An Escape to the People’s Literary Festival - The Bend Magazine

An Escape to the People’s Literary Festival

The 9th annual People’s Literary Festival was hosted on Feb. 22-24 featuring works from 72 poets and literary writers.

Del Mar College Student Tiara Sison using one of the typewriters from Austin Typewriter, Ink.

Seated inside All Saints’ Episcopal Church Corpus Christi are students, faculty and literary enthusiasts. In the front of the room stands a white-haired Polish gentleman ringing a singing bowl several times to quiet the room for a Haiku Death Match that is about to begin at the People’s Literary Festival.

The 9th annual People’s Literary Festival was hosted on Feb. 22-24 featuring works from 72 poets and literary writers. The event’s goal was to help foster education and inspire future writers.

Haiku Deathmatch hosted by Stefan Sencerz (Right) and Tito Perez (Left) reads his Haiku.

The festival was held in collaboration with faculty and students of English departments from Del Mar College (DMC) and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC). The festival kicked off Thursday at DMC featuring a panel discussing the blurred line between reality and myth. Workshops and panels carried on throughout the day ranging from matters over migration, ongoing wars and Voices of Latin America.

The Robb and Vanessa Jackson Award Ceremony was held in All Saints Episcopal Church Thursday night in honor of a Professor of TAMU-CC, Dr. Robb Jackson, and his spouse Vanessa Furse Jackson. The couple co-authored poems and books one titled, Crane Creek.   

High School Students take a portrait after being awarded for the Robb and Vanessa Jackson Ceremony.

The first place was awarded to high school student Jordan Laningham over her powerful poem titled, “Mulatto.” The second place was awarded to high school student Annora Bailey for her witty poem titled “Wizard Lizard.” After the awards, the high school students each read out their poems to end the night. 

The festival continued Friday at TAMU-CC with panels on overcoming writers’ block, transgression and connecting with others and strong voices of women in South Texas. Friday Night ended at Lazy Beach Brewing & Cafe for an open mic hosted by the Windward Review’s, Dylan Lopez and Joshua Bridgewater Hamilton. Saturday, the final day continued at All Saints Episcopal Church with panels ranging from Children’s Literary Authors Talk and Bilingual Poetry: Versos del Corazon de Tejas. 

Annora Bailey a senior High School student reads out her Poem "Wizard Lizard".
Senior high school student Annora Bailey reads her poem.

Heather Twardowski is an instructor at DMC and hosted the “How to Write a Dystopian Story” workshop.  In an interview she shared, “Write what you know and don’t disregard anything that comes to you,” further explaining “one line of inspiration can unlock a full-on creative route.”  Twardowski is aiming to be a New York Times Bestselling author and is working on several books including Outcast Island, a crime fiction and Rebel Fires Series.

The event also had vendors and the Austin Typewriter, Ink, Type-In, in which visitors took a seat and tried out the vintage typewriters while being instructed by David Torres, a master typewriter collector, on the mechanics of the machine.  

David Torres of Austin Typewriters, ink instructs Tiara Sision.
David Torres instructs Tiara Sision on how to use a type writer.

In Japan in the early 1670s, there were legends of Bashō and his students competing with an original haiku, which is a 17 or less syllable poem having no title to be judged. Over several centuries later, Daniel Ferri, a poet from the Illinois Poetry slam scene brought in Western inspiration of roasts and rap battles creating the Haiku Death Match.

The back rooms of All Saints’ Episcopal Church transformed into a Haiku Death Match hosted by Stefan Sencerz, a professor at TAMU-CC who passed out black and white flags to the audience for judging. Two poets made their way to the microphone, one wearing a white hat who would speak first and then one wearing a black hat. There were six competitors in the double-elimination competition to get three rings per game. Ashleigh Cranford and Tito Perez competed in the final round and Cranford was crowned ‘Haikuin’ champion.  

Ashleigh Cranford wins the Haiku Deathmatch.
Tito Perez and Ashleigh Cranford finish the Haiku Deathmatch.

The head of the festival committee, Sarah K. Lentz, a Professor at DMC and author of What Will Outlast Me? reflected on the PLF over the years, “You see the power that words have, to connect people and to inspire” explaining further, “We really try to be diverse and to build bridges and it’s been so exciting to see people” of diverse genres, cultures and generations, “come together and have conversations.”   

Sarah K. Lentz an Assistant Professor of English at Del Mar College and festival committee board member.

The People’s Literary Festival is usually hosted in February, next year will be its 10th annual festival. The festival provides vivid imagery through words for people to connect. Coastal Bend residents can stay updated and learn more about the authors by visiting the People’s Literary Festival.

Interested in more Arts + Culture from The Bend? Check out Word of Mouth Creates Inclusive Community.