Performing Arts

Asheville Wordfest: Celebrating Diversity Among Poets

Quraysh Ali Lansana. Photo by Alan Tarin.

It’s a celebration of multiculturalism April 18–23 when Asheville Wordfest gathers poets at various venues around town for music, poetry, prose and workshops. Throughout its nine years, the festival has brought writers from near and far to share words with one another and with audiences.

“Cultural diversity is the one constant,” says festival founder Laura Hope-Gill, who teaches in and directs the Thomas Wolfe Center for Narrative graduate writing program at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Asheville. “Because as many groups are represented as possible, audiences are bound to hear someone who relates to them and empowers them.”

This year’s performers are men and women; Christian, Jewish and Muslim; African- American, Native American, white, and Middle Eastern; and LGBTQ. The festival, Hope-Gill says, is a “stronghold of communication rather than a reaction to a silencing of diversity.” She believes that, although Asheville is multicultural, programs are needed to bring people together. “Because of Wordfest, I’ve grown as a person. I’ve learned that you can say, ‘I’m not racist’ all day long, accomplishing nothing. Listening to narratives of nonwhite contexts lets us move into new perspectives, often challenging our own.”

Saturday, April 23, will be a full day of writing workshops, including free workshops for middle- and high-school writers facilitated by local poet Francine Hendrickson. “Poetry’s a language for figuring out the world,” Hope-Gill says, “and no one’s devoting more time to figuring out the world than our young writers.”

Festival events spur creativity, she says. “High-energy poets who are skilled both on the page and on the stage read and perform at Wordfest. People leave events feeling energized and inspired.”

To learn more about the schedule, purchasing tickets or sponsorships, visit avlwordfest.com or Facebook. Venues include Lenoir-Rhyne University Asheville, THE BLOCK off biltmore, Black Mountain College Museum, aSHEville Museum and Hotel Indigo.

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