Word Festival: Poetry in motion

  • Paul Richmond, who organizes the Great Falls Word Festival and runs Human Error Publishing, was recently named the beat poet laureate of Massachusetts. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/9/2019 6:34:36 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Although it is technically a poetry festival, the Great Falls Word Festival has become a draw for people who don’t normally seek out poetry readings, said festival organizer Paul Richmond.

“I call it a ‘word festival’ because too many people have traumatic experiences about poetry,” Richmond said. “What you hated in school is not what we call poetry now.”

The festival is celebrating its 10th year this weekend, starting Friday night and running all day Saturday, Sunday and Monday at the Shea Theater.

Not everything on the program fits the textbook definition of poetry. While some of the performers do present themselves as poets and read in a poetic style, others appear to be just telling stories, or are accompanied by musicians, Richmond said.

The popularity of the festival seems to mirror an increased interest in poetry and storytelling that Richmond said he has noticed in the last 10 years as he has traveled the country.

“There seems to be an interest in hearing real things, in hearing people give their experiences,” Richmond said.

It’s also a real experience of sharing different points of view and different ideas that may clash — which, ideally, is what democracy is like, Richmond pointed out.

“Knowing what you think about and feel and having the courage to get up in front of people and say it strengthens what we’re doing,” Richmond said. “In having a strong voice, we have a strong democracy.”

Performances start at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. On Saturday, Sunday and Monday, performances start at noon and run for the rest of the day. The festival’s bookstore, which features local publishers, opens at 6 p.m. on Friday in the Shea Theater lobby. A detailed schedule is available at turnersfallsriverculture.org.

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 261.

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