Skagit River Poetry Festival 2022: The Reboot & What I Learned

Poets: Me (Kelli Russell Agodon, Susan Rich, Marty Silano, Jourdan Keith, Terrance Hayes) (Jane Hirshfield photobomb over Susan's head!) 

Due to the pandemic, the Skagit River Poetry Festival, like so many other things has been on hold. But since Thursday, I have been in a small town in Washington State allowing poets and poetry to reenter my life.  

The Skagit River Poetry Festival has been called the little sister of the Dodge Festival, or perhaps, I just named it that right now, but that's how I think of it. It begins Thursday night with a "Poet Soiree" where locals and patrons of the arts eat dinner with poets (2 per table). What I found were the women at the table who weren't poets were WAY more interesting than I was--so I really enjoyed getting to know them. After the dinner, there was an opening reading then we're off! 

What I realized since basically becoming a lazy (though traveling) Emily Dickinson recluse during the pandemic is that human interaction is tiring.

It reminded me that with AWP coming up in Seattle in March, to really take care of ourselves at big events.

So here are a few of my takeaways from the festival:

1) I enjoy poets. This seems silly to say, but being around other people who are doing the same art you are, feels good. You arrive with a knowledge of what the other has gone through or is going through. You have an understanding that you're doing something with so much love, and passion, and also knowing that most likely, not a huge amount of people will read what you write, and yet, you still do the thing. It makes me believe that writing poetry is a hopeful act. 

2) Small talk is stupid. Maybe this goes back to #1 and why I like poets. In no time did I ever make small talk. And if you find yourself at an event and small talk is happening, ask this question, "What are you working on?" Or "What hobby/art/activity is bringing your joy these days?" I personally will talk about your writing project or poetry for hours. But I cannot talk about the weather or news or politics (unless the weather you are talking about is climate change, then I'm in.) There is nothing more I have to say on any of those topics, nothing I can add or know what to add. Yes, the world is terrible, but tell me what you love.

3) Layering is important. Our days went from 54 degrees to 76 degrees depending on what time of the day it was. There is something to be said for layers you can put on or take off. Key pieces of clothing-- black leather jacket (see Marty Silano for this one!), a blazer (my signature look for this festival) or a jean jacket (mine is currently missing which is not good.) 

4) People are kinder in person. You know how sometimes on the internet people grow a spine or become obnoxious/awful or say things rudely or in a way they would NEVER in person? It happens less in person, in fact, everyone I met at this festival (with the exception of one older male who led with ego and was way too much up in my business) was just a pleasure to talk to and be with. Always remember, people aren't always being their best selves on the internet, but then tend to step it up in person.  

5) You may need a lot of rest. Because I haven't been doing a lot of socializing, what I found was my social interactions made me have to return to my room to take a nap or close my eyes way more than I have ever needed to. I'm an introvert with extrovert tendencies, but I've never felt so tired from talking--I'm out of practice apparently! I am reminding myself of this because AWP is coming up, and we don't want to get sick or feel rundown. Last night I went to bed at 7:30 pm and woke up at 8 pm. Yep, do the math, that is 12 1/2 hours of sleep. 

6) It's good to see friends. I think I have forgotten a lot about the beforeworld, how we used to gather and enjoy each other. It was a good reminder for me how much my friends mean and matter to me. Especially as someone who can get so much into my own life, family, projects, dailiness, and work, and not reach out to others. I sometimes think if I didn't have Facebook, I'd reach out more because when I see someone living their life and posting photos to Facebook, in a way it can feel as if we've interacted, but we haven't. That was just me pressing a heart on a screen. I can remember that more. 

Here are some more photos from the festival. I am looking forward to being an audience member next time! Being a featured poet is fun and an honor, but also a little tiring! 
Me, Laura Da', and Jourdan Keith!

Marty Silano, Roberto Ascalon, me.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Marty Silano, Kathleen Flenniken, Susan Rich.

Thanks for reading. I hope to be part of #MondayBlogs. Let's see if I can keep this going. Though don't count on it! lol. 

~ Kells 

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