Poetry festival kicks off today

Baylor is hosting the 22nd Annual Beall Poetry Festival begins today through Friday. The three-day festival will have nightly readings from poets, a panel discussion and a Virginia Beall Ball Lecture on Contemporary Poetry.

Dr. Richard Rankin Russell, English professor and Graduate Program Director, is the director of the festival. He and a committee made up of professors and graduate assistants helped decide who will be coming to the event and worked to plan and present the events.

“It’s a great way for students to get to hear some of our best living poets and to watch them read poetry, which always makes it become more alive for people,” Russell said. “I think it shows them the power of the spoken word, and the written word as well, but especially the spoken word and how words and language take on a new life when you hear them read aloud.”

An Annual Student Literacy Award ceremony will present prizes to those who entered original works in poetry and fiction to the Student Literacy Contest. The English department and the Beall Poetry Festival will sponsor this event at 3:30 p.m. today in 101 Carroll Science Building.

Cottondale, Ala. sophomore Connor Watkins entered a poem in the literacy contest and is excited to see if his work received an award. He will be visiting the event this week.

“There’s not a lot events for poetry and writing at Baylor, so it’s pretty special in that regard,” said Watkins, who is a professional writing major. “Also, despite the fact that it’s not a huge campus wide event, they get a lot of really well-known poets from across the country to come, and it’s really cool to see that.”

The first public reading of the week will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Bennett Auditorium with Amaranth Borusk, poet and scholar. She is the author of award winning “Handiwork,” as well as a number of collaborative works. Borusk is an assistant professor at the University of Washington —Bothell.

Ernest Suarez will deliver the Virginia Beall Ball Lecture on Contemporary Poetry at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in 101 Carroll Science Building. Suarez is the ordinary professor of English at the Catholic University of America, as well as the vice president of the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics and Writers. He is currently co-authoring a book on the relationship between blues music and poetry.

Nicole Cooley will hold another public reading at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Bennett Auditorium. Cooley is an English professor at Queens College-CUNY, where she also directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation. “Breach,” a collection of poems about Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf Coast, is Cooley’s latest book.

A discussion panel will meet at 3:30 p.m. Friday in 101 Carroll Science Building. The panel will consist of those who read each night of the festival.

The final event of the week will be a poetry reading by Kevin Young at 7 p.m. Friday in Bennett Auditorium. Young has written 11 books of poetry and prose, many of which are award-winning. He is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University.

“Other than just hearing them read and them getting to read their work, we actually get to interact with them more and ask them more personal questions about their writing process and just about poetry in general,” Watkins said.

The John A. and DeLouise McClelland Endowed Fund support Baylor’s Beall Poetry Festival. Virginia B. Ball established the fund in 1994 in an effort to encourage the writing and appreciation of poetry and to honor her parents.

“It gets poetry out into the community at Baylor and Waco, and that was Ms. Virginia Beall’s wish when she was a student at Baylor in the late 1930s,” Russell said. “She wanted students in the 20th and 21st centuries to have the same experiences that she did and get to see visiting poets.”

There will be enlarged printed copies of the poems read each night available for $25 during the festival.