More than two dozen poets read at PoetryFest 2014 on April 1 at the Sanibel Public Library.
The island's celebration of poetry began 14 years ago when a small group of writers met at the Hirdie Girdie Art Gallery to read their work, explained co-organizer Joe Pacheco. PoetryFest continued growing each year and was hosted in one of the library's meeting rooms earlier this month.
Pacheco said that this year's participation was higher than it has ever been before.
Sawyer Michaelson earned second place in the annual poetry contest for 'Tarantula's Den.' MCKENZIE CASSIDY.
"This year, more than ever, because there is a poetry boom in Southwest Florida," said Pacheco. "People are looking towards poetry to help them enjoy their lives, to understand their lives, and a lot of us have been writing more accessibly."
Pacheco, a retired New York City school superintendent who has published three books of poetry -- most recently Sanibel Joe's Songbook -- said the event was scheduled to coincide with National Poetry Month in April, adding that it was held in the library because more space was needed and that was where poetry belonged.
The event highlighted winners of an annual poetry contest, featured readers, and any other aspiring writers who wanted to share their work. Pacheco said 84 poets submitted work to the contest this year, an increase from 18 in 2013.
Adult winners included Linda M. Davies in first place, Meg Eden Kuyatt in second place, islander Holly McEntyre in third place, and finalist Brenda Hunt. In the children's category, Spencer Caughey earned first place and Sawyer Michaelson second place. The contest was judged by Pacheco, Dr. James Brock from Florida Gulf Coast University, and Jim Gustafson.
Pacheco said that the participating poets were accomplished and many had been previously published.
"I think we're succeeding; more and more people are getting interested in writing poetry," he said.
Poetry's new found popularity on the island is due, in part, to work that is far more accessible to the masses, said Pacheco, like the work of U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, who read on Sanibel in February as part of the library's annual author series.
"What we have been doing is trying to write poetry about things that are happening to them and everyday kind of experiences," said Pacheco.
Many of the writers from PoetryFest are also participating in "Broadsides: Poetry off the Shelf" at the Lee County Alliance for the Arts on April 17 from 7-9 p.m.
Twenty-poetry inspired works of art will be displayed on broadsides -- a printed medium combining text and images -- and the poets will read their works aloud at a reception in the Foulds Theatre lobby.
For more information about that event, visit artinlee.org.