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Suzanne Vega

Poetry and More
Coming to Callicoon

By Jeanne Sager
CALLICOON — July 15, 2003 – It’ll be just like old times.
Callicoon Creek Park will play host to a meeting of the “bards” Saturday, July 19, with traditional songwriters and poets coming in from around the world to share their craft.
Officially named “Hosting of the Bards,” the festival was put together by local poet Laura Moran and part-time resident Jack Hardy, a singer-songwriter active in New York City clubs.
Internationally known singer Suzanne Vega will join some other friends and colleagues of both Moran and Hardy on the stage in the park to sing and speak, along with some local artists chosen for a morning showcase.
The goal is to bring two art forms that have been lost over the years back into the mainstream, Hardy explained.
“It’s something we’ve wanted to do for awhile,” he noted. “I work in the world of folk music and songwriting, and Laura works in the world of poetry.”
The two arts were once linked almost completely, but as record companies opted to fund only popular music that would be sure to sell a million copies, Hardy said, the less popular but equally as affecting folksy, poetic performances fell by the wayside.
They’ve been coming back, Moran said, with spoken word or slam poetry festivals across the nation – programs that began to move into the mainstream 12 years ago when Moran attended her first slam event and started writing on her own.
“When poetry slams started to take off, it revitalized the art form that had the life drawn out of it,” she noted.
The stories are universal – and because of poetry’s condensed format, it’s easy to put into words how the performer is feeling.
“It cuts to the quick and it gets to the heart,” she said.
So why Callicoon?
It’s a beautiful place, the organizers noted.
“We’d like to bring attention to Callicoon Creek Park and the work the agencies have done,” Moran noted.
There won’t be any food served at the festival – so fairgoers will have to turn to the restaurants and shops to find their meals and perhaps pick up a trinket to take home.
And the event is directed toward families – with a teenager on the crew to bring the youthful audience in, and performers ranging up through their 60s.
Bringing the festival to Callicoon is a truer test of the art form, Hardy added. In New York City, these events are likely to bring only one sector of the population, whereas the park in Callicoon serves a heterozygous population.
It’s a chance to introduce poetry and songwriting to a community that is considered underserved by the cultural arts. For that reason, Moran and Hardy were able to garner grants from the NYS Council on the Arts (administered by the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance in Narrowsburg) and a Sullivan County Arts and Heritage grant funded by the Sullivan County Legislature.
“We’re hoping we get a good mix of people,” Hardy said. “There’s a much larger potential audience out there for these art forms than is given credit by the powers that be.”
“I want people to know you don’t need a PhD to like poetry,” Moran added. “People need to come with an open mind.
“It might be something different, but it’s not going to bite you.”
The evening before Saturday’s festival, there will be a symposium from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance building on Main Street in Narrowsburg to discuss the role of poetics in times of turmoil.
Although there won’t be a political agenda to the festival, the history of poetry has a spot in politics.
“In many countries with strife and conflict, the first groups to be shut down are journalists, educators and poetics,” Moran explained.
The symposium, which is also open to the public, will explain the importance of speaking out (using whatever art form you choose) during times of oppression.
Songwriting and poetry are both forms that are accessible to everyone – whether they’re penning their own works or looking for a performance to attend.
And to emphasize that, the event on Saturday will be free, with a suggested donation of $10 for adults and $5 for children and seniors. Those funds will go to the non-profit Peacemaker Players, a former performance group based in Hortonville which has offered its non-profit umbrella to the project. The monies will be used to put together another event next year.
The event will be held rain or shine on Saturday, July 19, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the park on Audley Dorrer Drive.

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