We don’t have photos yet from the Poetry Compote (if you were there and took some, please send them our way!), but host Lisken Van Pelt Dus reported that the event was well-attended and very successful.

In the afternoon, almost 150 people gathered in Edith Wharton’s beautiful living room at the Mount to hear the four winners of the 2013 Festival Essay Contest read their winning essays exploring the topic of masculinity.  Writing about their fathers, brothers, sons and–in the case of first prize winner Ellen Bliss–their favorite “butch dyke aunt,” the essays were moving and insightful, and had the audience spellbound.

Afterwards, a good time was had by all at the Gala Reception, fortified by sparkling water, wine and beautiful cheese platters supplied by Rubiner’s Cheesemongers of Great Barrington.

Essay contest winners, L-R: Hilda Banks Shapiro, Ellen Bliss, Joan Embree and Deborah Swiatek

First prize winner Ellen Bliss wrote afterwards:

“I just wanted to send a warm “thank you” for Saturday’s event.  What a wonderful experience it was for me!  I was very nervous about reading my essay in front of an audience and on top of that, at Edith Wharton’s home.  As it turned out, everyone was kind, gracious, and generous. I had nothing really to worry about.  The other winning essays were brilliant and I was honored to be in their company.”
Ellen also thanked Essay Contest Judge Katherine Bouton, saying, “She was most generous with her praise and even offered me some advice.  I am most grateful.”

Katherine Bouton introduces the winners


Lashonda Katrice Barnett

The final Festival event of the day was “Talk to Her: Interviews with Women Musicians,” a presentation at the Get Lit bar at The Bookstore in Lenox, by Dr. LaShonda Katrice Barnett of Brown University.  Festival rep Judy Nardacci reports:

“LaShonda Katrice Barnett took a rapt audience through her process of writing I Got Thunder, her book of interviews with black women songwriters that describes each woman’s process of creating music and making a career through both her gifts and her strength and persistence. Besides describing how she made connections with such renowned women, she made us all part of a conversation about such giants of the music industry as Odetta, Cassandra Wilson, and Miriam Makeba. Her gracious and engaging interactions with a group of more than twenty five knowledgeable and delighted fans of various music genres made this event a lovely way to spend the afternoon.”