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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: New voices in poetry

Allison Kennedy
Zac Clark
Allison Kennedy

Allison Kennedy is the new executive director of the 2024 Kalamazoo Poetry Festival. She comes to the job with a litany of broad-ranging experiences. A poet herself, the Kalamazoo College graduate was previously executive director of the Fire Historical and Cultural Arts Collaborative in Kalamazoo, where she curated the longest-running monthly poetry open mic event in Michigan. She is also a creative facilitator with Freedom Lifted, where she works with businesses and organizations looking to improve justice and share power in their communities.

“I’m really excited to have joined the Kalamazoo Poetry Festival as their first interim executive director,” Kennedy says. “It’s an organization that’s been run by volunteers lovingly for 10 years. I think it’s really special to be the first person they’ve hired part-time to keep it together.”

Kennedy has also co-founded a creative writing collaborative called Humans Beyond Boxes that operated for several years in and out of prison facilities in Michigan with the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative.

“Poetry is for everybody,” Kennedy says. “So I did that for about six years, and I really loved it. [I worked in] probation and parolee facilities and also writing directly and working with people directly in the prisons and jails of Michigan … it was comprised of people who were survivors of violent crime and people who had committed violent crime.”

For the 2024 Kalamazoo Poetry Festival, Kennedy plans to bring in new and fresh voices, people of all ages, many who have never read their poetry to an audience.

Dana "Great Dane" Hudson
Kaitlin Martin
Dana "Great Dane" Hudson

“We are partnering with Fire to hold an intergenerational open mic,” she says. “As Fire’s open mics are often youth-centered, this will be an open generational mic, welcoming readers of all experiences. It should be a really fun night.”

The Magic Open Mic will take place at the Fire Arts Collaborative, 1249 Portage Street, 5:30 p.m., on Friday, April 19. MAGIC: The Celebration of Community Poets with Reception, will take place at the Northside Association for Community Development, 612 N. Park Street, 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 20. Kalamazoo Poetry Festival is a nonprofit that holds a multi-day festival every other year. All events are free and open to the public.

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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