Art Beat: Kalamazoo Poetry Festival 2020

Mar 5, 2020

John Minser at the 2019 Kalamazoo Poetry Festival
Credit Courtesy Kalamazoo Poetry Festival

The Kalamazoo Poetry Festival, a gathering of poets and poetry lovers, is in its seventh year. The festival takes place each year during National Poetry Month.


John Minser is the chairman of this year’s festival. A poet himself, Minser is also an instructor at the Western Michigan University Home Stryker M.D. School of Medicine.

“I’m really proud of what we’re putting together this year,” Minser says. “Every year, the festival includes a celebration of community poets. This is a full-scale, full-length, poetry reading staffed entirely by community poets and writers. It’s always exciting to see what people have been working on for the last couple years and what’s on their minds. It’s a time for me to take the pulse of the community.”

Minser says at least 20 local poets are expected to read at the Celebration of Community Poets. The open mic event that follows is also expected to draw poets of all ages and skill levels.

“This year, one of the things we're most interested in is locality,” Minser says. “Neighborhoods, places, what does it mean to be in your space? What does it mean when someone tries to put you in your place?”

Minser says the open mic event has been drawing a younger and younger crowd every year. Even elementary school children participate. If you are interested, Minser says you should send your submission to the any of the Festival's board members at its website.

The Kalamazoo Poetry Festival Steering Committee formed in November 2012 to create an annual celebration of the area’s outstanding poets. Two years later, it held its first festival and became a nonprofit arts organization. The festival is possible thanks support by the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation; the Harold and Grace Upjohn Foundation; the John E. Fetzer Memorial Trust; the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs; the National Endowment for the Arts; and many individuals and other corporate and organizational sponsors.

Schedule of events

Celebration of Community Poets: Saturday, April 18, at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts 6:30 p.m., doors open at 6 p.m.

Open Mic: Saturday, April 18, at Fire, 1249 Portage Street at 8 p.m.

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