Laura Hope-Gill, Program Coordinator of Lenoir-Rhyne’s M.A. in Writing Program, founded Asheville Wordfest in 2008. It is currently Asheville’s only literary festival. The festival holds promise to become the one of the nation’s premier festival, particularly given the location but also because of outstanding reputation. Past poets, storytellers, film-makers, and authors include: Galway Kinnell, Li-Young Lee, Connie Regan-Blake, Kathryn Stripling Byer (NC Poet Laureate), Natasha Trethewey, Nickole Brown, Jessica Jacobs, Mark Doty, Raul Zurita (Chilé), Flying Words Project (ASL Poetry), Valzhyna Mort (Belarus), Quincy Troupe, Ross Gay, Simon Ortiz (Pueblo Nation), Joy Harjo (Muskove and Creek Nations), Cornelius Eady (founder of Cave Canem Poets), Elizabeth Bradfield, John Lane, Sean Hill, Richard Chess, David Whyte, Paul Bonesteel (Film: The Day Carl Sandburg Died), Katja Esson (Film: Poetry of Resilience), Evie Shockley, Frank X Walker, Robin Messing, NC Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti, Paul Guest, Brian Turner, and others.
2019 Festival features NC Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green and World-renowned Poet of Witness, Carolyn Forché. The festival will also feature local though leaders and scholars who will present workshops and classes for community development, creative writing, innovative future-making, and personal enrichment.
The Video Library
Asheville Wordfest, with funding from North Carolina Humanities Council, has a library recorded readings in HD with excellent sound. In recent years, funds for recording in high quality have not been available. The library is of great historical value because there are very few high-quality recordings of many of our nation’s finest poets. Funding would enable Wordfest to hire highly professional videographers to continue building this collection for public use.
Future Goals and Needs
Asheville deserves a premium literary festival on par with those of other cities. With substantial funding, the Asheville Wordfest can be this. Already, the festival has an excellent reputation and is a beloved event in the city’s festival calendar. It has not been easy to sustain a festival through its first decade, but Wordfest survives. The following amounts will help carry Wordfest to the next level of production excellence:
- Restore Asheville Wordfest’s access to four premiere poets and authors
- Fund part-time staff and a stipend for the director
$50,000.00 (provides the above and . . . )
- Provide an advertising budget for national exposure
- Increase outreach to under-served populations
- Develop branding through graphics
$75,000.00 (provides the above and . . . )
- Establish Wordfest as landmark festival of American Letters by extending the festival to a full-week residential festival comparable to Dodge Poetry Festival and Breadloaf
- Provide a salary for the director and a small staff