Daily Lobo - Culture
Issue: 8/28/03

Poetry picnic attracts eclectic mix to festival
By Sari Krosinsky

If you're looking for a chance to get away from campus for a day, have a picnic out in the open air and experience some good writing and art to boot, the sixth annual Poets & Writers' Picnic has just what you're looking for.

"Where else can you get blacksmithing, sheep dog herding and other rural high jinx, plus music, art and good spoken word, all in the same festival?" said Dale Harris, founder of the Picnic and co-editor of the local monthly poetry magazine, Central Avenue in an e-mail interview.

The Picnic will take place this Saturday from 12-4 p.m., at the Shaffer Hotel - a historic building in Mountainair as part of the town's Sunflower Festival. The reading includes featured poets and writers, music and an open mic set against the backdrop of a folk art wall and the "Devil's Gate" in the Shaffer's gazebo garden.

Harris and her husband Scott Sharot started the Poets & Writers' Picnic six years ago, when they owned the Hummingbird Café in Mountainair.

"At the café we had fabulous monthly poetry readings and other events such as an annual garlic festival - with a Garlic Slam, of course - and I thought an event such as the Picnic would be fun for people to come to," Harris said.

Jimmy Santiago Baca, who received an Honorary Doctor of Letters Degree from UNM during the spring 2003 commencement, was one of the featured poets at the first picnic.

This year's features include poets Gary Mex Glazner, Larry Goodell, UNM alumna Kat Heatherington, Sheila Cowing and Jenny Goldberg, writers Sharon Niederman, Stephen Ausherman and Bob Monson with music by the Bozon Band.

Harris said that poets of all kinds come to the picnic from all over New Mexico.

"Some cowboy poets may pop up and rapper, slammer types. It is quite a mix," Harris said.

She also said that the location is one of the major benefits of the picnic.

"Not that I don't enjoy coffee houses, bookstores, bars, the usual venues - I'll go anywhere for good writing," Harris said. "But to have an old-fashioned picnic, spread your blanket on the grass, wear your whites and straw hat one last time before summer's over. Where I grew up in New England, after Labor Day it was poor form to dress in summer gear - whatever. It is definitely not usual or at all stuffy, this venue."

Harris said Mountainair is a "rough around the edges art town," a place where rural life comes together with a cooperative gallery, art studios and an outdoor art park called Art Alley.

Picnic goers can also check out other events at the Sunflower Festival and Mountainair's Centennial celebration. The Poets and Writers' Picnic "is very casual, a drop-in event where people come and go, stay to eat and hear the poets and writers for a while, leave to see what else is doing in town or pop into the Shaffer," Harris said.

The Poets and Writers' Picnic is a free event sponsored by the Manzano Mountain Arts Council. For directions or more information, e-mail Dale Harris at poetdale@yahoo.com.