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Fairfax County’s poet laureate reveals free poetry events coming to local parks

Two “Poetry Beneath the Stars” writing workshops are planned at Turner Farm Park for 2024 after a strong turnout for last year’s inaugural event (courtesy of ArtsFairfax)

National Poetry Month has arrived, bringing a new slate of free poetry readings and other events at Fairfax County parks.

For the final year of her tenure, Fairfax County Poet Laureate Danielle Badra has organized a second “Poetry in the Parks” initiative, inviting community members to experience linguistic and natural beauty at the same time.

Announced Monday (April 1) by ArtsFairfax, the series will kick off on April 27 with a “National Poetry Month Reading” at Green Spring Gardens (4603 Green Spring Road) in Lincolnia. D.C. area writers Camisha L. Jones, Emilia Philips, Benjamin Renne and Marcielo Shirley will participate in the reading, which is scheduled for 1-2:30 p.m.

Subsequent months will see the returns of a “Pride Month Poetry Reading” and two “Poetry Beneath the Stars” events, which were both included in last year’s inaugural “Poetry in the Parks” series.

Brought back “by popular demand,” the “Poetry Beneath the Stars” writing workshops will be held on May 4 and Aug. 17 from 7:30-8:30 p.m. at Turner Farm Park (925 Springvale Road) in Great Falls. Attendees will craft verse about the cosmos while viewing it through telescopes in the park’s Roll Top Observatory.

This year’s Pride Month poetry reading will bring Badra, Gowri Koneswaran, Brian Teare and other LGBTQ+ poets together on June 1 from 1-2:30 p.m. to highlight the role of poetry in the queer community. The event has shifted to Green Spring Garden after previously being hosted by Ellanor C. Lawrence Park in Chantilly.

“Poetry in the Parks brings together nature lovers and poetry lovers in an incredible way,” Badra said in a press release. “Last year, we had professional stargazers with a newfound admiration for poetry, and poets who were first-time visitors to a featured park creating outstanding verses. It was such a beautiful melding of worlds, which is ultimately the goal of each Poetry in the Parks event.”

The three “Poetry in the Parks” events in 2023 were attended by more than 120 people, according to ArtsFairfax, which partnered with Badra and the Fairfax County Park Authority for the program.

As part of the 2024 series, Badra will also unveil new permanent plaques with poems about nature at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park and Riverbend Park in Great Falls.

“As a long-term expression of Poetry in the Parks, the plaques will invite park visitors to reflect on their environment, with the additional opportunity to submit a poetic or artistic response to the plaque through a link on the ArtsFairfax website,” ArtsFairfax says. “Selected submissions will be featured in a digital collection.”

Appointed in November 2022, Badra became Fairfax County’s second poet laureate, following in the footsteps of “How to Prove a Theory” author and Northern Virginia Community College professor Nicole Tong. ArtsFairfax created the two-year position in 2020 as a way to promote poetry in the community.

The search for Badra’s successor will begin when applications open on April 15. ArtsFairfax will hold a virtual information session to discuss the poet laureate program from noon to 1:30 p.m. on April 23.

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