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Ginsberg poetry festival and art installation to join Volunteer Park’s Pride 2019 festivities

If You Want To See Something Look At Something Else by Geoffrey Farmer

With Saturday’s Volunteer Park Pride Festival again bringing the celebration of queer love and civil rights to the northern Capitol Hill green space, two Seattle arts groups are planning a new Pride event for the historic Capitol Hill park.

Hugo House and Western Bridge announced this week they will host a poetry festival celebrating Beat poet and LGBTQ icon Allen Ginsberg  later this month in Volunteer Park. The festival will include local and visiting poets, writers, and artists, and a photographic installation by Canadian artist Geoffrey Farmer titled If You Want To See Something Look at Something Else, displaying images of Ginsberg.

Tree Swenson, executive director of Hugo House, believes the festival captures how Ginsberg’s advocacy for the LGBTQ community remains prevalent in 2019 through exhibitions of art, photography, spoken word.

“Ginsberg’s politics along with his loving kindness allowed him to advocate for acceptance in many different ways. He led the way to showing how make acceptance a reality, which is still important in 2019, given the threats we’re facing echo some of the threats his book Howl faced in the late 1950s.” Swenson said.

Ginsberg poetry festival and art installation: If You Want To See Something Look At Something Else


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The festival is hoped to celebrate the many facets of Ginsberg’s advocacy in relation to pride, as poets will present tribute readings and Farmer’s photographic installation will include fifty images of Ginsberg. According to Swenson, Ginsberg’s advocacy extended beyond the LGBTQ community, encompassing a larger progressive framework and worker’s rights, guided by his Buddhist faith.

“We are hoping in a tribute reading like this there will be a range of different perspectives on Ginsberg’s impact on the literary and larger world. He was a cultural icon, and his impact extended beyond the isolated world of literature and poetry. He was a symbol for a lot of the changes that happened in the 1960s.”

Swenson says this contemporary effort aligns with Ginsberg’s unabashed expression of his beliefs and queer identity in his work.

“Back then being out was significant in itself, and now we’re able to talk about all these varieties of human experiences, gender expressions, and sexualities because Ginsberg refused to be quiet about the fact he was gay.” Swenson said.

Ginsberg’s trailblazing advocacy combined with contemporary efforts culminating in pride month will be displayed and discussed in various mediums at the Festival. Swenson said each element of the festival is important in preserving Ginsberg’s legacy.

“Something I really love about this festival is how it brings together visual art and the art of words, both of which are enormously powerful in shaping public opinion and thought.”

The Ginsberg poetry festival will take place on Saturday, June 22 in Volunteer Park with poets, writers, and artists, including Dorothea Lasky, Rae Armantrout, Ron Silliman, Sadie Dupuis, Ryo Yamaguchi, Laura Da’, Andrew Schelling, and Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore. The installation will be on view near the Volunteer Park amphitheater from mid-June to mid-September 2019.

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