On the surface, it seems unlikely: a festival celebrating literature, lasting for five days and featuring dozens of writers, taking place here in the Inland Northwest. But for the third year in a row, Get Lit!, the region's own literary festival, will be doing just that -- bringing the glory of the page and the resonance of the spoken word to venues throughout Spokane.
But fear not; anyone who hears the words "literary festival," and thinks of turtleneck-wearing, coffee-soaked rarified poetry readings might be in for a surprise. Organized by Christine Holbert and Scott Poole, the mission of Get Lit! from the start has been to promote writers who live in the Northwest, and draw attention to the creativity drawn from this region.
"We want to inspire a community to read and support writers who tell this community's stories," says Holbert. "I bet there are more runners in Spokane because of Bloomsday and more people who play basketball because of Hoopfest. Those events are a celebration of those particular daily efforts of running and basketball. We'd like Get Lit! to be a similar celebration for the person who loves reading and writing. Something to look forward to. A reason to stay in Spokane."
This year's festival kicks off with a screening of the film Jesus' Son, which is based on writer Denis Johnson's darkly comic short stories (see review, page 29). The addition of a film to the lineup of a literary festival may seem unusual, but it's a perfect example of the spirit that drives Get Lit!
"People might not necessarily go see a poetry or fiction reading, but they will see a film," says co-organizer Scott Poole. "It's an introduction to the festival and to writing that will get people excited and make them feel comfortable about the festival."
And since Get Lit! is a literary festival, the opportunity to hear writers read their work aloud makes up much of the five days' agenda. Thursday night, writer Quincy Troupe will be featured at EWU's Showalter Auditorium. In addition to the widespread critical praise his six books of poetry have generated, Troupe has also received two National Book Awards -- one for his book of poems Snake-back Solos, and the other for his book on Miles Davis, Miles: The Autobiography.
According to Scott Poole, the selection of Troupe as one of the festival's featured speakers fulfilled a personal goal, as well as contributed to the festival. "First we were looking for a new face, someone with a national reputation, and someone doing something a little different than the standard poetry reading. Throwing names out, we came up with him, and it seemed like a perfect match. I had heard of him from the Bill Moyer's special on PBS. I was blown away. He wasn't just reading, he was charged with life and singing. I've always wanted to see him live since. Sometimes you have to start a lit fest to see your favorite readers."
The opportunity to connect face-to-face with a new audience interests Troupe as much as it does his listeners. Troupe says that he finds the process of giving readings of his work an integral part of the writing process. "When I'm writing, I'm interested in how a poem is crafted on the page. Then after that you learn to read a poem well. You become interested in trying to lift the poem off the page - into the audience's hearts, then minds."
Troupe also sees festivals like Get Lit!, and the exposure they bring to the printed word, as fulfilling a needed role in the world. "Everybody should read poetry. Physicists should read poetry. Engineers, bankers, politicians -- they need something for the heart and the spirit. In a society like ours, we need something for our spirits. Poets should be read and celebrated. By everybody. Mothers, teachers, truck drivers. Everybody... from top to bottom."
& & & lt;i & Get Lit! opens on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at The Met with showings of Jesus' Son at 3:15, 5:45 and 8:10 pm. Quincy Troupe reads at EWU's Showalter Auditorium at 7 pm on Thursday, Oct. 5. Call: 623-4284. For more on the Get Lit! festival, pick up next week's Inlander. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &