Not exactly your grandparents' poetry festival

The biennial Seattle Poetry Festival returns to the Hill this weekend with more than 100 poets, musicians, dancers, theater performers and visual artists who will regale with verbal dexterity in both daytime and nighttime performances.

"In 2005, more than 1,500 people showed up for the event," said festival programming director Jennifer Borges Foster. "This year, I'm expecting even more. The buzz in the community about our guests has been really strong and people are getting excited."

For her first year as programming director, Foster wanted to create a festival that would appeal to poets, poetry lovers, and people who aren't that fond of poetry or think that poetry is too intellectual for them.

"In so many cultures, poetry is the voice of the people," she explained. "But in our culture, we've let poetry be pushed to the edges of the culture or hidden in academia. I want people to get back in touch with poetry."

The fun begins with a "Poetry Mashup" at Pravda Studios at 1406 10th Avenue, Suite 200) on Sunday, April 20, at 7 p.m. Hip-hop group Abyssinian Creole mixes it up with spoken word performance by Gabriel Teodros and Sexy Rockrr Grrl Poets (Kary Wayson, Trisha Ready and Rebecca Hoogs). DJ Vital will spin Hip Hop against classic poetry by Wordsworth or Pope. There will be Balloon Burlesque, Acrobalancers and much more at this all-ages event, said Foster.

On Saturday and Sunday, the Festival presents a number of readings, workshops and dialogues at Richard Hugo House. The theme for Saturday, April 21, will be "Science, Spirituality and Poetry."

"There will be discussions of DNA, the language of DNA and how that relates to poetry," said Foster.

On Saturday, April 21, Bruce Beasley, Suzanne Paolo and John Olson will read from their works, all of which explore issues of science and its impact on daily life. Beasley's book "Lord Brain" includes such poems as "Brain Slices," a poetic explanation of the slicing of rats' brains and the subsequent tests on their memories. Suzanne Paola's latest "The Lives of the Saints" weaves together theological immortality, the half-lives of radiation, the U.S. Human Radiation Experiments of the Cold War and such contemporary dilemmas as cloning. Olson has created a series of prose poems devoted to DNA and genetics.

One Saturday workshop on "Using the Language of Science" will be led by Tatyana Mishel, who combines her creative side as poet published in national journals with a day job as a technical writer. Mishel will also lead a workshop on collaboration on Sunday, April 22.

"The whole theme for Sunday will be collaboration - and how poetry is relevant to the other arts," said Foster. "We'll have performances like Shannon Borg's burlesque show, where she's going to explore the sensuality of food poetry."

Other highlights of the day will be Swivel Magazine "Is This Thing On?" presentation which combines poetry and stand-up comedy, a return of On The Boards' "12 Minutes Max," and Joshua Beckman and Matthew Rohrer reading from "Nice Hat Thanks."

"[Beckman and Rohrer] are amazing," said Foster. "They toured the country extensively doing this improv poetry where they solicit words from the audience. The most surprising thing is that they are able to combine their talents in a way that produces entertaining, smart and sometimes poignant work."

Foster noted that Sunday, April 22, will feature special collaborations, like an event featuring poets from Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, BC.

Also that day, the festival ends with the Seattle Poetry Slam's 2007 Grand Slam at Chop Suey. Featured poets for this event incude The Suicide Kings from California and a showcase by Youth Speaks Seattle. The eight finalists in the Slam have earned their spot on the stage by winning slams throughout the year and the winners of the 2007 Grand Slam will represent Seattle at the National Poetry Slam, this year in Austin, Texas. The Grand Slam is a 21-and-older event.

Throughout the three-day event, Foster encourages everyone to explore a little outside their comfort boundaries. "This is an event for people who are immersed in poetry and for those who don't know so much about poetry," she emphasized.

Tickets for all festival events are available through Brown Paper Tickets by visiting www.brownpapertickets or by calling 800-838-3006.

The festival's complete schedule listing and locations are available at

Rosemary Jones writes about arts and entertainment for the Capitol Hill Times. He can be reached at

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