The Amherst News - 2020-03-25




Alan Walter is with the Oxford Poetry Festival organizing committee.

I recently discovered there’s nothing like a good poem to get the springtime juices going! Springtime in the Northern Hemisphere officially began on March 20, and next month Canadians will be delighting in buds on the trees and lighter evenings which will bring a new spirit of optimism. It’s much needed in these trying times. Recall the words of William Wordsworth: “I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o’er vales and hills, when all at once I saw a crowd, a host, of golden daffodils ...” Or Christina Rossetti’s “Spring”: ”There is no time like spring, when life’s alive in everything; Before new nestlings sing; Before cleft swallows speed their journey back; Along the trackless track — God guides their wing; He spreads their table that they nothing lack.” From Wordsworth to Rossetti, poets have been inspired by this season of new beginning, and during the weekend of April 25 and 26 even novices to this literary art form can indulge in the third annual Oxford Springtime Poetry Festival and come away enthusiasts. We can’t resurrect Wordsworth or Rosetti, but we have some gifted talent in the festival lineup. Two young newsmakers will open our first Youth Open Mic on Saturday, April 25. Quinn MacAskill of Sackville, N.B. is a 14-year-old climate-change activist and Maria Duynesveld is an young athlete and scholar from Wallace Bay. We welcome the return of popular poet Richard Dittami, a native of Massachusetts. He describes his work as “blue collar” poetry. His aim is to mix sound, rhythm and meaning to create a sonic sculpture, and he does so in a memorable way. New to our festival is Ashley Avery of Halifax, who is a noted feminist writer, poet and advocate. She uses spoken word as a form of activism to bring the issue of injustice to centre stage. She speaks truth to power and has performed her poetry at numerous protests and community events across Nova Scotia. Avery was scheduled for last year and unable to attend. Closer to home, we have Rosaria Campbell from Wallace Station who has been a popular addition to our poetry festival since the first year. Lawry Macleod and his wife Mary are retired schoolteachers now living in Oxford. He says, “writing poetry is like breathing; when the randomness of words or breath are given a focus and a purpose, empathy, wisdom and healing result.” Lawry will share his poetry at the Café and both will be on stage at the coffee house. Judith Bauer, another multi-talented poet, watches the tides in Parrsboro, N.S., where she and her partner operate the Main & Station Nonesuch Arts Centre and Residencies. Brenda Atkinson is creative in various ways. An Oxford resident, she mounted her art exhibit, “Brush with Life”, at the Oxford Riverside Gallery last November, demonstrating her skill with the brush. On Saturday, she’ll show us another artistic side by sharing two of her poems. Along with several other poets, Bauer and Atkinson are participating in the Oxford Festival for the first time this year. To conclude, I couldn’t resist sharing this imaginative tribute to springtime by another one of poetry’s greats: “If spring came but once in a century, instead of once a year, or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake, and not in silence, what wonder, and expectation would there be in all heart to behold the miraculous change!” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.


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