Letter: Literary Festival responds to Namaya
As a member of the Brattleboro Literary Festival planning committee for several years, as well as a poet and writer who has participated in the Brattleboro Literary Festival as an author, I was disheartened to read Mr. Namaya's editorial titled "My Art Was Censored By the Brattleboro Literary Festival" in the October 26 issue of this paper. He has spoken out stridently for several decades about the very topics he mentions in his article: social injustice, racism, censorship, gaslighting, child abuse, and xenophobia. These are local and national issues that concern any responsible citizen and certainly every writer. Namaya has for several years enriched Brattleboro with both his musical and poetic ventures. His most memorable contribution to the Brattleboro community, at least in my memory, involved his hosting a gala event for Hayden Carruth in 2002 in celebration of the aging poet's official designation as an honorary poet laureate of Vermont.
With regard to Namaya's distress over the reception his exhibit received in the River Garden during the festival, I need to note that none of the organizers of the Literary Festival objected to the political and social causes Namaya addressed in his artwork. In fact, many agreed with the issues he was highlighting, including me. This was really a conflict over use of venue rather than a conflict of ideas. The Literary Festival's organizers and sponsors have made a strong effort over the years to invite poets whose work addresses social injustice in powerful literary ways: such writers as Carolyn Forch , Charles Simic, CD Wright, Bruce Smith, Tom Sleigh, Dwayne Betts, Yusef Komunyakaa, Galway Kinnell, David Tomas Martinez, Maxine Kumin, Philip Levine, Mart n Espada, Nicole Sealey, Tom Sleigh, Dennis Nurkse, along with many others. These writers' works are inherently political by virtue of their trenchant social and moral themes.
With a commitment toward upholding a neutral policy toward politics, the organizers of the Brattleboro Literary Festival wish only to create a welcoming literary forum each fall that enriches, inspires, challenges, and enlightens its attendees with strong fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.
Poet Laureate of Vermont
Westminster West, Nov. 4
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