Hope at Hand, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that serves children and adolescents throughout North Florida using poetry, creative expression, journaling, and mindfulness practices, hosted its inaugural Poetry Fest in 2016. The first Jax Poetry Fest was a simple event, designed to bring poets and poetry enthusiasts together for a day of activities. That year, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry signed a proclamation declaring the month of April National Poetry Month and “encourage[d] all citizens to join Hope at Hand in recognizing that both words and hope matter.”
The festival has grown each year, in terms of both programming and participation, with this year’s event set to be “bigger and better than ever before,” according to Steffani Fletcher, executive director at Hope at Hand, Inc.
Melissa Ross, host of WJCT’s “First Coast Connect,” and Al Letson, Emmy and Peabody Award-Winning poet, playwright and radio host, will host the opening and closing ceremonies respectively.
In 2019, Hope at Hand will co-present the 4th Annual Jax Poetry Fest with Friends of Hemming Park and The Performer’s Academy, with collaboration from the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Downtown Vision, Jacksonville Public Library and a consortium of local poets, facilitators and spoken word artists. The once day-long event will now be a month-long celebration, featuring weekly workshops at MOCA, poetry readings during lunch in Hemming Park, youth poetry contests, performances during ArtWalk and a full-day poetry festival with a closing celebration.
Jax Poetry Fest has arranged for Letson, host of National Public Radio’s “Reveal,” to return to Jacksonville from California to emcee the closing celebration in Hemming Park on April 27. “We’re very thankful that Al Letson agreed to take part in Jax Poetry Fest. His voice, vision and passion have had a positive impact on so many people’s lives,” says Fletcher. “The whole Hope at Hand team is ecstatic to see such support for Jax Poetry Fest. This ambitious event would not be possible without the collaborative effort of our participating organizations and local poets.”
“We are honored to host weekly programming coordinated by an exceptional organization like Hope at Hand during National Poetry Month,” says Christina Parrish Stone, managing director of Friends of Hemming Park. “I am especially excited about the opening and closing celebrations in the park. We’ll offer park visitors multiple opportunities for hands on participation, as readers, writers and through spoken word, at weekly events throughout April. We’ll also share information about Jacksonville poets of both the past and present during lunch time exhibitions in the park.”
VIP tickets for the Jax Poetry Fest Closing Celebration with Al Letson are available for purchase on the event website, www.jaxpoetryfest.org.
by Kristi Lee Schatz