Beall Poetry Festival gives voice to poets from across the world

Baylor hosts the Beall Poetry Festival from March 30 to April 1. Photo courtesy of Baylor University

By Luke Araujo | Staff Writer

Baylor University is hosting its annual Beall Poetry Festival over the course of three days from March 30 to April 1.

The Beall Poetry Festival is an event that invites poets to read their work to a live audience and critics to talk about poetry. This year is the festival’s 28th consetive year of hosting.

Dr. Sarah Ford, director of the Beall Poetry Festival, said the central purpose of the event is to expose Baylor students to well-known poets. The poets featured this year include Todd Hearon, Vievee Francis and Ilya Kaminsky.

Hearon was born in Fort Worth and was raised in North Carolina. He is the first Baylor graduate to feature at the festival. His works by him include “Crows in Eden,” “No Other Gods” and “Strange Land,” which, according to the festival website, was selected as the winner of the Crab Orchard Poetry Series Open Competition by former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey.

“He has four poetry collections,” Ford said. “He does a lot with mythology and is a really interesting poet.”

Francis was born in West Texas and is the author of “The Shared World,” “Forest Primeval,” “Horse in the Dark” and “Blue-Tail Fly.” She has been awarded achievements such as the 2017 Kingsley Tufts Award and the Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize.

“She grew up in Texas, so some of her poetry brings in Texas landscapes,” Ford said. “Her her last collection, ‘Forest Primeval,’ also plays a lot with fairy tales.”

Kaminsky, the third poet coming to the festival, is originally from Odessa, Ukraine. Kaminsky’s best-known work is “Deaf Republic,” which was shortlisted for the National Book Award and was also featured as a New York Times Notable Book.

“In ‘Deaf Republic,’ he writes poems which come from his experiences as a child in Ukraine while Russia was coming in, which he escaped from,” Ford said. “He is also partially deaf, so he writes about that in his collection of him as well.”

This year’s festival also features Chad Bennett, a critic of poetry who earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Stanford University, a master’s degree in creative writing with a concentration in poetry from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a Ph.D. in English from Cornell University. Bennett is the author of “Word of Mouth: Gossip and American Poetry.”

“Bennett’s book was about how a lot of poetry, in his mind, is gossipy,” Ford said. “A lot of it is telling stories about lives. He offers an interesting reading between poetry and gossip.”

Ford said even before the official start of the festival, there was a history of bringing renowned poets to Baylor.

“We have the Armstrong Browning Library,” Ford said. “AJ Armstrong was a professor who loved poetry, and he collected Browning’s works to start a library. He also brought poets to Baylor like Robert Frost, WB Yeats and Edna St. Vincent Millay. All these well-known poets traveled to Baylor to speak. Twenty-eight years ago, a woman named Virginia B. Ball made a request to Baylor to start the festival. what had been a kind of tradition at Baylor became a yearly event where we had the money to bring these fantastic poets.”

On top of the poetry festival, Baylor offers students the opportunity to express their own artistic voice through the Student Literary Quizthrough which winners can win up to $300 from the American Academy of Poets.

Dr. Jacob Shores-Argüello, co-runner of the Student Literary Contest, said the celebration of student voices is a foundational part of what Baylor is striving to achieve with these events.

“Yes, we bring these very esteemed guests to campus,” shores-Arguello said. “But we also shine light on the student writers who will, someday soon, be accepting their own invitations to writing festivals around the world.”

The deadline for this year’s contest has already passed, but Baylor will continue to offer opportunities to aspiring students.

For more information about the time and place of the Beall Poetry Festival, visit the official website.

“Poetry, especially poetry reading, is an essential connection between people,” shores-Arguello said. “Poetry, like music, has the remarkable ability, through its beauty, to bring people together. I have always prized these shared spaces.”

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