As a longtime poet, Kaveh Akbar is fully aware of the common misconceptions that non-writers have of poetry events. For this reason, he's making sure that the Divedapper Poetry Carnival defies them all.
"It's a daylong celebration, and it really will feel like a carnival," says Akbar, who is also the founder and editor of a literary hub called Divedapper.com. "There will be unhealthy fried food and cotton candy and corndogs. There's going to be dunk tanks and face painting. But then, there's also going to be poetry readings by some of the premier poets in America."
Presented in partnership with Butler University and Divedapper.com, this first-ever free event will take over Butler University's Efroymson Center for Creative Writing. In addition to numerous free workshops for both children and adults, those attending can also expect readings from Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Danez Smith and Heather Christle, who are co-headlining the event.
"We picked these poets specifically because they're very good performers of their poetry," says Mindy Dunn, administrative specialist at the Efroymson Center for Creative Writing. "It's not going to be the typical poetry reading where you come into a very academic room, and you come sit and you're sort of held captive for an hour while the same poet reads. Instead, it'll be light-hearted and joyful."
A graduate of Butler's creative writing master's program, Akbar explains that the initial idea for this carnival simply started out as a pipe dream.
"Dan Barden [an English professor at Butler] and I are good friends, and we were just kind of goofing around and talking one day about things we wanted to do," says Akbar. "He said something like, 'Why don't we do a poetry festival at Butler?' And we went back and forth spit-balling about it in the goofy way that friends do."
Eventually, the two started piecing the festival together, gaining more and more support from those in the community.
"It took me a while to actually get really invested in it and excited about it, only because I didn't think that it was a real thing," says Akbar. "But now, pretty much everything that we were spit-balling about originally in that first conversation is actually going to happen, and it's going to be the greatest, most exuberant, most positive celebration of poetry. I mean, I don't know of anything else like it."
Throughout his work with Divedapper.com, Akbar has grown to love excellent poets who are working to further the art form. For this reason, he's especially excited about the headliners.
"They're just doing everything right," he says. "They're three of the most famous poets in America, and they're still constantly finding ways to help other poets and to give of themselves."
By having these energetic writers take part in such a lively event, Akbar ultimately hopes that audiences leave the carnival with a newfound excitement for poetry.
"Poetry is very, very much a part of the world around us today, and it's very, very much alive and thriving," he concludes. "We're sort of in a golden age of poetry right now, and this event is a demonstrative sign of its good health."
(Editor's Note: This article was graciously boosted on social media by Broad Ripple Art Fair. Broad Ripple Art Fair had no input on the content in this article or the decision to create it.)