Skip to main content

Review: Hocking Hills Festival of Poetry


Hocking Hills Festival of Poetry
Presented by The Power of Poetry

            “I have laid aside business, and gone a’fishing.”
            (Izaac Walton, The Compleat Angler, ca. 1650)

The Izaac Walton Lodge, up the slope from Lake Logan, is the unpretentious home for the unpretentious—and magnificent-—annual Hocking Hills Festival of Poetry, this year held on April 19–20.

Alan Cohen, who says he is “the planner, cook, schlepper, dish washer, talent agent, etc.,” estimated that the Festival—whose theme, “Songs of the Other World”—brought together some 140 poets and friends from as far as California and Maryland.

Special guests were poets Naomi Shibab Nye and Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer and storyteller Will Hornyak, who read or performed from their work each evening. More on them below.

First, we heard music, performed by pianist Evie Adelman and flutist Gert Young, of Bach, Schumann, and others. (There was an occasional flat note.) Laz Slovits played guitar and sang versions of Shihab Nye’s poems that he put to music; one he played on the pennywhistle.

Three guests were teenagers, one who said poetry helped him overcome a stutter. Two recited poems from the NEA’s Poetry Out Loud competition; another, from Alan’s group, Wellspring of Imagination, read one of her own.

Each evening, Alan read his own thoughtful essay on the power of poetry. We also heard Kari Peterson read her poem, “Serving,” which won the festival’s poetry contest.

The Featured Guests

First, why a storyteller? Immediately I realized that Will Hornyak, like poets, celebrates language. Friday he began amusingly with the Irish saying, “A writer is a failed conversationalist.” Most of his folktales—about Death at an old woman’s birthday party, for instance—were Irish, in perfect brogue. Saturday, he told a Nez-Pers creation story and a hilarious story about frustrated young widows, nuns, and penises.

Saturday morning, he led a storytellers’ workshop. I didn’t attend, but I heard plenty of laughter from the back of the lodge.
      
Both nights Naomi and Rosemerry read their poetry, each with warmth, humor and grace; Rosemerry sang some of her stanzas. The ghost of William Stafford breathed through poems by both poets. Also, Naomi often spoke of Ted Kooser, and Rosemerry of Rumi.

Naomi’s poems thread metaphor with time and place; many draw from her Arabic heritage (see “My Father and the Fig Tree,” in Tender Spot, for instance). Rosemerry’s poems (such as “Epistemology” in The Less I Hold) are very imaginative and sophisticated streams of metaphor. A few of her poems, however, struck me as a smidgeon too cute.

Saturday morning, Naomi and Rosemerry presented a workshop for poets. Their prompts were deceptively simple—write poems combining short lists: what you don’t know, what you’re grateful for, etc.

It was all a great success. Other than small complaints about the website and the anthology, Follow the Thread, I have only one substantive suggestion: Hold at least one event on Saturday afternoon. How about several small circles for open readings? Or for discussion of selected poems, say, from Stafford, Kooser, or Rumi?

Come to the Hocking Hills Festival of Poetry next year. But bring a soft cushion; you'll be sorry if you don't.

 - Craig McVay, Columbus

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Casting a Line for Susan Glassmeyer's 'Invisible Fish'

by Chuck Salmons If you haven’t heard by now, OPA member and Cincinnati poet Susan Glassmeyer is the winner the Ohio Poetry Day Association’s 2018 Poet of the Year award, for her first full-length collection, Invisible Fish  (Dos Madres Press, 2018). On the heels of her winning, I corresponded with her to find out more about the collection and her writing process.  CS: First of all, congratulations on the award! Having read Invisible Fish, I know this is an honor that is well-deserved. How does it feel to have your name among past winners such as Mary Oliver, David Baker, and David Citino? SG: I was truly surprised to win this award, Chuck. I did some research after the fact and learned about the history of the award. What an honor to be part of this venerable Ohio poet lineage! I already own a few of the books on the list, not realizing the authors had previously won the award. And although I have many of Mary Oliver’s books, Twelve Moons (winner in 1980) was not among

Ohio Poetry Day Association names 2021 Poet of the Year and Contest Winners

The Ohio Poetry Day Association (OPDA) has selected Quartez Harris as its Ohio Poet of the Year for 2021. Harris was selected for his book of poems, We Made It to School Alive (Twelve Arts Press, 2020). Residing in Cleveland, Ohio, Harris is a second-grade teacher at Michael R. White Elementary School. We Made It to School Alive, his second collection of poetry, was inspired by his work as a teacher and gives voice to the experiences of the children he works with every day who deal with issues of gun violence, poverty, educational challenges, and more. Harris’ first book, N othing, But Skin,  was published in 2014 by Writing Knights Press. He is the first recipient of the Barbara Smith Writer-In-Resident at Twelve Literary Arts and a 2020 Baldwin House Fellow. He has been featured in the Plain Dealer, IdeaStream, and City Club of Cleveland, and recently signed on to be represented by Mckinnon Literary Agency. His works in progress are a young-adult novel and picture book biography. 

Ohio Poetry Day 2022 Contests Now Open!

The annual Ohio Poetry Day Association contests have been announced.  May 15, 2022, is the deadline (postmark) for more than twenty contests, including a “Welcome Aboard” category for first-time submitters and an art category to design the cover art for the 2022 Best of Ohio Poetry Day anthology, published later this year. Below is a copy of the submission form, which provides full contest information.  Ohio Poetry Day 2022 will take place in October. Stay up to date on OPD information, including the event date, location, and agenda, by getting your name and address on the OPD mailing list. To do so, contact: Amy Jo Zook 3520 State Route 56 Mechanicsburg, OH 43044 Checks for all contest fees and purchases should be made payable to: Ohio Poetry Day . For questions, call (937) 834-2666. Click and download the images below to view them at full size.