The Power of Poetry Festival 2016

By Pam Spence

The 15th annual Power of Poetry event, held in the Hocking Hills (Ohio, USA) April 22-23, was a delightful experience. Although casual to a fault (It was really hard to figure out the schedule – or if there was one, or if it was all fluid…) everyone seemed relaxed and happy to be there. Because of the generosity of past attendees as well as some funding from the Ohio Arts Council, the event is free.

Seema Reza Power of Poetry 2016 from Pam Spence

Seema Reza reading at Power of Poetry

The event is the creation of Alan Cohen, a retired teacher who simply believes the world needs more poetry. His casual attitude stems from his desire / intention to keep the festival small and informal. There is no big publicity campaign; most people hear about it through word of mouth. There was ample time and opportunity for direct interaction between the featured poets and the participants. Poet laureate Ted Koester has called this event “the best small town festival in the country.”

Diversity was a big plus. Poets from the Wellspring of Imagination program for high school teens read from their work and they simply blew us all out of the water. One young woman was a Syrian refugee; another used her experiences stemming from living with an alcoholic mother as subject matter. Several teens who took honors at the state Poetry Out Loud competitions also read.

The workshop I attended was a pen on paper experience with the featured poets George Bilgere and Seema Reza. We (all of us, including the presenters) did timed writings to some great prompts (“Write a rave about something that really pisses you off.” – Ha! Everybody had plenty to write about on that prompt!).

All in all it was a satisfying, direct experience with great presenters, fine music and dining in the lodge; gorgeous setting in the hills. I will definitely be returning next year!
Pam Spence is a newspaper editor, freelance feature writer and author of two non-fiction books, Mad About Mead and her most recent work, Glad Rags – Red Panties, Cowgirl Boots and a Sweet Dress to Die For: inspiring clothes and the women who wear them. ‘Like’ her dedicated Facebook page, Glad Rags Project.

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