Literature Performing Arts

Asheville Wordfest 2019: Healing the Soul of Appalachia

Jaki Shelton Green

Asheville Wordfest, Western North Carolina’s annual celebration of poetry and story, will be held Friday, April 12, through Sunday, April 14. The weekend’s events include workshops and readings by a number of poets, authors, artists, storytellers and community facilitators. Among the featured poets is North Carolina’s newly named Poet Laureate, Jaki Shelton Green, the first African- American to serve as the state’s ambassador for poetry. Gaelic scholar Dr. Michael Newton will provide the keynote address on Saturday, exploring the question of whether often cited links between the Scots- Irish and Appalachian communities are historically and culturally accurate.

“I see the Asheville Renaissance in full motion now,” says festival director Laura Hope-Gill, “and for me the goal is to make it a whole-community Renaissance, bringing our many voices together.”

The festival kicks off Friday at 5:30 p.m. with a community screening of Hannah Gadsby’s one-woman show, Nanette. The act won many awards in 2017, including Best Comedy at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards and the Adelaide Fringe Festival. David Joe Miller’s WORD! storytelling performance follows at 7 p.m. at Attic Salt Theatre Company. A veteran of performance storytelling, Miller will be joined onstage by Asheville MOTH Slam champion Lee Lindsey and DeWayne Barton, Asheville native, poet and community builder.

Workshops in writing, reflection and communitybuilding will be held at Lenoir-Rhyne Asheville throughout the day on both Saturday and Sunday. Presenters include Sharon Oxendine, Nickole Brown, Jessica Jacobs, Cara Forbes and Darrell Stover. “Weaving story from experience is not always as easy as it sounds,” Hope-Gill says. “Once we begin, we discover that every moment has countless layers, and once we begin exploring them, the single ‘life’ we thought we were writing becomes these woven webs of experience and contradiction. This is the healing process and Wordfest’s workshop facilitators are skilled navigators.”

Hope-Gill joins Green at the YMI Cultural Center on Saturday at 8 p.m. for a collaboration in piano-poetry duets. “Anyone who has felt their heart break can find shelter in her work,” Hope-Gill says of Green. “Anyone who has sought comfort in either spirit or community can find it in these poems as well.” Mildred Barya, Lia Purpura and Michael Hettich will also read on Saturday evening.

“As a First Nations Woman, I am excited and honored to participate in Asheville Wordfest,” says Oxendine. “Laura Hope-Gill has created an inclusive and equitable word community to bring healing to the Soul of Appalachia.”

For a schedule of events and more information, visit AVLWordfest.com. Events are free or by donation with the exception of the WORD! storytelling at Attic Salt Theater Company. Tickets for that performance are $12 online at EventBrite. com or $15 at the door. All donations benefit presenters and the sustainability of the festival. In keeping with Wordfest’s vision of social and economic equity, donations allow each to give as they can.

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