Students, community organizations, alumni, staff and faculty came together to celebrate poetry and creativity.
The 2023 UWT Poetry Festival, “Between The Lines,” concluded on Monday, May 1 in William Philip Hall. Conceived and facilitated by UWT professors Ever Jones and Dr. Sarah Chavez, the event started as an idea to host a poetry reading on campus. Through planning and community organizing, the professors evolved the poetry reading into a festival that could host multiple poetry readings, involve writing studies students and UWT Alumni, and connect community organizations to campus groups.
“We thought, if we’re going to do something big, then we should do it in perpetuity. If we’re going to do it big, we should do something that’s going to get bigger and pull in more people and be a real staple for not just creative writing students and not just writing studies students, but for the full campus and for the community,” Dr. Chavez said.
After much planning, the festival became a three-pronged approach to cultivating a writer’s community on campus. The first portion of the festival invited UWT Alumni, who are professional writers, into the creative writing courses of Jones and Dr. Chavez to work directly with undergraduate students. These workshops were open to all students and focused on honing the skills and ideas of writers to develop new approaches and perspectives in their projects. The workshops also included an opportunity for current students to hear how the alumni were pursuing writing on a professional scale and offer advice on how to become a successful writer after graduation.
The second part of the festival took place in the afternoon of May 1, and included open poetry readings from student editors of UWT’s Tahoma West, a student-run literary magazine that publishes UWT student art, prose and poetry. The event provided snacks and community building activities for students, staff and faculty who are interested in growing the UWT writing community.
The last part of the festival was an evening event, held in William Philip Hall, that featured community literary organizations such as Write 253, Blue Cactus Press and Creative Colloquy. UWT Alumni writers and vendors like Tien Creations were also in attendance. Other UWT groups were available at the event such as the Writing Studies department, UWT Librarians and UWT Creative Writing RSO, the Wordlings.
The evening began with a dinner and networking hour, where students met with other writers and poets to discuss interests, share ideas and experiences, and eat. A selfie booth, magnetic poetry board and student raffle were available for students to participate in.
The evening hosted open readings by two prestigious local poets, Sasha LaPointe and Arianne True. Sasha LaPointe describes herself as being “…from the Upper Skagit and Nooksack Indian Tribe. Native to the Pacific Northwest, she draws inspiration from her coastal heritage as well as her life in the city.” Arianne True, the current WA State Poet Laureate, also read from her collection. Arianne describes herself as “…a poet and excitable human based in Tacoma, WA, and from the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations…She’s taught with Writers in the Schools, mentored with the Seattle Youth Poet Laureate program and Hugo House’s Young Writers Cohort, (and) been a guest lecturer at the University of Washington.”
The poets read several poems for the audience and sat for a question-and-answer session. Students and attendees had the opportunity to get to know Sasha and Arianne, while learning about their writing processes, what inspires them and an involved discussion on what a bunk-bed couch is.
The evening event ended with over twenty UWT students reading their own original poems during open mic. The poem subjects ranged from an ode to toast, to the frustrations of retail workers, to family trauma and relationships, along with ideas about nature. Students chose their own pieces and read for up to 3 minutes each.
Professor Jones and Dr. Chavez publicly recognized and thanked the many staff and faculty that donated their time, resources, and money to help bring the event to fruition. They acknowledged how many UWT community members banded together to support the event. The professors expressed a public thank you for the support and help of those who donated in any way to make the event a success. Both professors announced their “hearts are so full” for the help of their community. They explained without it, the event would not have been able to happen.
The UWT Poetry Festival is set to be an annual event, held each spring on campus at UWT.
Sasha LaPointe’s website can be found at http://sasha-lapointe.com Arianne True’s website https://www.ariannetrue.com/