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Austin! International! Poetry! Festival!

Writ in thought, spoke in words.

By Wayne Alan Brenner, 4:48PM, Wed. Apr. 6, 2011

Ashley F. Kim
Ashley F. Kim

Dozens and dozens if not hundreds of poets flocking to this river city from all over the world this weekend, to partake of and offer verse liberated or otherwise. And why here in particular? Our Litera listings man about town, Ric Williams, finds out in this interview with AIPF director Ashley F. Kim:

Ric Williams: Why Austin for an International Poetry Festival ?

Ashley F. Kim: Statistically, Austin is in the top 10 as far as poetry scenes in the U.S. We have over 2,000 poets here. On any given night, there are open-mics and readings all over town. A poetry festival brings these poets together once a year to celebrate, share and sharpen their craft. The art of poetry is alive and thriving, and I want people to know that poetry is a gift and that it is available to them.

Why do international voices come here?

Poets come to AIPF from all over the globe because there’s something else unique about Austin. We live in a city that supports the arts, and that makes us very, very fortunate. The support of the City of Austin is what has allowed AIPF to grow into an international festival.

Has the economy impacted this event?

In an economy where one out of three non-profits is going under, we feel lucky to even be here. Our collaboration with other Austin-area poetry organizations has been strong, and that support has made the difference. The hardest impact we’ve felt has been in our donations and our volunteer-base. Funding is low and turn-over is high. A festival like ours depends on warm bodies to orchestrate the city-wide events and to spread the word. Being free and open to the public, it also depends on public and private support.

How many venues do you have this year?

Over 20 venues have volunteered their spaces, from the Austin Children’s Museum and the Long Center to Threadgill’s and the Mohawk. Without them, we could not do what we do for poetry in Austin.

What are you most excited about?

Our Poets-In-Schools Program! That’s something we’ve been working toward for a number of years, and thanks to the hard work of our Youth Committee Chair Jessi Lane and a collaboration with Badgerdog Literary Publishing, we’re finally able to bring our visiting poets (and poetry!) to area schools.

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