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Harvest Arts Festival brings in poets

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By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff

As fall begins and the weather cools down, local communities take advantage by hosting a number of festivals and community events. This year, Westwood had a fresh arrival on its list of season festivities: Saint John’s Episcopal Church hosted its Harvest Arts Festival, a brand-new celebration of local artistic talent and art forms. From Friday, September 13, to Sunday, September 15, visitors came to the church to celebrate the arts, and their community.

From the moment visitors entered the church on the evening of Saturday the 14th, they were mesmerized by the plethora of artwork filling the room. Attendees were invited to look and even bid on some of works, if they wanted.

“I didn’t know you used pastels!” exclaimed one observer, admiring some of the drawings and paintings on the wall.

“Oh yes, they’re my favorite medium,” replied Jennifer Philips, the artist.

The featured event of Saturday’s portion of the festival was a poetry reading. Poets of all different levels of experience were welcomed to read a few of their pieces in the church, in front of a very supportive audience. Heather Corbally Bryant began the evening. As a professor at Wellesley College, Bryant strives to to write a poem every single day. As of Saturday, she had written 5,700 poems. Her first poem, “Listening to Seamus Heaney,” was about her own experience with the Nobel Prize winner’s work, and how her own life intertwined with his existence. By the end, the audience was in awe at the twists and turns of both poets’ lives.

Ella Kohler, a newcomer on the local poetry scene, practically had her audience in tears during her first poem, “The Horribly Selfish Poem,” about the speaker’s view of watching a loved one receive a cancer diagnosis. Her third poem described the experience of walking past a lemonade stand and having an assortment of nostalgic feelings come back. Her ending line, “It’s just too sweet,” had some members of the audience snapping their fingers in support for her fantastic work.

Mary Ittig gave one of the most memorable performances. This poetry reading was her first in front of a non-familial audience. Her poems ranged from those that were written in the last few weeks to one from twenty years ago. “I’m a closeted poet,” she joked, before launching into her first work. “My Walk with Eddie,” focuses on a walk to the classroom with her and one of her special needs students. By her last line, “I rejoice at my walk with Eddie,” the entire audience had watery eyes.

Lynne Viti, who helped organize the poets for the night, knows about the importance of readings. “I think it’s good to get people to get out and read. I think if you did something like this on a regular basis, you would probably get to pull in more people like Mary Ittig, who has never read before. And I think getting someone to read for the first time, it's a very important thing. It’s a really private kind of enterprise. It’s really great to see how it goes. And I think everyone here who read had someone come up to them afterwards and say: ‘I like your poem about such and such,’” said Viti.

The Harvest Arts Festival not only provided a fantastic opportunity to support local creative talent, but also encouraged new artists to take the first steps out of their comfort zones and into the limelight.

Needless to say, the inaugural Harvest Arts Festival was a great success - one that has both artists and the community looking forward to next year’s iteration.

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