Poetry at Play 

31st Annual Tucson Poetry Festival

Mari Herreras

Thursday, April 3-Saturday, April 5

Hotel Congress 311 E. Congress St.

622-8848; www.tucsonpoetryfestival.org

Poetry and poets take over Hotel Congress this weekend for the free three-day TPF XXXI "Poetry at Play," the 31st Annual Tucson Poetry Festival—poetry workshops, poetry talk and some music and poets and poetry lovers dancing.

The festival kicks-off Thursday, April 3, 7 p.m. with a Locals Only party MC'd by Teré Fowler-Chapman with Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild along with festival board members Ander Monson, Bill Wetzel, and others with readings from the director of the UA Poetry Center, Tyler Meier, plus Lydia Havens from the Tucson Youth Poetry Slam.

On Friday, April 4, 4 p.m. the festival's theme, "Poetry at Play," gets bandied about during a panel roundtable with guitarist/composer Kelvyn Bell, McNair Scholar Xavier Cavazos, Sleeping with the Dictionary author Harryette Mullen, and Canadian spoken-word performer RC Weslowski.

Evening activities start at 7 p.m. with introductions and such, and then an evening of readings—the 2013 high school contest winner at 7:15 followed by a 7:30 p.m. reading by Weslowski, described by festival folks as "a clown mouth full of x-ray visions attempting to get at the heart of things." At 8 p.m., Cavazos, who is currently working on an academic collection of poems imagining the life of Elian Gonzalez and the people of Havana, Cuba, takes the stage.

A fun improvisational poetry experience called "Page vs. Stage" takes over at 8:45, which is promised to include both Twinkies and haiku, then the night ends with music from Algae & Tentacles, Aroma, and Sutcliffe Catering Co. at 10 p.m.

OK, so if you've been at Congress since 4 p.m. playing with poetry and then listening to poetry and then dancing and rocking out of poetry—sleep, because poets reconvene at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 5, with a young adult poetry workshop led by Native-American poet Simon Oritz. The fest's out-of-town guests also return with a series of workshops: Weslowski at 11:30 a.m., Mullen at 12:45 p.m., Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, a poet currently working on Red Dust: the dirty thirties, a film chronicling mixed-blood and Native resiliency and life, and Bell at 2 p.m. and Cavazos at 3:30 p.m.

Saturday evening's readings start at 7 p.m. with Mullen. At 7:45 p.m. Hedge Coke and Bell are joined by Diné poet Sherwin Bitsui, originally from White Cone, Arizona, is a 2011 Native Arts and Culture Foundation Arts Fellowship and recipient of the 2010 PEN Open Book Award.

The final rounds of Page vs. Stage take place at 8:45 p.m. and then a book signing with all participating festival poets at 9:45 p.m. Then it's time for cumbia and more from DJ DirtyVerbs, a.k.a. Logan Phillips.

Look, all Tucson Poetry Festival events are free, this is poetry after all, and we all know that poetry doesn't pay (except enough for a few drinks); Viva poetry!

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