Patricia Roberts first came up with the idea for an annual poetry celebration 30 years ago at an intimate festival. Three decades later, the Houston Poetry Festival, which runs Oct. 9–11, has grown larger than Roberts could have imagined, now attracting a large, diverse and energetic crowd.
“We find this is a wonderful occasion for people to meet other writers, editors, and publishers,” says Robert Clark, current president of the Houston Poetry Festival, who co-founded the annual event alongside fellow poets George Pulliam, Lorene Pouncey, George Williams and, of course, Roberts herself.
The Houston Poetry Festival has captured the attention of the local and national literary community with its unique "blind jury" poetry competition, where names are omitted and poems are judged by a distinguished committee of seasoned poets. The winners, or "juried poets" as they're called, present their work on stage and are also featured in the annual poetry anthology released by the festival.
In addition to the nationally acclaimed competition, this year’s festival features two interactive workshops on Saturday, October 10. The first is Why The Sonnet, hosted by poet and novelist Chris Wise, which will examine the beauty of the sonnet’s form and its history. Other events include the traditional open readings as well as talks by several acclaimed Houston poets, including Melissa Studdard, Anis Shivani, John Gorman and Jasminne Mendez.
"For the past few years, we have been working to add events to the festival in anticipation of the 30th anniversary," says communications director Billie Duncan. "Every event in the festival this year is going to be a celebration of poetry." Duncan, a poet herself, will be leading the second of Saturday's interactive workshops, called Finding Your Voice. In it, Duncan says she's excited to give performing poets the opportunity to work on their presentation skills.
"I’m particularly proud to have been a part of this—and I think Houston is very lucky to have this festival."
Oct 9–11. Free. Poetry anthology, $15. See schedule for location and time information. Willow Street Pump Station, 811 North San Jacinto St.; UH-Downtown, 1 Main St. houstonpoetryfest.info