Arts

‘Accessibility to writing spaces and stages’: The inaugural Roxbury Poetry Festival is taking place this weekend

All the events are free and open to the public. 

The inaugural Roxbury Poetry Festival will take place Saturday, offering attendees a range of free events throughout the day rooted in the neighborhood’s cultural history. 

Porsha Olayiwola, an organizer for the event and the City of Boston’s current Poet Laureate, told Boston.com the goal of the festival was to create an event that was in service to the Roxbury community and create a space for writers to share their work, access professional development, and discuss craft. 

The entire festival is free and open to the public. 

“It’s about accessibility to writing spaces and stages,” she said. 

Organizing for the event began with a seed grant from the Academy of American Poetry, but since work began to start the bi-annual festival, Olayiwola said organizers have received tremendous additional support from the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, Northeastern’s Office of City and Community Engagement, and cultural organizations across Roxbury. 

The hope is that the festival will bring poets, performers, and writers — both local and international — together across the genres of the poetry canon “to gather and dismantle any un-connections,” she said.

Roxbury’s rich lineage of Black activists, cultural leaders, and artists has inspired the festival, Olayiwola said. For the Chicago native, what made Roxbury feel like home to her was the bounty of poetry spaces in the area and the neighborhood’s cultural history, which she said she could feel “in her bones”  when she arrived in Nubian Square. 

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“It’s just a rich, homey feeling,” she said of Roxbury. “And I think that kind of energy is necessary in what can sometimes be an academic space.”

The festival, which kicks off virtually at 10 a.m. on Saturday, will feature workshops and panels, readings, and performances with dozens of speakers. Jericho Brown, who won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his book “The Tradition,” will deliver the day’s keynote address. 

The festival will conclude with two in-person events Nubian Square’s Blair Lot. At 5 p.m., a Publisher’s Poetry Slam sponsored by Button Poetry will see 10 local poets compete for a book contract from Button Poetry. 

“That, to me, is really the function,” Olayiwola said of the prize. “That’s the symbol of the ultimate goal, which is providing space and resources for folks to be heard, for folks to learn, for folks to listen to each other, to grow with each other.” 

The festival will wrap-up with “Beast The Beat,” a women / fem rap concert battle featuring local hip hop artists at 7 p.m. 

To see the full festival lineup and register, visit: https://www.roxburypoetryfestival.com/

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