A group of poetry lovers and community leaders conceptualized the Kalamazoo Poetry Festival in October 2012. They brainstormed about a poetry forum and public events that could bring poets and poetry to the people of Kalamazoo in a unique way. They formed a Steering Committee to guide in the development of the Festival. The Steering Committee entered into an agreement with the Portage District Library for the PDL to serve as fiscal agent. With generous grants from the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, Kalamazoo Community Foundation, and Harold and Grace Upjohn Foundation, as well as individual and corporate donors, the KPF Steering Committee and a Programming Committee planned and presented the first Kalamazoo Poetry Festival on April 4-5, 2014. The Festival was such a success that the KPF became its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation in October 2014. The festival presented a Celebration of Community Poets in 2015. The second two-day festival took place April 15-16, 2016.
We present a multi-day Festival every other year that include readings, guest poets, workshops, craft talks, and more. In the intervening years we present at least one event highlighting local poets and poetry in our community. Check out these video highlights of our past events, the 2017 and 2016 Kalamazoo Poetry Festival the 2015 Celebration of Community Poets and the 2014 Kalamazoo Poetry Festival:
Kalamazoo is a cultural center richer than its size might lead one to think. The Kalamazoo Promise has drawn nationwide attention to our community, and is a model for how a community can invest in education for our children. The Gilmore International Keyboard Festival is a significant part of the international musical calendar. National Book Award winner Jaimy Gordon and finalist Bonnie Jo Campbell have shed a national light on our community. USA Today called Kalamazoo a “literary hotspot.”
A vibrant community of poets is one of the best kept secrets in Kalamazoo. The Festival sheds a light on this work and gives due credit and honor to the poets among us. It also provides a forum for emerging poets and support for collaboration, shining a light on the diversity in our community .
Yes, Kalamazoo is a spot on the map
And the passenger trains stop there
And the factory smokestacks smoke
And the grocery stores are open Saturday nights
And the streets are free for citizens who vote
And inhabitants counted in the census.
Saturday night is the big night.
Listen with your ears on a Saturday night in Kalamazoo
And say to yourself: I hear America, I hear, what do I hear?
Carl Sandburg, “The Sins of Kalamazoo,” Smoke and Steel, 1922