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Bemidji Library Book Festival proves to be outstanding success

Winners of the Poetry Slam contest held on Monday night at the Headwaters School of Music and the Arts are Kristen Majkrzak (left) the second place finisher, first place winner Steve Downing and Bemidji University student and Christian rapper Ryan Peters, third place. PATT RALL | BEMIDJI PIONEER

BEMIDJI -- It has been a busy week for Bemidjians who have tried to make as many of the events scheduled for this year's Bemidji Library Book Festival.

By all counts, the introduction of workshops for aspiring authors, published authors and just interested folks proved to be an outstanding success. Attendees were able to talk to successful authors and illustrators of children's, middle school, young adult and adult fiction and non-fiction work.

The move to Headwaters School of Music and the Arts for the workshops and evening programs also proved to be a good idea.

More than one person said that they liked having the programs in the two venues this year -- Bemidji Public Library and HSMA -- it was less confusing than having to travel to different sites as was done for the past couple of years. And more than a few commented on the delicious cookies and drinks available for free at both locations.

The poetry reading of Mark Vinz and jazz accompaniment by Just Friends on the first night of the week-long activities was well received. HSMA recital hall was arranged "coffee shop style" with round tables and the obligatory candles in wine bottles for those lucky to get there and snag a seat. The late comers filled the overflow seating, which included the stairs.

Vinz, a retired professor from Minnesota State University Moorhead and the first coordinator of the university's Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, was joined by a couple of his colleagues in an evening of poetry accompanied by jazz music.

Pianist David Ferreira picked the music to go with Vinz's poem, and he and the standing bass player Bill Law accompanied the readings. It's a program they do several times a year at different venues.

Vinz, who was a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in poetry, tells his life's stories in simple verse, or as Vinz wrote in one of his pieces, "These things that weigh me down...I'll have to start giving away."

Vinz is not only willing to give to the reader an insight into the man, he also allows the reader to feel as deeply as he the anguish of a son no longer recognized by his mother or the worry of a father for his newly liberated daughter.

The evening continued with a poetry slam, a competition where eight poets read or recited an original work for a panel of judges -- John Henningsgaard, Sean Hill, Kevin McColley, Gail Rixen and Laurie Yourd. Each judge gave a numerical rating for the piece, the top and last scores were eliminated and the remaining three scores were counted and averaged.

Each poet had a three minute time limit per round to convey the work. The first round winners were Dawn Myhra, Steve Downing, Kristen Majkrzak and Ryan Peters.

The final prize winners were Downing, who won the $100 first place prize, Majkrzak the second place $60 prize and young rapper and poet Peters, who captured the third place prize of $40.

The coordinator of the event and committee member Marsh Muirhead indicated that if there is enough interest in the community, more poetry slams will continue to happen.

Barb Treat, coordinator of the Library Book Festival, said, "It's been a very successful year and the audiences seemed to appreciate all the work done this past year by the committee members. They do the work and I just put it together."

The committee who planned this year's events and say they are already planning next year's book festival are Paul Ericsson, Jess Evenson, Deb Ostman, Lynn Moore, Kristen Majkrzak, Janet Brademan, Audrey Thayer, Marsh Muirhead, Kate Smith and Jamie Lee.