Annual Weeklong Celebration Connects Poetry & Arts
NEW YORK - Connecting performers with live, in-venue audiences and streaming live around the world, the 2022 Global Poetry Festival delivered a multimodal celebration of poetry, music and artistry in a weeklong program during April’s National Poetry Month.
"It was a memorable, in fact inspiring experience at The Birch Wathen Lenox School,” said three-time U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, who collaborated with Grammy Award winning musician Jim Seeley in one of the festival’s marquee performances.
The multidisciplinary program of the festival was platformed simultaneously for live, in-venue audiences – a first in its three-year history – while also live-streaming.
"This tradition was conceived prior to the world events, which has forced so many academic and cultural constructs to reduce their offerings,” said Headmaster Frank J. Carnabuci III. “Under challenging conditions, the Global Poetry Festival has flourished. We are proud of our students and faculty and grateful to the wider community that has grown from the Global Poetry Consortium."
The culmination of a yearlong curriculum in the Lower, Middle and Upper Schools, the festival brings together invited artists with fellow member schools of the Global Poetry Consortium: Greenwich Academy in Connecticut, Milton Academy in Massachusetts, The Hill School and The Shipley School in Pennsylvania, Washington International School in the nation’s capital, the Punahou School in Hawaii, the Frances Holland School and Westminster School in London.
Founded by BWL in 2020, the Global Poetry Consortium also includes Saint Ann’s in Brooklyn, which joined the 2020 event; Bennington College; Shared Studios; The Poetry Barn; and the Community of Literary Magazines & Presses.
Headmaster Carnabuci launched the consortium leading into the first festival in 2020 with Ryan Clinesmith, BWL’s Assistant Head of School, as well as Poet and Writer in Residence.
"Congratulations really to the seniors whose work set a high standard for our school all year,” said Mr. Clinesmith. “Our deepest gratitude goes to the artists, their talent, vulnerability and proof of the power of collaborative possibility."
Photo: BWL Upper School student reads at poetry slam.
The talents on display from students and artists at the Global Poetry Festival are a credit to the artistic participants and the equally inspiring work by the faculty and staff who produced the weeklong event, led by Project Liaison Kyabell Glass.
Photo: Kyabell Glass introduces senior multimodal projects to Lower School students.
"It was definitely a team effort,” said Ms. Glass. “We are grateful to the faculty and staff who were so supportive, and proud of our student interns who stepped up to help to make our first in-person festival a success. It was an absolute joy to see the seniors sharing their multimodal projects with faculty and engaging with younger students especially."
As events streamed live and posted to YouTube, Instagram and BWL.org, the 2022 festival began with the presentation of Honors Poetry students’ multimodal final project gallery in the BWL Auditorium and a Student Poetry Slam before Pinsky performed with Seeley and his band before a live audience at BWL.
"'Inspiring’ is not an exaggeration for the good feeling I got,” said Pinsky. “It refreshed my pleasure in both poetry and music. Questions and responses from the student audience confirmed the pleasure of excellence."
The artists whose talents invigorated the festival also included:
Tom Sleigh, author of 11 books of poetry , Distinguished Professor in the MFA Program at Hunter College and international journalist.
Marilyn Nelson, former Poet Laureate of the State of Connecticut, author or translator of 17 poetry books; recipient of the 1998 Poets’ Prize, 2001 Boston Globe/Hornbook Award and the Flora Stieglitz Straus Award; Coretta Scott King Honor, Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry.
James B. Nicola, poet, author, lyricist and playwright, winner of the Dana Literary Award, a People's Choice award (from Storyteller) and a Willow Review award; Pushcart Prize and once for a Rhysling Award
Alexandra Newton Rios, the bilingual poet, translator and professor, and holder of a dual MFA in English and Translation in Comparative Literature from the University of Iowa, following her undergraduate degree from Sarah Lawrence College.
ArtsAhimsa, a network of artists and friends working together to promote non-violence through the Arts, featuring Anton Rist, principal clarinetist at the Metropolitan Opera; Laura Jean Goldberg, violin; Kate Dillingham, cello; Moshe S. Knoll, piano; and dancers Elisa Toro and Leonel Linares, choreographed by Pedro Ruiz.
Photo: Artists and Performers (left to right) Moshe S. Knoll, Anton Rist, Taka Kigawa, Kate Dillingham, Laura Jean Goldberg, Tom Sleigh, Elisa Toro, Pedro Ruiz.
BWL has emerged as a thought leader in producing the event as a community among students and artists, which James B described to be “quite unique. That kind of generosity in turn signals a confidence—a ‘centeredness,’ if you will—which makes me believe in the future.”
The structure and collaboration of multi-modal artists was as inspiring for the artists as it was for their audiences.
"I can’t begin to tell you how enjoyable the challenge of composing music in this collaboration with the great Robert Pinsky was for me,” said Seeley. “I sincerely hope that our association can continue.”
For returning artists like Alexandra Rios, the growth of the festival has been a joy to embrace.
"It was a vibrant experience to read to an audience composed of Fourth Graders, seniors, teachers and online international students,” said Ms. Rios. “To feel poetry come alive in the give and take of a live performance where the students' questions gave the poet more reasons for why poetry is written.”
Administrators at BWL have also appreciated the vibrant energy that invigorates the school community within and beyond its walls.
"The interweaving of music, dance and poetry created a four-dimensional, immersive experience for our community,” said Curtis March, Director of Upper School at BWL. “Our students added their voices to this creative, collaborative chorus, as they gave voice to their own perspectives. Truly, this was an inspiring and moving event.”
The future is bright for the event directed by the Departments of English and Technology at The Birch Wathen Lenox School, a co-educational, K-12 private school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. For more information on the Global Poetry Consortium and/or the Global Poetry Festival, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-861-0404. Institutions interested in joining the consortium should fill out an Interest Form.
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