Butterfly Festival was a Success!
History was made at the Butterfly Poetry Festival, held at the Hazleton Campus of Penn State, this past weekend. The Festival hosted the first symposium of Pennsylvania's Poets Laureate. Laureates from Bucks County, Hanover, Harrisburg, Hazleton, Perry County and York gathered to discuss their poetry and service as Poet Laureate.
Poets and the city or county they represented were: Salvadore DeFazio, Hazleton; Bill Diskin, York; Patricia Goodrich, Bucks County; Claude Lewis, Harrisburg; Melanie Simms, Perry County and Dana Sauers, Hanover. Presiding over the symposium as master of ceremonies and interviewer was Erika Funke, originator and voice of WVIA-FM's "Art Scene."
Following welcoming comments and letters from Hazleton's Mayor, Louis Barletta and State Representative Todd Eachus, Erika Funke read remarks written for the symposium by Samuel Hazo. Mr. Hazo served as Pennsylvania's only State Poet Laureate from 1993 to 2003. His statement, "If we live in a society, poetry (and literature generally) is the only language that tells us who we truly are. For a society to be and to remain truly human, it is essential that poetry be an accepted and expected part of public speech," became a statement of purpose for what followed.
The poets discussed and read examples of poetry that reflected their personal lives. Then gave examples of a more public type of poetry written to fulfill their position as Poet Laureate. They also reflected on their appointments to the position of Poet Laureate and shared experiences encountered in serving in that capacity.
The strongest held consensus was the importance of working with and writing for the youth. Since most of the laureates are educators or devote some of their time to working with the youth and students, a number of the poems read related to the enabling of youth to cope with life.
One of those in attendance commented that the symposium showed the importance of a position as Poet Laureate. It helps to de-mystify poetry, and the arts in general, for a community. It gives a face and a name to the art form, rather than impersonal references found in books.
The consensus of the poets and the audience was the wish to see more municipalities and counties take advantage of the position of Poet Laureate as liaison between the community of the arts and the general public. The Association of Pennsylvania's Poets Laureate hopes to set the precedent and help interested communities in establishing their own position of Poet Laureate.