For the first time in its 11-year history, the National Book Festival was held over two days — Sept. 24-25. And both days were chock full of authors and activities, which made it even more worthwhile to go since one day was no better than the other, depending on your author preferences.
While in previousl years the organizers have generously offered Library of Congress programs, bags, bookmarks, and audio samplers from classics, publishers do not frequent the festival and offer free books. However, this year, Penguin was in attendance and gave away a selection of children’s and young adult reads, and children and their parents, including Baltimore-area based blogger Diary of an Eccentric, engaged in a number of other activities, including the creation of bookmarks, books, and listening to authors read from their latest work. From the PBS tent to the family storytime tent, there were a number of places for parents and their kids to sit and listen to books, engage with one another, read aloud, and listen to children’s musicians.
Kimiko Hahn, spoke on Saturday, Sept. 24, discussing how many of her poems are inspired by the science section of the New York Times because she finds the concepts discussed exotic and worthy of her attention. She had a relatively crowded tent in the afternoon. On Sunday, Sept. 25, even more poetry was available for attendees as the Library of Congress experimented for the first time by including States’ Poet Laureates in their own tent for the day, formerly the Pavilion of the States from Saturday, Sept. 24. The poets laureate in attendance were mostly from around the Washington, D.C.-area, including the District, Maryland, and Virginia. But also in attendance were the poets laureate from Maine and California. Decent crowds showed up to hear Virginia Poet Laureate Kelly Cherry and Maryland Poet Laureate Stanley Plumly, who was introduced by the Architect of the Capitol — a big fan of Plumly’s poetry.
One of the biggest draws on Sunday, Sept. 25, was Yusef Komunyakaa, who online book reviewer from the Washington, D.C., area, Savvy Verse & Wit called a rock star in the poetry world. She said that meeting him was a surreal experience that left her tongue-tied, and “hearing him read his poems in his own voice is just what I imagined it to be — each has a soul and a rhythm that you can imagine, but it is SO MUCH better to hear from the source.” The tent was packed with no empty chairs and standing room only.
Please check out her videos of the reading here and here. If you attended, please take the survey.