to take place across two locations on April 30, with the goal of presenting poetry as an all-inclusive artform accessible to the entire community.

The carnival is envisioned with three primary purposes as public art: to present poetry as an inclusive and demographically accessible expressive art form, to do so through interactive activities, and to approach and program poetry as a multi and interdisciplinary artform.

According to Rachel Blackman, a public programmer and originator of the festival, the goal in creating this festival was to have an event that is “very unique” to the Florence area. The first festival occurred in 2019 but had to be canceled the next two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This year, it seems to have grown pretty quickly,” said Blackman. “I was interested in creating an event that drew people to Florence versus only for and by Florence. I’m really interested that poetry be accessible to people, and I think that play and interactivity are a great way to do that.”

Afternoon activities and poetry readings will take place on the grounds and porch of the Florence Civic Center from 1 to 5 p.m. on April 30. Included during this period will be poetry readings and performances, interactive wordplay games and activities to spark the imagination, poetry ‘zine-making, a Florence Poetry Stroll with Tommy Twilite, and other do-it-yourself poetry games.

The early evening, meanwhile, features an event called “Poetry & Pie” where special guest poets gather from the New England region, including presentations from National Book Award Winner and University of Massachusetts professor Martín Espada, Northampton’s Poet Laureate Karen Skolfield, and Northampton’s Youth Poet Laureate Rios Santos. These poetry readings will begin at 7 p.m. at the Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity on 130 Pine St., and doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Following the event, the community is invited to a reception in the Bombyx Center’s “Peacock Room” where there will be pie available for purchase from the Florence Pie Bar and a book-signing hosted by Broadside Bookshop. Blackman told Reminder Publishing that she really encourages people to attend these performances.

“We’re able to program this high school poet along a National Book Award winner, and that’s really the value system of the Poetry Carnival,” said Blackman. “And then having pie is hopefully a way to get people interested.”

Additionally, there will be another event on April 29 from 7 to 9 p.m. at The Institute for the Musical Arts in Goshen called; “Perugia Press Presents: A Carnival of Poets.”

“It’s an evening of press that features women poets,” said Blackman. “The venue is a music camp that specializes in teaching music to girls and young women.”

According to Blackman, people do not have to sign up or pay for the afternoon activities on April 30; but a $5 per person donation is suggested at the door. For the evening poetry readings on April 30, people can go online and get their tickets in advance and make a sliding scale donation of $5 or more if they would like too. All the of the money donated will go toward the Florence Poetry Carnival.

To learn more about the festival, people can visit the website at https://www.florencepoetrycarnival.com/program.

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