Just think of it—a four-day celebration of poetry that immerses teachers, high school students, the general public and internationally acclaimed poets (U.S. laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners) in discussions, readings and conversations focusing on poetry! Events, some with music, were held all day and evening in performance venues seating 75 to 2,800 people. During each day of the festival, up to 10 separate stages offered different activities simultaneously.
At a time when we need to foster articulate expression in our students and honor the rich plurality of voices in our society, the poetry festival made a unique contribution. Many students remarked that they appreciated hearing about subjects no one ever mentions otherwise.
Continuing its commitment to student participation, the Dodge Foundation provided free tickets to more than 4,500 high school students representing nearly 250 schools across the country. Along with other festival-goers, these students had the opportunity to hear distinguished poets read, discuss some of the enduring questions evoked by poetry and talk about poems that have been most important to them.
During his term as laureate, Billy Collins started a poem-a-day school program with the Library of Congress called Poetry180. According to Collins, “High school students should read a poem every day of the school year to learn the value of poetry in their lives.”
Imagine all this on Maui. After all, our current poet laureate is Maui’s own W.S. Merwin!