Nickole Brown

Nickole Brown is the author of Sister and Fanny Says. She teaches as part of the Sewanee School of Letters Program and lives in Asheville, North Carolina, where she volunteers at several different animal sanctuaries. Since 2016, she’s been writing about these animals, resisting the kind of pastorals that made her (and many of the working-class folks from the Kentucky that raised her) feel shut out of nature and the writing about it. To Those Who Were Our First Gods, a chapbook of these first nine poems, won the 2018 Rattle Prize, and her essay-in-poems, The Donkey Elegies, was published by Sibling Rivalry Press in 2020. In 2021, Spruce Books of Penguin Random House published Write It! 100 Poetry Prompts to Inspire, a book she co-authored with her wife Jessica Jacobs, and they regularly teach generative writing sessions together as part of their SunJune Literary Collaborative.

Brown was named President of the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, effective July 1, 2022.

Before Miles passed, he had long discussions with Nickole about the possible future of the festival in her hands and was pleased to appoint her as his successor. He wrote: “My time at the helm of the Palm Beach Poetry Festival these past nineteen years have been thrilling and rewarding. Poetry has made my later years in life joyful and enriched, and while ending this chapter of my life feels like a door closing, I’m proud of what’s been accomplished. . . . This is a bittersweet new chapter, but I’m pleased to see this legacy carried forward.”

Nickole said, “Because of the gifts of the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, I’ve come into my own as a poet and teacher, and this is my way to pay back what I’ve received. It’s my aim to assure that what Miles started—along with the help of his dear friends, poets Thomas Lux and Kurt Brown—continues to evolve and thrive. I want to see the Festival continue to provide the kind of nurturing community I’ve found there, a true home for any poet serious about words and what they can do in the world.”


Al Berger – November 19, 1940-March 7, 2020

Since first attending festival events with Susan Williamson in January 2007, Al Berger has been a festival supporter, lending his home, his time and professional expertise, and his beloved in service to the Palm Beach Poetry Festival. An avid reader of best-selling fiction, Al did confide that he spent many evenings in New York City attending poetry readings in the 1960s, suspecting that he might have heard Alan Ginsberg or Gregory Corso at a Greenwich Village club or two. He was a great fan of the work of Thomas Lux, Billy Collins and the poems of his beloved Susan, for whom he often offered first feedback on new efforts.

Born in Brooklyn, NY, on November 19, 1940, to Abraham and Diana Berger, he grew up in both Brooklyn and Queens, where he started his family. He lived for 40 years in Croton-on-Hudson and relocated to the Boca Raton, Boca Lago Vistas Community in 2008, after being a snowbird for many years.

Al is survived by his wife, Susan Williamson Berger; his brother, Malcom & sister-in-law, Laurie; his sons, David & daughter-in-law, and Daniel & daughter-in-law, Elisa; his grandchildren, Thomas, Scott, Kimberly, Julia, & Eva; his nieces and nephews, Debbie & Josh Reich, Heath & Hillary Berger, Hunter & Lauren Williamson, Jackie (Beth) Williamson & Lance Pickett; his grandnieces and nephews, Ellie & Mitchell Berger, Dylan & Emmy Reich, Jack & Isabella Williamson, and Grace & Annabelle Pickett; and his brother-in-law, Walter Williamson. Al was predeceased by his first wife, Lynn, and his brother-in-law, Bill Williamson.

Al formed a partnership with his brother, Malcom, and served as President of AM Lithographers Corporation, later joined by his sons, David and Daniel, who carry on the family printing business. He retired in 2008. His career included every aspect of business; advertising, marketing, public relations, corporate profitability, purchasing, billing, motivation, and management of personnel.

He used these skills to chair many committees at Boca Lago Country Club, serving on the board, as a three-term president of the BLCC board, and as a member of the Council of Country Club Presidents and the South County Golf League. He captained Boca Lago’s South County Championship Tournament, coaching the team to win the 2017 annual tournament. Most recently, he chaired the golf committee at Boca Lago Country Club and was a key board member, concluding the Club’s property sale to Pulte Homes, renovation of the golf course, clubhouse, and the recent private purchase of the club. Always an avid golfer, he was president of the North State Golf Association of New York and made sure every family member had a chance to play golf and share his love of the game. He was an indefatigable movie buff, avid reader of best-selling fiction (especially the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child), fan of cowboy and western tv series and feature films, and lover of superheroes, especially Superman and the Lone Ranger.


Miles Coon

Miles-HeadshotMiles A. Coon, (January 1938 – May 2022) founded the festival in January, 2005, and served, without compensation, as Festival Director until June 30, 2014 as well as Chairman of the Board, and President. The festival grew from a weekend event featuring four poets to the week-long series of events featuring 14 poets and presenting 8 or 9 workshops with participants and auditors enrolled from all over the world.

Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1938, he grew up in Great Neck, NY and received his Bachelor of Arts Degree with Highest Honors in Philosophy & Economics from the University of Virginia in 1959. He went on to study law at Harvard Law School and following his graduation in 1962  he took the N.Y. State Bar exam and then served for six months on active duty in the Army reserves as a Medical Corpsman. From 1963 until 1966, he worked as a Trial Attorney for the United States Securities & Exchange Commission, and for a few years thereafter as one of four partners in a New York City law firm that he established, specializing in securities law.

He went on to work in a family business, first as Vice-President and eventually as President upon his father’s retirement. For thirty years, Miles grew the business and shortly after his father’s death, sold the business to an English Company listed on the London Stock Exchange. He served as non-executive chairman for three years of his five year contractual term, retiring in 1996.

Miles began taking writing workshops, moving from short-fiction to poetry. He studied with many wonderful poets online and at conferences across America.  In 2002, Miles earned his MFA in Poetry Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, continued writing and studying in workshops until 2005, when he founded the Palm Beach Poetry Festival.  His poems have been published in numerous anthologies and journals, print and online. His chapbook, Homeland Security, was published by Jeanne Duval Editions in 2005.

Many articles and interviews have been published with Miles as primary spokesperson for the Festival. In 2014, when the festival hosted its first sitting U.S. Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey, South Florida PBS interviewed Miles for the Art Loft program. He spoke passionately and flawlessly about the ethos, mission, importance, and delights of poetry and the festival. You can listen to Miles speak from the heart in this PBS Interview.

Miles never abandoned writing his own poems. His first full-length collection, The Quotient of My Self Divided by My Self, was published by Press 53 in June 2022. A beautiful Interview with Miles by long-time festival poet Laure-Anne Bosselaar was recorded at the end of 2021. In this recording, he speaks about the festival, the importance of poetry in his life, and of writing poems. He also reads some of the beautiful poems from his book.

Miles always liked to say that the festival would not be a festival without the participants, auditors, faculty, featured poets, interns, staff and friends who attend and give support. He believed passionately in the power of poetry and did great work to share that belief widely. All of those who knew Miles can affirm the accomplishment of the mission he set for himself and for the festival. He passed away peacefully on Saturday, May 21, 2022 in Palm Beach and leaves behind his loving family, including his wife of 58 years, Mimi, son Matthew, daughter Jennifer, and grandson Elias.

Should you have memories you’d like to share of your past times with the festival, we ask you to post them on our website at this Festival Guestbook page, or on our Past Participants Facebook Group. Plans call for a memorial to celebrate the life and work of Miles Coon. There will surely be a reading of the poems from his new book.

Miles would want once again to thank you for your poems, your dreams, your interest, participation, and for the joy he found in gathering the poets together in South Florida. The boundless inspiration that we have found through this festival would not have been possible without Miles Coon.




Susan R. Williamson

Williamson-Headshot-2014Susan R. Williamson’s poems have previously appeared in Beltway Quarterly, Connotation Press’s Hoppenthaler Congeries, Crab Orchard Review, Forge, Paterson Literary Review, Poetry East, Sanskrit, Smartish Pace, StorySouth, Virginia Quarterly Review, among others. Her chapbook, Burning After Dark, won the Hannah Kahn Poetry Foundation’s 25th Anniversary Chapbook Competition. Poems have been anthologized in Letters To the World: Poems from the Wom-po Listserv, Red Hen Press (2008), and Poetry Daily. She served as editor-in-chief of Streetlight, a journal of art and literature, as an editor and associate publisher at Tupelo Press, on the board of the Charlottesville Writing Center, a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts fellow, a Joel Oppenheimer fellow in New England College’s MFA poetry program, and served on committees for the Virginia Festival of the Book. She holds an BA in French Language and Literature from the University of Virginia and an MFA in Creative Writing from New England College. Williamson is devoted to poets and writers in her community, and has planned successful reading and literary events nationwide. A native of Virginia, she now lives and works in Boca Raton, Florida, where she is Director of The Palm Beach Poetry Festival.

Brittany Owens, Festival Coordinator

Brittany Owens serves as Festival Coordinator. She was an intern for the Palm Beach Poetry Festival for three consecutive years before joining the Festival’s staff. She recently completed her MFA at Florida International University and is looking forward to continuing to connect with the poets and writers in her community. During her time at FIU, Brittany taught several introductory writing courses, including Creative Writing. She also volunteered for the Gulf Stream Literary Magazine and was the Poetry and Creative Nonfiction Editor in 2021. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Salamander Magazine, Pittsburgh Poetry Journal, Small Orange Journal, South Florida Poetry Journal, Silk Road Review, and O, Miami’s Waterproof Anthology. She was runner-up for the 2022 American Academy of Poets Prize and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets. Brittany hopes to continue writing while she finds her place within the literary community. She is excited to help plan and organize another successful year at Palm Beach Poetry Festival.

Blaise Allen, Ph.D.

BlaiseBlaise Allen, Ph.D., Director of Community Outreach
Blaise is an award-winning poet and photojournalist. Her poems have been widely published in anthologies and magazines including: Wingbeats: Exercises & Practice in Poetry, Dos Gatos Press, The Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Blue Fifth Review, Walt Whitman Review, Long Island Quarterly, and University of Missouri Kansas City School of Medicine’s Journal, Touch. Blaise is committed to the preservation of voice, culture, and language arts education and is particularly interested in community outreach to underserved youth and elder populations. She founded and hosts the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, The High School Performance Poetry Project, Bards of a Feather at Green Cay Wetland Preserves, Year-round community outreach workshops at Old School Square, and The Annual 100K Poets for Change event, and the Annual Haiku Seminar at the Morikami Museum and Gardens.

The Festival is grateful to Blaise for her many photographic contributions to the festival. Many of the images you see in festival materials in print and digitally are a result of some beautiful work she has done to visually chronicle and capture the spirit of the festival.

Brook J. Sadler

Brook J. Sadler is a poet and Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator in the Department of Humanities and Cultural Studies at the University of Southern Florida. She received her Ph.D. in philosophy from Duke University in 2001 and earned tenure in the philosophy department at USF before moving to Humanities and Cultural Studies in 2013. Her diverse interests include Kantian ethics, shared intentionality, the ethics of marriage, philosophy of love and sex, philosophy of emotion, philosophy and film, feminist theory, and poetry. She is a recipient of the USF Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award and a past President of the Florida Philosophical Association. Her poems have recently appeared in The Atlanta Review, The Cortland Review, GW Review, The Boiler Journal, Parody Poetry and Ms. Magazine.