I had the pleasure of being in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during this year’s annual College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI). Me, being me, means that I love going to poetry festivals. They are opportunities to meet artists from all over the country, witness amazing work, and build relationships with like-minded people. I’ve been lucky enough to go to quite a few over the years and have compiled a short list of tips on how to make the most out of any poetry festival experience.
1. Attend the workshops
Many poetry festivals include writing workshops in their schedule of events. They are usually free and facilitated by super talented artists. Being around to witness incredible work often sparks inspiration for your own writing, and having a space to express that inspiration is super helpful. Don’t sleep on the opportunity to pick the brains of an experienced artist and work on your own art.
2. Make connections
I am a socially anxious mess a lot of the time, so I understand that putting yourself out there to connect with strangers can be extremely daunting. However, poetry festivals are often full of very open and emotionally supportive people. I have never felt more welcomed than I have among a bunch of artists in one place. Plus, you already have something to talk about seeing as you are all evidently fans of poetry. Don’t miss the opportunity to connect with other artists.
3. Be prepared to cry
Poetry festivals involve poetry of course, and they often feature some of the best that you will ever hear. Sometimes, that means having this beautiful work set off the water works, so be prepared to experience a lot of emotions. The people that facilitate these festivals often take into account how emotionally taxing the experience is, and have resources available to help you if you are triggered by content.
4. Show out
Poetry festivals are festivals. And what are festivals good for? Debuting that bomb ass outfit you have been saving for a brave day. I personally love witnessing the different styles that creatives bring to these festivals, and will always die over a good boutfit*. Artists know the importance of personal style, and nobody at a poetry festival is there to judge yours. Don’t waste the opportunity to put 3 pounds of glitter in your hair and live life like a beautiful sunflower, even if it’s just for a day.
5. (Optional) Alcohol
If you aren’t a drinker, feel free to skip this tip. But if you are, feel free to get tequila tipsy and cry over beautiful performances with the new best friend that you just met in the lobby. I personally love adding fun drinks to my poetry festival experience because it feels festive, and poet drinking games are super fun.
Hope that these tips help you make the most of your next poetry festival experience!
*Boutfit- In poetry competitions, a round is called a bout. Poets created the term boutfit to reference an exciting outfit worn by a performer or audience member that is in attendance at a bout.