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Registration open for inaugural Roxbury Poetry Festival

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Arts and Culture

All events will be conducted in accordance with COVID-19 public health guidance.

Mayor Kim Janey, together with the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture and City of Boston Poet Laureate Porsha Olayiwola, today announced registration is now open for Boston’s inaugural Roxbury Poetry Festival. The festival will be held on Saturday, June 5, 2021 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and will be conducted in accordance with COVID-19 public health guidance.


“As a fourth-generation Roxbury resident, it is so exciting to see the celebration of the power of poetry come to this neighborhood,” said Mayor Kim Janey. “I look forward to seeing Boston honor its legendary and up-and-coming poets, as well as foster creative expression among community members. As we continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic, the arts are an important part of our recovery.”

The Roxbury Poetry Festival will be a biennial event centering poetry in Roxbury. The festival features several award-winning writers, panelists, and curators, and centers a keynote address from 2020 Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Jericho Brown. The day-long event culminates with a Publisher’s Poetry Slam sponsored by Button Poetry that yields a book contract for a local writer. Other events include a book talk with poet Safia Elhillo moderated by Boston Youth Poet Laureate finalist Asiyah Herrera, a reading with youth poets published in 826 Boston’s Poetry Anthology, a writing workshop led by Roxbury native Tatiana Johnson- Boria, an “Art as Life Itself” open mic, and many more. The festival is free and open to the public.

“I am beyond excited for the exchange of craft between national and local poets,” said Porsha Olayiwola, City of Boston Poet Laureate. “The goal is to provide folks with resources and a space to gather that fosters growth for all writers. It is especially important to me to be doing work within the cultural context and lineage of Roxbury.” 

Due to the pandemic and the goal to ensure a public health-conscious space, the majority of this year’s festival will take place online. If public health guidance permits, some events will take place outdoors. All in-person events for the festival will be conducted in accordance with COVID-19 public health guidance.

“Poetry is such a powerful tool for self-expression, uplifting important voices in our communities, and it is especially needed during this time,” said Kara Elliott-Ortega, Chief of Arts and Culture for the City of Boston. “This festival is an exciting way to support local artists while celebrating this historic neighborhood.”

As part of the Roxbury Poetry Festival, Porsha Olayiwola and Boston’s Youth Poet Laureate Alondra Bobadilla launched a call for “Poems for Roxbury.” Local writers Rashawnda Willams and Durane West were awarded a monetary prize and an opportunity to perform at Northeastern University’s Writer’s Week. In her poem entitled Roxbury Love, Williams writes about the deep cultural history of Roxbury. West recounts what it meant to stroll Roxbury as a young “black boy born on Magnolia”.  West opens the poem positioning Roxbury as the place for a young Black boy to be born from flowers. The Poet Laureate is encouraging residents and visitors to explore new metaphors and meaning at this year’s Roxbury Poetry Festival.

Registration and more details about the festival can be found at roxburypoetryfestival.com.