Arts and Entertainment

Keeping Vashon poetic

The Qadim Ensemble will join author and storyteller Michael Meade (top of page, right) for “Knocking at the Gate: Ecstatic Poetry and Persian Music,” an event at “O.” - Courtesy photo
The Qadim Ensemble will join author and storyteller Michael Meade (top of page, right) for “Knocking at the Gate: Ecstatic Poetry and Persian Music,” an event at “O.”
— image credit: Courtesy photo

A small group of Island poets and poetry lovers has been hard at work for the past several months, passionately planning an event they hope will put Vashon on the map as a Northwest poetry destination.

The group — Ron Irvine, Lonny Kaneko, Devon Atkins, Ann Spiers and Faith Sohl — are the organizers of the first-ever Vashon Poetry Festival, which will take place at venues throughout Vashon starting on Thursday, May 21, and continuing throughout Memorial Day weekend.

The Fest will feature an impressive roster of local, regional and international poets, with events tailored to appeal to everyone — readings, workshops, music, an open mic for youth, a dinner, a reverie, and plenty of chances for Vashon poets to participate in public readings.

Headlining the event will be Washington state’s poet laureate Samuel Green, award-winning Irish poet Tony Curtis and author and storyteller Michael Meade.

According to organizer Irvine, who owns Vashon Winery, the idea for the festival was born in 2007, when he invited Green to perform a reading of his work at the winery.

“At the end of the reading, people asked Sam, ‘How can we get you back next year?’” Irvine recalled.

Green was also full of ideas after the reading, suggesting to Irvine that he invite Tony Curtis to the Island.

“All the seeds were planted that day at the winery,” Irvine said.

Irvine soon recruited poets Kaneko, Atkins, Spiers and Sohl to help him develop a vision for the festival, and he said it’s been a joy to work with the group to come up with ideas.

“This was all meant to be,” he said, adding that he hopes Vashon Poetry Fest will become a biennial event, joining an increasing number of small, celebratory poetry festivals taking place in the region.

“It’s the perfect thing for the Island,” he said. “Vashon is poetic.”


“Young Poets Talk Back.” 7 p.m. Thursday, May 21, at Café Luna, free.

An open mic led by Devon Atkins will feature poets ages 29 and younger who will create an impromptu conversation using original poetry.

“Knocking at the Gate: Ecstatic Poetry and Persian Music,” featuring Michael Meade, The Qadim Ensemble and guests. 7 p.m. Friday, May 22, at “O,” 18870 103rd Ave. S.W.

Tickets, $12, are available at Vashon Bookshop, and at the door. Food and wine will be available.

Please note: This event was originally scheduled to take place at Bethel Church, but was recently moved to “O.”

Meade will weave poetry with what he calls “ancient wisdom tales,” creating a “combined song that voices the longings of the heart and whispers words of the dark wisdom that have encouraged life-seekers for centuries.”

The Qadim Ensemble offers devotional music of the Middle East, celebrating the spiritual heritage found in traditional Arabic, Jewish, Turkish Sufi, Greek and Moroccan music.

A Community Reading. 3:30 p.m. Saturday, May 23, at the Land Trust Building.

This gathering, with free admission, will spotlight local and visiting poets.

“Raising the Word in Song and Drink: Irish Poetry and Song.” 7 p.m. Saturday, May 23, at Red Bicycle Bistro & Sushi. Admission is free.

This rollicking evening of song, poetry and drink will feature Irish poet Tony Curtis, Washington state’s poet laureate Samuel Green, renowned fiddle and guitar player Randal Bays and storyteller and mythologist Michael Meade.

“Poets’ Feast: Readings and Conversations with the Poets.” 6:30 p.m. Sunday, May 24, at The Hardware Store Restaurant.

Tickets, $10, are on sale at Books by the Way, Vashon Bookshop and Stranger Than Fiction Books.

Samuel Green will lead an evening of intimate readings and conversations, accompanied by Tony Curtis. The Hardware Store Restaurant will offer a special “poet’s dinner” for $15 as well as its regular full menu and bar.

“Reverie for the Living and the Dead.” 12:30 p.m. Monday, May 25, at Ober Park. Admission is free.

In reverence to Memorial Day, the Poetry Fest will herald the holiday. The reverie, led by Michael Meade, will begin at the Veterans Memorial in Ober Park and proceed to the Poetry Post at the Village Green.


Registration is required for all workshops by phone or in person at Stranger Than Fiction Books, 408-7268. Space is limited to 15 students per workshop. Payment of $20 (cash or check only) for some workshops is on the day of the event, at the venue. Events at Vashon Library are free.

“Emily’s Favorite Measure,” with Samuel Green. 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, May 23, at the Heritage Museum.

The workshop will focus on Emily Dickinson’s favorite prosodic formula, the “hymnal,” and will take a look at how other poets, including Roethke, Bogan and Wordsworth, have used it to good advantage with slight variations.

“We have the words, now let’s make a poem,” with Tony Curtis. 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 23 and 24, at the Land Trust Building.

All the participants need is pens, paper and courage.

“Poetry is not a Gated Community,” with Kevin Miller. 1 p.m. Saturday, May 23, at Vashon Library.

For teens, parents, grandparents and teachers. This free workshop is all about permission to put images and stories on the page.

“The Art of the Daily,” with Samuel Green. 10 a.m. to noon, Sunday, May 24, at the Heritage Museum.

Concentrate on the intimate art of observation in the “every day.”

“For Closet Poets and Poetry Readers,” with Ann Spiers. 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, May 24, at Vashon Library.

Through examples and exercises, explore how readers read a poem, how poets write for readers and how a poem works.

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