Wordfest Schedule

Please note: Joy Harjo reads twice! The first is Thursday at University is North Carolina at Asheville. The second is Saturday evening at Lenoir-Rhyne University Asheville Center. Details for the first event are on reading schedule. We are thrilled to work together to bring Joy Harjo twice to Asheville’s poetry audience!

Thursday April 12

Joy-Harjo-Courtesy-Image (1)
Joy Harjo

7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. An Evening with Joy Harjo. Asheville Wordfest is happy to partner with the University of North Carolina at Asheville to bring Joy Harjo to town. More info: 



5:00 p.m.at Malaprops Bookstore/Café: Launch of Alastair McIntosh’s U.S.A. publication of Poacher’s Pilgrimage. Click Here for an interview about this powerful book.


8:00 p.m. at Lenoir-Rhyne Asheville Listening Room Rachel Lee Campbell, José Vázquez, Mildred Barya, Nicole Townsend, Jamieson Ridenhour, Elizabeth Meade.



Saturday April 14

9:00-9:30 REGISTRATION and WELCOME at Lenoir-Rhyne 2nd Floor Listening Room


Keynote with Norman Bissell, Director of Scottish Centre for Geopoetics, and Alastair McIntosh, Spiritual Activist, Author of Poacher’s Pilgrimage and Soul and Soil: People vs. Corporate Power.


We are living in a world of growing concerns about climate change, political upheaval and inner discontent. A deep-going change of culture and direction is needed, but from where might such a transformation begin? Scotland is a nation that has often looked towards its bards, or poets, for vision and direction. In recent years, a major poetic movement has developed around Geopoetics, a theory-practice initiated by the Ayrshire writer and thinker, Kenneth White, who lives in France.
Geopoetics is a higher unity of geography and poetry which takes a trans-disciplinary approach to the world of which we are part. It includes recovering a sense of belonging to a place and culture and provides creative opportunities for individuals and communities to develop fully. It opens out fresh avenues for global and radical cultural renewal based on a rich variety of ways of understanding and expressing the Earth.
This keynote will be jointly presented by our special guests, two of Scotland’s leading contributors to poetics and cultural renewal. Norman Bissell is the Director of the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics. He will set out a grounding of what geopoetics is and what it can offer to our lives and our communities of place. Alastair McIntosh is a writer and activist for social, environmental and spiritual change. He will draw on his work as a pioneer of land reform in Scotland to demonstrate how geopoetics can be applied in community empowerment. 

11:15-12:30  The following workshops will take place in classrooms.

ReWilding the Soul Through Poetry Presented by Mary Ellen Lough, Wildcrafter and Poet, Poetic Medicine PractionerMary-Ellen-Lough-about-736x550

Join in a poetic exploration of our origins and longings, which belong to the landscape. The poet John O’Donohue says that our very bodies originate from the landscape, that we have a “clay-ography” not just a “biography.” Healing can come as we rekindle our original connection to the land, both in our chosen communities, and the places where our ancestors come from. Poetry offers us an experience to “stand at the shores of our own immensity,” reawaken our love relationship with a speaking, living, animate landscape, and belong again to the communion of the natural world. Mary Ellen is a poetry therapist & single mother living with five children in an old farmhouse in southern Appalachia.  She is also a world traveler, community organizer, activist, gardener, and writer.  Mary Ellen teaches poetry as a practice of wholeness and path of integration everywhere from the VA hospital, homeless shelters, substance abuse centers, birth centers, public schools, universities, and conferences, to an old converted barn out in the mountains with a small group of people who gather around a woodstove with tea in the winter.”

**Young People’s Event: Theatre and Poetry for Middle Schoolers with Molly Rice**

Molly Rice

Springing from Roots: A Creative Writing and Choral Reading Session for Middle-Schoolers Come join us as we focus on creative writing and choral reading as a means of communication and communion. We will explore our senses as we create poetry based on the earth, and our belonging to it. Once produced (and along with selected poems from Wordfest’s guest poets) we will use the ancient form of choral reading to water and bloom our poetry-plants.


Nature, The Ultimate Model: Perspectives in Sustainability” presented by Amanda Strawderman, Candidate for M.S. in Sustainability Studies

In this workshop we will be exploring natural systems as a model for thought. Explore how a Systems Thinking approach offers insight into designing creative solutions for some of our most pressing personal and societal needs. Through readings, discussion, and creative exercises, we will envision the future we want for ourselves, our loved ones, and our world. This is the first step in creating a sustainable future in which all may flourish. Join us as we embark on this journey together. For those who wish, there will be an additional opportunity to delve deeper into these topics in a 5-week discussion course this coming July.

SATURDAY 12:45-2:00

“Writing through Collapse: The power of place and insanity of Hope” Presented by Todd LaVasseur, College of Charleston Visiting Assistant Professor, Religious Studies and Environmental and Sustainability Studies, Director, Sustainability Literacy Institute


This workshop builds on Wordfest’s theme of “recovering a sense of belonging to a place and culture and provides creative opportunities for individuals and communities to develop fully. It opens out fresh avenues for global and radical cultural renewal based on a rich variety of ways of understanding and expressing the Earth.”   The understanding and expressing of Earth for this workshop will be inspired by the ecological agrarian vision of Wendell Berry; the mythopoetic voice of Mary Oliver; and the ecoanarchist critique of “hope” offered by Derrick Jensen. Participants will share and discuss poetry and passages from the above authors, using their voices as a prism to re-configure and re-conceive of “place” in a time of climate collapse.  Participants will then be given time to create and then share their own poetry, music, verse, stories, and other forms of expression that builds on the riddle posited by Wendell Berry: to create a just, sustainable life in a sacred biocultural place “that none of us has lived.”

“Socializing the Nature Poem” Presented by Elizabeth Bradfield, Naturalist, Explorer, Poet

Elizabeth Bradfield

“It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious” – Alfred North Whitehead, philosopher. When we look at anything, we put ourselves into what we see. We associate, remember, and draw upon the rich history of our lives to understand and describe our experiences.  How do we write about our interactions with the non-human world in ways that are full, accurate, ethical, nuanced, and surprising?  And how do our social selves – gender, race, geography, culture, education – influence and comment on how we view “nature”?  The great Audre Lorde said, “Our visions are essential to create that which has never been, and we must each learn to use all of who we are to achieve those visions.”  In this workshop we will embrace all of those complicated understandings in our readings and writings. We’ll make facts sing without bending them and apply a keen eye to the drama of our human selves in the non-human world.

“Embody Your Artistry” presented by DanMichael Batista and Melody


This workshop builds on Wordfest’s theme of “Earth, People and Words” by highlighting the central role of creatives in the healing of the Earth and humanity’s current paradigm. Artists have always been the truth-tellers and change-makers throughout history. Specific to writers – those who make art through wordsmithing – participants will learn how to overcome creative blocks and get back in touch with their authentic expression so that they can bring their unique gifts to the world. Using DanMichael Batista’s transformational channeled book (“The Frame”) as a blueprint, we will discuss how to build an authentic life that naturally supports artistry. Creation comes from Source. So when we create healthy boundaries that support us in being our best selves, enhanced creativity is a natural result. Participants will have the opportunity to take an honest look at their lives and define the areas that are breaking down their expression vs. those that are supporting it. The exercises we will utilize take concepts from “The Frame” into practical applications so that participants can use these tools in their daily lives to enhance their creativity. Participants will leave this workshop with the ability to tap into their creative flow, freedom from judgement and comparison, a renewed sense of their personal inspiration and artistic abilities, and greater courage to express themselves authentically.

SATURDAY 2:15-3:30

“What is Poetry and Why Poetry Is? “(Our perspectives) Presented by José Vázquez, poet, and educator. 

José Vázquez

“Poets were the first teachers of mankind.” -Horace What drives ancient and current cultures to express feelings and experiences through poetry? Why time and space makes no difference on this innate urge in human beings to create art with words? Is it biological? Is it spiritual? I don’t know the answer to these questions, but you might.Join poet and visual artist José G. Vázquez on a symbiotic learning experience exploring this universe we call poetry. Share your perspective, be a poet, learn and teach.



Native Well-Springs of Creativity in the Scottish Highlands: Faery, Goddesses, the Land itself, Presented by Gaelic Scholar and Highland Historian, Michael Newton with Alastair McIntosh


At one time, all of humankind was indigenous. While some societies remain so, and others have been dislocated for thousands of years, the native culture of the Scottish Highlands was strongly tied to the land and primal cosmology into the late eighteenth century. Underground streams of continuity still trickle and can be reclaimed. Concepts of artistic expression, literary tradition, ancestral heritage, and belonging to birthplace are connected in Gaelic indigenous knowledge by the belief in the sìdh (crudely and imprecisely translated as “faery” in English) and powerful “supernatural” females of the land. This talk and discussion will offer an eco-critical overview of how Scottish Gaeldom expresses a deep symbiosis between artistic creativity (including literature), the community (living and dead, human and non-human), and the natural environment.

 SATURDAY 3:45-5:00

Scotland, Slavery and the Isle of Donald Trump – Alastair  McIntosh, Spiritual Activist and Global Educator on Human Ecology, University of Glasgow, University of Edinburgh


Donald John Trump didn’t come from nowhere! As an 18 year old girl his mother, Mary Anne Macleod, emigrated to New York from the Isle of Lewis in the Scottish Hebrides. Alastair McIntosh has conducted key research into the back story. He grew up on Lewis and was educated in its little town, Stornoway, which is twinned with Pendleton, SC, less than two hours from Asheville. Donald Trump’s mother’s people been forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands in the Highland Clearances of the 1820s. The family were pressed into penury by a rapacious landowning family who had also governed the Barbados slave colony, and brought into the Isle of Lewis a hard line fear-filled form of evangelical Christianity. Donald Trump says he got his religion from his mother. In Poacher’s Pilgrimage: an Island Journey, of which the US edition from Cascade is being launched at the Asheville Wordfest, Alastair explores the role of such psychohistory in American politics. He argues that Trump’s hidden background ironically lent him an ability to connect with hard-pressed people. This is a deep and disturbing story. It speaks to white folks, but equally, to the tragic plight of Native Americans and people of colour. In the end, it is a story that can point to deepest healing. A story of deep poetry, a bardic politics. As the acclaimed American spiritual speaker Brian D. McLaren says in his Foreword to the Cascade edition, “As I read, I felt that I had been led to holy ground.”

5:30-6:30 at Lenoir-Rhyne Asheville Listening Room: FLAT IRON WRITERS presents Emilia Phillips in the Listening Room


Emilia Phillips is the author of two poetry collections from the University of Akron Press, Signaletics (2013) and Groundspeed(2016), and three chapbooks, most recently Beneath the Ice Fish Like Souls Look Alike (Bull City Press, 2015). Her poems and lyric essays appear widely in literary publications including AgniBoston ReviewPloughsharesPoetry, and elsewhere. She’s an assistant professor in the MFA Writing Program and the Department of English at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her third book, Empty Clip, will be published by the University of Akron Press Spring 2018.

8:00-10:00 p.m. at Lenoir-Rhyne Asheville Listening Room: Joy Harjo, Elizabeth Bradfield, Sean Hill, and John Lane


Sunday April 15

10 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.. in Lenoir-Rhyne Listening Room:

WELCOME AND Wake UP to Poetry: Devin L. Jones, Melody, and DanMichael Baptista

11:30-12:45 Morning Workshops

Fred Bahnson, Wake Forest University School of Divinity; Director of Food, Health, and Ecological Well-Being Department, presents Soil and Sacrament

Dayna Reggero presents The Climate Listening Project


What’s your climate story?

The Climate Listening Project is a collaborative effort by Dayna Reggero to connect and share hopeful conversations on climate and community. We work creatively to cultivate and share unique stories through video, film, connections, and collaborations. Read our Reviews and Testimonials to learn more.  Since 2014, we’ve traveled across the United States and around the world to explore the connections that are important to each of us: family, faith, business, community; weaving together the latest science with inspiring stories from around the globe. Visit our Films page to stream now.

We collaborate with local, national, and international organizations, individuals and businesses to listen to the stories that need to be heard. Collaborators include Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), National Audubon Society, and Moms Clean Air Force, to name a few. Check them out on our Collaborators page. You can find Climate Listening Project stories on more than 120 places online. From television, blogs, radio, and news outlets including Salon, ABC, NPR, iHeartRadio, Univision, Yahoo, Huffington Post, Governing Magazine, and The Atlantic to resource sites like Jane Goodall Institute, Yale Climate Connections, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Thrive Global. Check out our Press page to read all about it.  Our films and videos have screened at local events, conferences, and film festivals around the globe from Wake Forest University in North Carolina to the Stockholm Resilience Center in Sweden. Our faith vignettes have been shared at 4,000 churches across America and our food and farming videos were screened at the International Paris Climate Talks. Our first feature documentary “The Wood Thrush Connection” was honored as the Best Short Documentary Winner at the 2017 Belize International Film Festival. Visit our Events page to see past events or attend an upcoming event. Our advisers include top scientists and thought leaders. Plus, we’ve hired more than 30 diverse videographers, photographers, and creatives. See who’s who on our Team and Advisers page.  The Climate Listening Project has reached more than 10 million people through press, social media and events. Connect with us on Facebook to keep up with what’s new. Our collaborative videos and films continue to be used again and again to start or accelerate hopeful climate conversations. Please Connect with us to collaborate or learn more.

Jasmin Pitman Morrell and Garreth Higgins present a preview and the story of Movies and Meaning Festival that will take place in Asheville April 26-28 at Diana Wortham Theatre. Alice Walker will be at the Movies and Meaning Festival! 



We are born into stories, many of which rely on oppositional energy: who we are against, what we don’t like, who to exclude. These stories don’t work, but the noise of damaging stories has only gotten harsher, louder, and more overwhelming. The task of creating our better world seems too large and difficult to hold. And many people we’ve talked to just seem, for lack of a better word, tired.  Our fourth annual Movies & Meaning Experience this April is designed for this moment.You’re invited to this healing, joyful, challenging, and life-giving experience, which will lift your heart without asking you to switch off your brain.This April 26-28, 2018, at the lovely Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville, North Carolina, we will gather and hear from special guests Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color PurpleBrian McLaren, author and theologian; and Gareth Higgins, film critic and Irish peace activist. We’ll screen seven movies, hear seven stories, and participate in seven activities proven to nurture community, restore hope, and build a bridge to the kind of world so many of us seek. We’ll do it in the setting of one of the most beautiful and creative small cities in the world, in a lovely theatre, surrounded by fantastic restaurants, places to stay, and the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains. We’ll make new friends, see astonishing big screen art, and pick up fuel for the journey of living more whole in uncertain times.  Epic and intimate, serious and funny, inspirational and relaxed: this community is ready to welcome you. Click here to learn more or to register for the experience.

Now, go have lunch and then we will all reconnect at the FOLK ART CENTER on the Blue Ridge Parkway.


1:30-2:45 at Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Cara Hagan, Professor of Dance and Expressive Arts at Appalachian State University, presents installation and new work, LOAM, “an experience of movement and sound exploring the relationship between the human body and soil.”




The Geopoetics of Haiku Walking

Norman Bissell

Norman Bissell, Director of the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics, will read some extracts from his forthcoming novel I Want to Live about the desperate struggle of George Orwell to finish writing Nineteen Eighty-Four on the Isle of Jura in Scotland before his health failed. He will also read some poems from his collection Slate, Sea and Sky and some haiku by Matsuo Basho and Alan Spence. This workshop will encourage participants to write their own haiku by doing some haiku walking and will discuss how applying geopoetics in our daily lives can enable us to be more creative in this and other ways. We will then take a haiku walk on the Mountain-to-Sea Trail just outside the Folk Art Center. Please bring a pen and paper/notebook. For those unable to walk, there are beautiful settings to write.

What better way to end Wordfest than with some time in the woods and a new poem?

Thank you for being a part of Asheville Wordfest.


Copy and paste this quick-look schedule for easy reference:



APRIL 12- 15, 2018

Thursday, April 12: Joy Harjo at UNC-A Lipinsky Auditorium at 7-8:30 p.m. For more info.

Friday, April 13: Launch of Alastair McIntosh’s U.S. publication of Poacher’s Pilgrimage. Malaprops Bookstore/Café 5 p.m.

Friday, April 13: At Lenoir-Rhyne Asheville at 36 Montford Avenue

Evening Reading at 8 p.m. Mildred Barya, Nicole Townsend, José  Vásquez, Rachel Lee Campbell, Elizabeth Meade, and Jamieson Ridenhour.

Saturday, April 14: Workshops and Keynotes from 10 am. til 5 p.m. at Lenoir-Rhyne Asheville at 36 Montford Avenue. See schedule page for details.

Evening reading at 8 p.m. Sean Hill, Elizabeth Bradfield, John Lane, and Joy Harjo at Lenoir-Rhyne Asheville.

Sunday  Morning: Continuing the Conversation

Sunday Afternoon: Installation and Dance by Cara Hagan, LOAM; Haiku Walking with Norman Bissell of Scottish Center for Geopoetics. Folk Art Center.