Poets will have a special place at the podiums of Lit Con, a celebration of the written word running Thursday, April 11, to Sunday, April 14, at locations around town.
The overall event, presented by Vashon Center for the Arts, will feature authors from Vashon, Seattle and Tacoma in 75 events and other enticements, including ongoing art exhibits at VCA. Lit Con will also include a free slate of programs, many for youth, at Vashon Library. The conference’s entire schedule, as well as links to purchase spots for ticketed events and to a mobile app to navigate the event, can be found at vashoncenterforthearts.org.
The timing of Lit Con coincides with April’s designation as National Poetry Month, so the event, of course, will be chock-a-block with programs that appeal to those who read and write verse. Vashon’s own poetry scene will be well represented at Lit Con by local poets, many of whom will read their works at a free “Lit Crawl” from 2 to 11 p.m. Friday, April 12, at cafés, pubs and other locations throughout the business district of Vashon.
Lit Con will also feature appearances by five well-respected poets who will travel to Vashon to present readings, participate in panels and lead workshops.
Laura Da’ — who is Eastern Shawnee and a lifetime resident of the Pacific Northwest — will present “Poetry of Place,” a reading, at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 13, in VCA’s Kay White Hall. Her first book, “Tributaries,” won a 2016 American Book Award. In 2015, Da’ was both a Made at Hugo House Fellow and a Jack Straw Fellow. Her latest book, “Instruments of the True Measure,” was published in September of 2018.
Another noted poet, Holly J. Hughes, will lead “Writing our Walk: A Mindful Saunter to Open Our Senses,” at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 14. During this two-hour workshop, conducted outdoors on a trail, Hughes will lead participants in the footsteps of Japanese haiku poets, creating an experience with time to write, share and collaborate on verse.
Hughes is the author of “Sailing by Ravens,” co-author of “The Pen and The Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World,” and editor of the award-winning anthology “Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease.” Her fine-art chapbook “Passings” received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation in 2017.
Judith Adams, an English-born poet who has lived in the United States since 1976, will present “The Poetic Apothecary,” at 2 p.m. Friday, April 12, at Vashon Library. In her presentation, she will explore poetry’s restorative powers by reciting and discussing poems that help attendees understand grief, fear, sadness and loss. This free event is for teens and adults.
Adams has published four books of poetry and recorded several albums of her work, and her poems have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies. She has taken poetry to patients at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and conducted poetry workshops for youth and adults.
Another visiting poet, Elizabeth J. Colen, will present “Generating Prose Through Juxtaposition,” at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 13, in the Blue Heron classroom. This workshop will focus on Colen’s technique for generating work so that participants never have to sit cold in front of a blank page.
Colen, who lives in Bellingham and teaches at Western Washington University, is the author of “What Weaponry,” a novel in prose poems, two poetry collections and other works.
Gary Copeland Lilley, another guest poet, is the author of eight books of poetry, including his most recent, “The Bushman’s Medicine Show.” He will lead a poetry writing workshop, “Your New Poems,” at 2 p.m Saturday, April 13, in the VCA’s green room. He’ll also read from “The Bushman’s Medicine Show,” described as “a southern Gothic testament delivered by an archetypal denizen of the modern South,” at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, April 13, in the Kay White Hall of VCA.
Copeland Lilley has been published in numerous anthologies and journals, including Best American Poetry 2014, Willow Springs, The Swamp, Waxwing, the Taos International Journal of Poetry and the African American Review. He is a Cave Canem Fellow.
Another Lit Con event, featuring a slew of local poets joining the visiting poets, will be “Craft Discussion: Poetry of Witness,” scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Sunday, April 14, in VCA’s green room. The term “poem of witness” refers to poems that have documented social injustice and atrocities, or speak in the voice of survivors. This presentation will discuss a group of poets of witness who have refined and refreshed the genre, providing examples of what it means to be a credible observer and an informed witness. Local poets involved in this discussion will be Wendy Kearns, Thomas Pruiksma, Merna Hecht, Meredith Clark, Linera Lucas, Jessika Satori, Lois Watkins, Claudia Hollander-Lucas, Ann Spiers and Adam Cone.
A POEM TO LOVED ONES ABOUT PRESERVING FRUIT
By Merna Hecht
Have you ever woken up
on a dark winter morning,
suffering from the sun’s neglect,
wishing for a ripe plum,
as you felt your empty mouth
curve purple and sweet
around the memory of sticky sun?
Late last summer and into fall
I knew I was held
in fortune’s unpredictable embrace
as I gathered baskets
of our wind fallen plums,
during a string of September’s
Light on my feet,
intoxicated with the bounty
of gathering bushels of dusk-
blue plums, until they filled
my coffers and kettles,
I knew, as I washed glass jars, scalded rings and lids, that I was star-laced,
sun-blessed and moon-crossed,
to find myself in the stirred up kitchen
and crush, mash, mix, boil, sweat, sweeten, stoop down,
swoop up, scoop, funnel and strain in a bewitchery
of preserving what is given.
Merna Hecht will join Shauna Ahern in reading food-related poems at 7 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. Friday, April 12, at Relish, during Vashon’s Lit Con’s “Lit Crawl.” Hecht is a storyteller, teaching artist, activist, essayist and poet who has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards. She is a longtime islander, a blueberry farmer and the current Vashon Island poet laureate. As such, she will participate in multiple Lit Con workshops, panels and events for both youth and adults. Check the schedule at vashoncenterforthearts.org.