Community gathers to celebrate poetic diversity

By Danielle Verrilli
Carrboro Commons Photo Editor

Writers and performers brought poetry to life through interaction, readings, music and rap for more than 250 people who gathered in Carrboro to celebrate poetic diversity on Saturday, Oct. 11.

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Carrboro’s poet laureate Neal McTighe reads his poems aloud to an audience in DSI Comedy Theater during the Laureate block of the West End Poets Weekend. McTighe serves on the Carrboro Arts Committee and also started a Youth Poetry Contest in Carrboro.
Staff photo by Danielle Verrilli

The third West End Poets Weekend showcased nationally acclaimed and local poets during nine themed free blocks held at Carrboro Century Center and DSI Comedy Theater.

“The goal is to bring together all ages to read and talk about the art of poetry,” said Kim Andrews, the coordinator at Carrboro Recreation and Parks Department who primarily organized the event. “I hope that the youth take advantage of this opportunity to learn different art forms.”

Morning events in Carrboro Century Hall primarily addressed the youth audience, featuring Poetry Alive!, an interactive poetry performance grouped based in Asheville, N.C. In the next block, five local youth read aloud their poems to the audience.

“Here in Carrboro, we try to target our youth group,” said Andrews. “We try to incorporate the universities that surround us.”

James Seay, a UNC-Chapel Hill professor of English and comparative literature, read in the Tarheel Poets block with students from the university, followed by a group of North Carolina published poets.

After a break, the festival moved to the DSI Comedy Theater across the street for readings with both serious and humorous themes in the Laureate and published poets blocks.

“This feels very comedy club – except for I’m not that funny,” Carrboro’s poet laureate Neal McTighe said jokingly, sitting on the darkened stage at DSI. McTighe, who serves on the Carrboro Arts Committee and started the Youth Poetry Contest in Carrboro, was very impressed with the festival this year.

“It’s been great all day, not only to hear all the poetry, but to see a wonderful turnout,” McTighe said. “I look forward to seeing it grow next year.”

Andrews, who said her goal is to try to double the attendance each year, was also pleased with the participation and locations.

“The new venue at DSI was a nice change,” Andrews said. “People seemed to really like the more intimate space.”

While McTighe’s poetry focused mainly on family, Hillsborough’s poet laureate Mike Troy read more light-hearted verses about subjects such as dance and Dean Smith.

“Neil [McTighe] did something that kind of opened the door for me,” said Troy with a laugh as he took the stage. “He said a couple of dirty words.”

Troy said that passion in poetry, like dance, “has everything to do with our feelings and with our hearts.”

The published poets continued to express this passion in a variety of themes and topics. Joanna Catherine Scott, author of several novels including “The Road from Chapel Hill,” read poems about her experiences with a young man on death row who became like a son to her.

Janet Bratter, Gilbert Neal and Lizh, accompanied by Eric Kelly, each sang their verses in an acoustic poet-musician block, and rap performer Joseph “Church da Poet” later told a story through poetry.

Two-time national poetry slam champions SlamCharlotte took the stage for one of the day’s most popular events, with more than 60 people in attendance. Slam poetry is a form of spoken poetic debate and discussion on various issues.

The overall response to West End Poets Weekend was very positive, said Andrews, who credits the advertising and promotion efforts for the ability to draw people from all over the Triangle.

Ruth Landa, who first discovered the festival this year in a poetry magazine advertisement, attended the evening blocks because she loves poetry and can’t stop writing.

“Writing is the most delicious kind of solitude there is,” Landa said, who was excited about the idea of people coming together to hear poetry read aloud.

“I walked in and thought it was great,” she added. “I haven’t even been here five minutes and I want to come back.”

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