“We have a midnight to dawn poetry marathon that is quite popular with poets who can tolerate sleep deprivation.”
— Ronald J. Jorgenson
Happy April, everyone! As you no doubt know, April is National Poetry month, and that means the annual Austin International Poetry Festival (AIPF) is almost here! AIPF is an Austin-based conference in which poets from over 50 countries across the world come together to celebrate the written and spoken word. AIPF includes unique Austin venues, a dusk to dawn open mic, poetry readings and workshops that help promote a more diverse community, music, anthology readings, and a panel discussion. This year AIPF is from April 4th to April 7th at a variety of iconic writing locations around Austin. We spoke with this year’s festival director, Ron J. Jorgenson, and are happy to share the conversation here.
Scribe: What inspired your decision to host the Austin International Poetry Festival (AIPF)?
Ron J. Jorgenson: The festival is in its 27th year, inspired originally to bring international poets to the city and expand the vision of local poets. I am a relative newcomer, having been on the Board for only 10-12 years. My personal motivation is to create an identity for the festival, enhance diversity of poetic forms presented at the festival and increase the presence of K-12 students in the audiences.
Scribe: Who is the audience that you would most like to attract?
RJJ: Most poetry organizations are aging. I would like to attract younger poets – college aged and younger. There is also a need for diversity at the festival; some of the great voices of society come from minority populations who don’t always find their way to us.
Scribe: What event in past years has been popular among AIPF attendees?
RJJ: We have a midnight to dawn poetry marathon that is quite popular with poets who can tolerate sleep deprivation. The Slam and haiku challenges attract big crowds. One year we published a “Rejected Anthology,” putting in print favorite poems of poets in attendance… but the poems had to have been rejected by editorial boards of journals prior to submitting them to us. There was some excellent poetry between those covers.
Scribe: How has the Austin and international poetry community grown and bonded through AIPF?
RJJ: There are numerous reading and writing groups throughout the city. AIPF has tried to bring members of these groups together to promote the written and spoken word. This year, we are expanding our outreach to groups along the IH-35 corridor, hoping to see if there is a distinctive poetic voice in South-Central Texas.
Scribe: What AIPF event are you most excited for this year?
RJJ: A favorite of mine will be the event that puts K-12 student artists together with poets who ‘interpret’ the students’ art in joint readings. And, we mustn’t forget the cowboy poetry sessions or the expanded emphasis on music combined with poetry.
Click here to find the AIPF official schedule of events.
We’re so excited to be a part of AIPF this year! Don’t forget to come to our special Business of Poetry WLT panel on Saturday at Malvern Books — you won’t want to miss out.