Hartford Poetry Festival: 20 Languages – Why Does It Matter?


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By Bessy Reyna
CTLatinoNews.com Contributor

 April is National Poetry month and poets all over the country have to dust-off their nice clothes, get their poems together and be prepared to get invitations, which tend to come mostly once a year. For some of us, every month is Poetry Month. We read and write poems and attend poetry readings as frequently as possible.
Connecticut is one state where poetry flourishes year-round. There are numerous poetry groups, some are local, others, like the Connecticut Poetry Society, are statewide and open to everyone. In Hartford, there is a program at the Billings Forge on Broad St (next to Firebox restaurant); poet Jim Finnegan has organized the readings presented the first Monday of every month, featuring local poets and including open microphone, which allows published poets and those just starting to get together and share their work.
My love for poetry started in fourth grade in Cuba when I was selected to recite a poem by Jose Marti at the school assembly. The way those words flowed and turned as I said them, were like a magic candy I didn’t want to end.
It is that love of poetry that took me to accept an invitation by Kristina Newman-Scott, director of the City of Hartford’s Marketing, Events and Cultural Affairs Division (MECA), to organize a poetry festival for the city.  My challenge was how to best bring poetry to every neighborhood. Luckily, Brenda Miller, Chief Cultural Affairs and Public Programming Officer at the Hartford Public Library, decided to embrace my idea of presenting poets in each of the library branches and to have a “Grand Finale” on April 19th. That particular program would include members of immigrant communities reading poems from their countries in their own languages.
When I asked people from different communities if they would read a poem from  their country at the festival, they were excited.  They wanted to demonstrate the love of literature for their homeland;  a lot of  countries revere poetry, because poets give them – the  people – a voice.  This one-of-a-kind poetry festival helps us celebrate our diversity and literature.
Because of Newman-Scott and Miller’s support we will be able to present HARTFORD LOVES POETRY, a two-week festival, starting April 7th at the Park Street branch, featuring poet Jose B. Gonzalez, and continuing every day at a different branch.  The festival ends on Saturday, April 19th, at the downtown library, with a program from 1-4pm.  That day, we will be able to hear poems in Chinese, Italian, Nepalese, Spanish, Hindi, Bosnian and many others of the seventy languages which are spoken in Hartford.
For more information about the program visit ..www.hplct.org, call  860-695-6300, or write to me at bessy_reyna@hotmail.com.
Bessy Reyna is the arts editor of Identidad Latina newspaper and a frequent contributor to CTLatinoNews.com