At 7 o’clock on Friday evening, Nov. 16, the Powderhorn Writers Festival (PWF) will be celebrating 10 years of grassroots, literary endeavors, culminating in a tribute to the founding visionary, Roy McBride, who, in 1997, brought together area writers and artists in a festival that has continued to this day, hosting myriad events, from writing workshops to poetry/puppetry cabarets.
This fall’s event boasts a sweeping lineup of readers, including Amy Ballestad, Emily Bright, Laura Flynn, Margo McCreary and Maureen Skelly, that will give testament not only to Powderhorn’s rich literary past, but to its future, as they come together under the roof of the May Day Café. Roy McBride himself will be the evening’s keynote performer and will enjoy the unveiling of a new 10th Anniversary PWF broadside featuring his poetry and the visual art of Powderhorn’s renowned color woodcut master, Nick Wroblewski.
The Writers Festival firmly established its endeavors in its opening year with the publication of “Close to the Ground,” an anthology of neighborhood voices that set the tone of the Writers Festival: welcoming, committed and colaborative.. “Close to the Ground” featured not only an eclectic cross-section of established, practiced writers across literary genres, but also opened its pages to emerging teen and youth writers, which became a hit among readers and sparked the strictly teen writers anthology, “Human Seeking Same.” PWF also has published three different literary magazines and, in 1999, was proud to release one of its most successful publications, “A World Split Open,” a book of poetry by longtime Powderhorn resident Mildred Farkash Miller.
2001 brought with it a greater collaborative effort in publication, both across organizations and artistic mediums. “Human Seeking Same” is a publication that hosts over 50 youth writers, under the combined leadership of PWF and the Walker Art Center, in a mock classified ad project that took over a year to compile. PWF has also hosted a variety of contests, including a Magnetic Poetry Contest, a Jazz Lyrics Contest, a Bumper Sticker contest, and what would bring PWF a legacy of great artistic collaborations, the Broadside Project, which paired visual artists with writers and brought Powderhorn voices out of the privacy of books and into the public, an act that would be followed by the publication of a spoken word CD, “Voices of Powderhorn,” in 2004.
The sensibility of collaborative arts would be met in PWF events as well, which, throughout the years, has hosted musical performances by bands such as Ancestor Energy and a number of puppetry performances by many of the best local puppeteers, collaborations with members of both In The Heart of the Beast Theatre and Barebones Productions, in addition to a consistent, more traditional smattering of literary readings, some of which were co-sponsored by SASE. However, PWF’s greatest achievements have been the spring festivals, a week filled with a plethora of readings, workshops, and often a book fair and banquet. These events have been a pageant of artistic networking and shared creative experience, allowing writers intense, focused hours of workshop on topics ranging from poetic bravery in subject matter to choral poems in spoken word, all of whose works would be debuted alongside the festival’s other events. Plans for the future are in the hopper.
The spirit of the Powderhorn Writer’s Festival has thus far been one of inclusivity and an appreciation for what artists can accomplish together. The board has always been volunteer-led and operates with the support of many former and current South Minneapolis residents whose commitment to the literary arts has allowed this organization to enrich the lives of hundreds of people over the 10 years of its existence. For more information on events, publications and broadsides, please visit the Powderhorn Writer’s Festival website at powderhornwriters.org.