This year’s Poetry Society of Virginia’s Poetry Festival will be held at the College of William and Mary for the first time.
While the group was established at the college in 1923, Sofia Starnes, former Virginia Poet Laureate and festival organizer, said the event hasn’t been held there since it was established about 15 years ago.
“We’ve had (the festival) at the library but not at the college because it was during the school year and facilities were not available,” Starnes said.
“What we did was move the festival to this weekend which is the weekend after graduation, and that freed up the English department so we could have it there.”
Starnes credits the festival returning to the school to Poet Laureate and William and Mary English professor Henry Hart.
“When I was sworn in as poet laureate last July, I said one of my goals was to reestablish the former connection between William and Mary and the Virginia Poetry Society,” Hart said. “I was pleased that the William and Mary administration was eager to make this a reality.”
“We’re very grateful to Henry Hart and the English department,” Starnes said.
The festival will kick off Friday night with a reading by keynote speaker Debra Nystrom, a poet from the University of Virginia.
“And that’s open to anybody who wants to come,” Starnes said.
Saturday is when a majority of the workshops and readings will occur. Mary Haines, an organizer of the festival, said the gathering of poets is her favorite part of the festival.
“It’s a major draw for the majority of us (members),” Haines said.
“I’m excited we’ve been able to bring speakers from outside the commonwealth,” Starnes said. “In the past, we’ve been somewhat limited to bringing people who are closer to home … but we’ve been able to bring in a professor from Wake Forest (University) and a professor from Pennsylvania.”
However, Haines said even people who aren’t members of the society should come out just for the exposure to poetry and new ideas.
“If you’re not a member you might be inclined to become a member if you attend the festival,” Haines said.
Want to go?
The Poetry Festival is Friday and Saturday at William and Mary’s Tucker Hall, 350 James Blair Drive. $40; register at poetrysocietyofvirginia.org/content/2019-poetry-festival-online-registration.
Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.