HISTORY OF THE PALM BEACH POETRY FESTIVAL

Poets Featured Previously at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival
(2005-2014)

HISTORY OF THE FESTIVAL
The beginning of the festival was a collaborative effort between Mimi Coon, Carol and Alan Benjamin, and other friends in 2004. Chris Bluemer, a local poet, counseled Miles in the early organizational days of the festival, as well as Marya Summers, a local poet and journalist, who was the initial communications director and coordinator. John Palozzi, President of Poets of the Palm Beaches, has also been a great supporter. The team, along with The Poets of the Palm Beaches, helped Miles Coon hold the first festival at Lynn University in January of 2005. Four workshops were offered over one weekend. Audiences of up to 300 people attended readings by Patricia Smith, Thomas Lux, Sharon Olds, and Billy Collins! Campbell McGrath and Spencer Reece pitched in with wonderful introductions. All workshop seats were filled, and of the 48 workshop attendees, 75% traveled from out of state and even from as far away as Australia to attend the first festival. The enormous success of the first festival led to establishing a nonprofit corporation. Palm Beach Poetry Festival, Inc., was founded in March of 2005 with net proceeds from the first festival.

The second annual festival was presented in January 2006 in partnership with Old School Square Cultural Arts Center (now Delray Beach Center for the Arts). Eight workshops were offered. Each workshop was 10 hours (up from five the year before) and of the eight workshops, two intermediate level sections were included, and a Florida Poets’ reading was added. Again, all workshop seats were sold, and it offered outreach programs to engage the local community. The second festival was another huge success due to featured poets Laure-Anne Bosselaar, winner of the Isabella Gardner Award; Kurt Brown, winner of the Custom Words Poetry Prize; Jane Hirshfield, winner of the Poetry Center Book Award; Tony Hoagland, winner of the James Laughlin Poetry Award; Galway Kinnell, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner; Thomas Lux, winner of the Kingsley-Tufts Poetry Award; Campbell McGrath, winner of the Kingsley-Tufts Poetry Award; Susan Mitchell, winner of the Kingsley-Tufts Poetry Award; Marilyn Nelson, Connecticut Poet Laureate; and Sharon Olds, former New York State Poet Laureate.

The Crest Theatre at Old School Square proved an intimate and comfortable setting for readings and craft talks, and the Vintage Gymnasium continues to be a wonderful space for the festival gala and late night performance event. Adding the craft lectures by each faculty poet was tremendously effective and continues to delight workshop participants and the public alike. The classrooms, so bright and welcoming, are perfect for the workshops.

SPONSORS AND SUPPORTERS
Morgan Stanley and the Palm Beach Post, as well as Clear-Channel Communications and Barnes and Noble were early sponsors who supported the festival’s mission along with other generous donors.  We have been generously sponsored by The Knight Foundation Arts Challenge Grant; The Muse Award from the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, grants from Visit Florida and The Tourist Development Council and Board of Commissioners of Palm Beach County. In addition, we have been supported by invaluable benefactors, and most recently, have received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for the 2015 festival. See all of our sponsors at http://www.palmbeachpoetryfestival.org/donate/sponsors.

In addition to our wonderful sponsors, our festival also partners with other non-profit organizations to present poetry programs all year round. We sponsor The Annual Palm Beach County High School Poetry Contest; offer public readings called Bards of a Feather Poetry Readings, and foster discussions at the Green Cay Nature Preserve. Our Community Outreach Program brings poetry to Alzheimer patients at the Sunrise Nursing Home, and we host a Haiku program annually at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. We also provide workshops led by talented local poets at the Delray Beach Center for the Arts.

The Palm Beach Poetry Festival has flourished, despite times of economic hardships. Since its beginnings 11 years ago, the festival has presented workshops with America’s most laurelled and engaging poets. Last year the festival received a record number of participants and auditors who hailed from 24 States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Israel, Qatar, and Peru. We also added individual conferences with three additional poets available to participants willing to pay a modest additional fee. In addition, we increased those conferences from 30 minutes to one hour for the same fee, adding more value than ever before. A special guest poet is also regularly hosted, with readings and interviews. These added features have not raised our tuition! Some of our events have combined poetry and jazz (featuring Special Guest, former United States Poet Laureate, Robert Pinsky), and this year we will feature poetry with ballet.

The 11th Annual Palm Beach Poetry Festival will continue its extraordinary legacy as one of the leading literary events in America.

 

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