Skagit River Poetry Foundation
arts & tourism
The SRPF is the new foundation that has grown out of the Skagit River Poetry Project. We have become our own 501 (C)3 non-profit organization and will continue to provide poet residencies to Northwest Washington schools, and sponsor community poetry events, including the biennial Skagit River Poetry Festival, the third week in May, 2014. Q. How did the Poets-in-Schools program start? Back in 1997, a group of teachers and administrators in Skagit County got together and decided that student literacy could be increased by using poetry. They looked at programs around the country and especially the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation in New Jersey for guidance. These other programs had a long track record of providing great services to their area schools and increasing literacy. So it was decided to give it a try. Who pays to put poets into the classrooms? Our poets are paid in part by contributions from school districts that are members of the Skagit River Poetry Project. Funds from individual donors and other sources such as Humanities Washington, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, the Swinomish Tribe, and the Riverstyx Foundation all contribute to off-set costs not covered by local schools. Q. How does the selection committee pick the poets who appear at the Festival and in school residencies? A poet selection committee made up of board members, looks at past festival participants and balances who has not been to the Skagit Valley Poetry Festival with our needs as a community audience. Our first consideration comes from our mission: "Students at the Heart. Poets need to represent the community of students we teach, so we look to our population and select accordingly. We also look for the poetic voices that the students have studied in classes, or poets that will excite their imaginations. It is a remarkable opportunity for students to connect with living poets whose names they have seen in their textbooks. Some poets return each year, and they are the poets who do the groundwork for our school residency programs, which have brought an estimated 500 poets to more than 300,000 students. We feel fortunate that we are able to bring many acclaimed poets to our corner of the Pacific Northwest. Our generous support base and educated community make this possible. What do the poets do? The poets we bring to La Conner do many things. They work in week-long residencies in area schools throughout the year and biennially they come to La Conner for our four-day festival. During the festival, poets do readings, panel discussions, interviews and workshops. Q. Who organizes the school program and the festival? The Skagit River Poetry Project is governed by a board and each board member wears several hats. They organize various aspects of the festival, from poet selection to programming, from fundraising to media. We begin work on the next festival as soon as we say good-bye to the current festival. The Poets-in-the-Schools program is also on-going. Each year we begin the school year with a teacher inservice for teachers who will host poets in their classrooms. We place poets in over 200 classrooms every year for more than 80 days. Q. Which Festival days are for students, and which for adults? Thursday evening is open to the general public. Friday 9 a.m.- 2 p.m. is "Students Only" Day. After the students leave, the Festival becomes "Open to the Public." Q. How do the program and the festival get their funding? Funding for the festival and schools project comes from many sources. We write grants to state, federal and private organizations, we organize fundraising events, and we get support from area school districts funds and hundreds of individual donors. Q. If I write a check to donate to the Skagit River Poetry Foundation, where does the money go? Your tax-deductible donation goes into a budget that has been approved by our board and is used to fund all aspects of the project, including the Poets-in-the-Schools program, the festival, advertising, and honorariums for poets from around the world, including their food and transportation. Contributions help us pay to have our posters and programs printed, and to cover all the expenses for services related to everything that goes into putting on a world-class event.
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