In 1996, the Academy of American Poets designated April as National Poetry Month, a time, according to the academy, to "widen the attention of individuals and the media to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage." In 2007, the Pasco Arts Council started an areawide poetry competition and celebration, the Jacaranda Poetry Festival, with the nationally published, award-winning poet Bob Zappacosta, the council's official resident poet, spearheading the event.
Since then, the annual naming of winners and reading of poetry has grown — and outgrown — several venues, with standing-room-only crowds gathering to share, listen and appreciate this sometimes challenging art form.
On Saturday, the fifth annual Jacaranda Poetry Festival will take place at the Centennial Library and Pasco Arts Council art center at 5744 Moog Road in Holiday. This year's competition drew 80 poems by 38 area poets, said Laura Knox, assistant executive director of the council.
The event starts at 1 p.m. in the library with the naming of this year's winners of cash prizes and certificates, and readings by the winners and others, then moves to the arts center for refreshments and the new, second part of the poetry celebration, the Art of Poetry Exhibition.
The unusual combined art and poetry exhibit was Zappacosta's creation and was curated by him.
It features a dozen of Zappacosta's poems, accompanied by original art either inspired by the poem or the inspiration for the poem.
In most cases, "Bob wrote the poems first, then personally selected the artists" to create a piece of art to accompany each one, said Ann Larsen, executive director of the center. "In some cases, some (artists) already had work completed that Bob felt went with his poem."
In one instance, he chose a red, black and silver geometric work by the late MADI artist Volf Roitman to accompany Just Like a Martin Scorsese Film, a vaguely erotic piece that is also illustrated by photographer Paula Showen's Red, an extreme closeup of what appears to be the combination lock on a piece of red luggage.
The poems in the Art of Poetry exhibit are relatively short and mostly literal, the majority of them seminarrative vignettes resembling blank verse, but not necessarily in blank verse's particular meter, or "flow of thought" verse with heavy use of enjambment.
The tone of some is pastoral, such as Misty Mornings & Covered Bridges in the Late Afternoon; some romantic, such as Because the Night Is Cold, accompanied by Suzanne Natzbe's clair du lune sur l'tang; some evocative, such as Talking Sylvia, with references to writer Sylvia Plath, accompanied by Eva Berman's oil on canvas Lost in the Garden Without Hope, which conveys the troubled poet/novelist's frame of mind; and not a few that deal with anger, rejection and aggression, most notably an untitled poem accompanied by artist Trish Demasky's mixed-media piece Six Months Without Hot Water.
Perhaps the most generally appealing artworks are two large oil-on-canvas representational pieces by Matt Ellrod in the front exhibit room, one simply named Silk, showing a couple in a sensuous embrace, the other Apricots, a seminude woman gazing enigmatically toward the painter. Zappacosta's passionate remembrance, Symphotrichum Novae-Angliae (a multipetaled New England aster), accompanies the former; and the mysteriously named, four-line Plymouth the latter.
"He's worked on this for more than a year," Larsen said.