My experience at Poetry at Round Top festival was frightening, soothing, enlightening, and overwhelming. While I walked the beautiful grounds with my name-tag, my self-proclaimed title of “emerging writer” was starting to feel like an albatross. They encourage all kinds of writers, even non-writers to attend. But, with such limited experience, it can certainly feel daunting. Especially when featured poets Naomi Shihab Nye and Coleman Barks attend. What I would like to emphasize in this piece, was how it taught me just how far and wide, old and young, experienced and inexperienced versions of writers can come in. The annual event stands as a testament to what it means to express yourself. But also what it means to not be afraid or ashamed of it.
The grounds the festival takes place at was originally the brainchild of James Dick, world-renowned concert pianist. In 1972, Dick began his project of building the grounds as well as his breathtaking, Renaissance inspired concert hall (words cannot describe its quality) to host events for aspiring young musicians. Every design, whether it was the lush gardens, the Alfred Hitchcock setting-like guest houses, the serene yet gothic chapel, and the grand hall was for the purpose of feeding the creative minds of whoever set foot there. Expanding Dick’s original image, this prestigious settlement plopped within a town whose population is only 90, attracted poets to come and express their passion. This was the birth of Poetry at Round Top.
Held once a year during one weekend in April, the event is filled with featured poets recognized worldwide, optional workshops from said poets to increase writing capabilities for a cost, open mic nights, and tons and tons of reading. The festival functions as a learning experience for all, no matter the skill level. It was during these events that helped me realize that when it comes to writing, or any other pursuit, there really is no such thing as starting late.
After I attended the first open mic night and read my poem, I felt out of place. This was mainly because every other persons’ sounded so beautiful. Part of this was due to the fact that when you attend this festival, you are surrounded by academia. Graduates and doctorates will be crawling the place. However, one women, whose poem I adored, approached me afterward and complimented me on speaking, having noticed I was a newcomer. I brushed it off, saying that I felt like I was so late in the game. She gave me this look of disbelief, then proceeded to tell me she recently got her master’s in creative writing. She was 68.
And that’s what I saw throughout the remainder of the festival. People of all kinds were simply trying to explore what they loved and shared it with people. It didn’t concern anybody when they started, it was how they started. It didn’t concern them if you were amazing, it was about improving and enjoying yourself.
I believe that’s what we forget about writing sometimes. No matter what kind of form we write in, we shouldn’t forget that writing is fun. We enjoy what it can do and the range of styles it comes in. This was just one of many things I learned at the festival.
If you’ve ever been curious about writing poetry, are already doing it and want more experience, or just love listening to it, please consider this opportunity next April. Visit their website for more information.
An event like this is rare. Consider what it is that draws you to the world of poetry. More importantly, be ready for it to diversify upon entry.