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Beat this: MoSt Poetry fest Feb. 6

Poet laureate Gillian Wegener will emcee the festival.
Poet laureate Gillian Wegener will emcee the festival. MoSt Poetry Festival

Like minds will go the extra meter to celebrate their passion for poetry next weekend in Modesto.

Fans of rhythmic word will gather Saturday, Feb. 6, at the fourth annual MoSt Poetry Festival, sponsored by the Modesto-Stanislaus Poetry Center.

Modesto poet laureate Gillian Wegener said the event likely will attract poets and poetry enthusiasts, as well as some with simply a casual interest in the art form.

“Not everyone there considers him or herself to be a true poet,” Wegener said in an email. “The festival is a place for poets of all experiences to hear some great poetry, write some new poetry and be inspired to keep writing.”

Two guest poets – Troy Jollimore and Heather Altfeld, both from Chico – will highlight the festival, along with workshops, talks and a poetry contest. Guest poets from outside the region have been brought in since the event’s second year.

“The highlight is always the visiting poets and the energy they bring to the day and to all our work,” said Wegener, who will emcee the festival. “Each year builds on the one before, and we hope this festival will become a Modesto tradition.”

Registration for the MoSt Poetry Festival is in advance at www.mostpoetry.org or at the festival between 9 and 9:30 a.m. Feb. 6.

While seemingly a quiet part of the local artistic scene, poetry “in Modesto and Stanislaus County really is thriving,” Wegener said, with monthly readings at the Barkin’ Dog Grill in Modesto and quarterly readings at the Carnegie Arts Center in Turlock, as well as another monthly reading series run by poet Summer Krafft at the Queen Bean in Modesto. Former city poet laureate Sam Pierstorff also organizes the Slam on Rye and Ill List events, held more sporadically in the region.

And there are activities such as the New Year’s Poetry Challenge and events such as the city of Modesto’s Poets’ Corner and Aileen Jaffa Poetry contests, in addition to the MoSt Poetry Festival.

The festival was started four years ago by former Modesto poet laureate Ed Bearden, who sought to bring new voices and more vitality to the Modesto poetry community, Wegener said. Attendance has grown annually, with more than 50 people there last year. Hope is that will continue to blossom.

Both guest poets this year are professors at California State University, Chico. Jollimore has written several books, including the award-winning “Thom Thomson in Purgatory” and “Syllabus of Errors.” Altfeld’s first book, “The Disappearing Theater,” won the Poets at Work Prize, judged by Stephen Dunn.

“Both poets have won numerous honors and awards, and we are very pleased to have them with us,” Wegener said. Their visit to Modesto is paid in part by a grant from the James Irvine Foundation and Poets and Writers Inc.

The contest (submission deadline is now closed) will give poets a chance to share their work and compete for a cash prize. Throughout the day, members of the festival planning committee will announce winners and give them a chance to read their poems to those in attendance. A luncheon also will be provided.

The event is open to anyone high school age and up, and Wegener hopes it will attract people interested in poetry and those who are just curious.

“It doesn’t matter if you have never written a poem before or if you write poems all the time. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never connected with poetry before,” she said.

“And if you want to write and share your work, that is great, and if you want to write and not share your work, that’s OK, too. The festival is a wonderful way to spend the day in a creative venture with a warm and open group of people.”

MoSt Poetry Festival

When: 9:30-4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6. Registration 9 a.m. or in advance at www.mostpoetry.org.

Where: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 1528 Oakdale Road, Modesto

Tickets: $30 for MoSt members; $35 nonmembers

Online: www.mostpoetry.org

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