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Blackbird Poetry Festival Features Billy Collins, “The Most Popular Poet in America”

Date: March 12, 2014        Contact: Pam Kroll Simonson, (443) 518-4568, hocopolitso@yahoo.com


Howard County Poetry & Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo), in partnership with Howard Community College’s Office of Student Life, English/World Languages Division, and Arts & Humanities Division, presents the annual Blackbird Poetry Festival from Monday, April 21 to Thursday, April 24, 2014, at Howard Community College (HCC). For the first time, this year’s festival opens with a four-day Poetry Film Festival featuring showings of five acclaimed films. The last day of the film festival coincides with a full day of Blackbird Festival events, including readings by two-term National Poet Laureate Billy Collins, called “the most popular poet in America” by The New York Times; workshops for HCC students by Bruce George, poet and co-founder of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam; readings by student poets from HCC; and on-campus patrols by the Poetry Police, who will award individuals carrying a poem in recognition of national Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day. The theme of this year’s Blackbird Poetry Festival is “Poetry Unmasked,” exploring the bare truths of poetry.

“Billy Collins is famous for conversational, witty poems that welcome readers with humor,” writes The Poetry Foundation, an independent literary group, “but often slip into quirky, tender or profound observation on the everyday, reading and writing, and poetry itself.”

“His last three collections of poems have broken sales records for poetry,” writes the Winter Park Institute for intellectual engagement at Rollins College. “His readings are usually standing room only, and his audience — enhanced tremendously by his appearances on National Public Radio — includes people of all backgrounds and age groups.”

Collins will read and discuss his work at Nightbird, the Blackbird Poetry Festival’s ticketed evening event, at 7:30 p.m. at Smith Theatre, located in the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center at HCC in Columbia. A book signing and reception will follow. Earlier that day, Bruce George will facilitate creative writing and performance poetry workshops for HCC students. In the afternoon, Collins will give a shorter, free, and open-to-the-public reading at Smith Theatre with student poets at 2:30 p.m. He will also tape an episode of The Writing Life, HoCoPoLitSo’s Bravo-TV Arts for Change Award-winning interview show broadcast on cable and YouTube. Collins will be interviewed by poet Kendra Kopelke, director of the University of Baltimore’s MFA program in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts and two-time Pushcart Prize nominee.

The Poetry Film Festival will be held in Monteabaro Recital Hall, located in the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center at HCC, and is free and open to the public. It features Poetic Justice with Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur and poems by Maya Angelou on Monday, April 21 at 12:30 and 3 p.m.; Dead Poets Society with Robin Williams and Ethan Hawke on Tuesday, April 22 at 12:30 p.m.; Tom and Viv, a biopic about T. S. Eliot starring Willem Dafoe and Miranda Richardson on Tuesday, April 22 at 3 p.m.; Shakespeare in Love with Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes in celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday on Wednesday, April 23 at 12:30 and 3 p.m.; and Slam, winner of Sundance Film Festival’s 1998 Grand Jury Prize for a Dramatic Film, on Thursday, April 24 at 12 p.m. (Films planned for the festival are subject to change.)

Tickets to the Nightbird reading are $50 for the first three rows in the center aisle and $30 for general admission, $20 for seniors, and $15 for students. Tickets can be purchased at www.hocopolitso.org or www.brownpapertickets.com/event/523094. For more information, contact HoCoPoLitSo at (443) 518-4568 or hocopolitso@yahoo.com. Seniors in Columbia can request transportation by calling the Senior Events Shuttle at (410) 715-3087. HCC is an accessible campus. Accommodation requests should be made to HoCoPoLitSo by April 17, 2014.

HoCoPoLitSo is a nonprofit organization designed to enlarge the audience for contemporary poetry and literature and celebrate culturally diverse literary heritages. Founded in 1974 by National Book Award finalist Ellen Conroy Kennedy, HoCoPoLitSo accomplishes its mission by sponsoring readings with critically acclaimed writers; literary workshops; programs for students; and The Writing Life, a writer-to-writer interview show seen on YouTube, HCC-TV, and other local stations. HoCoPoLitSo receives funding from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the state of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts; Howard County Arts Council through a grant from Howard County government; The Columbia Film Society; Community Foundation of Howard County; the Jim and Patty Rouse Charitable Foundation; and individual contributors.

1 Comment

  1. segmation says:

    Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. ~Maya Angelou, what a great quote!

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