I’m planning a road trip and the theme is poetry. I’ve done lot of digging to find the best destinations for poetry lovers in North America and, I have to say, it wasn’t easy.
Why poetry as a road trip theme?
Because Simon, my husband and the guy that finds our advertisers offering trips with no or low single supplements, has just had his first book of poetry published. The book is called Brought Down and has received incredible praise. A former poet laureate of Canada drew comparisons between Simon’s work and that of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Seinfeld. That puts Simon in very good company.
When a poet has his work published and his wife is a travel blogger, well, you just know that a road trip is in the plans.
We have been fortunate to be able to borrow a small RV for May and June. Spring is our time frame. North America is our playground. The price of gas is our constraint. Seeing some of the most spectacular scenery in North America is my motivation. Stopping in and doing readings across the continent is Simon’s.
So, like our honeymoon in 2017, which was a road trip around the Adriatic, this trip will not be solo. But, as with that trip, I will learn lots and share lots.
US Destinations for Poetry Lovers: State by State
As a writer, I am in the fortunate position of being able to ask for the information I need through a site that connects writers with sources. I received many responses to my query about the best destinations for poetry lovers. Not all were relevant, but there certainly were enough interesting suggestions to share with you.
- I have checked each of these listings, however, some of the color commentary on the events was given to me in the responses to my query mentioned above. If there are corrections to be made, please send them to me at the email address at the bottom of the page.
- This is not a comprehensive list. If you have suggestions, please share them in the comments below. Periodically, I’ll incorporate them into the main article for everyone’s benefit.
- Poetry Trail is a trail system located in the Kenai, Alaska Municipal Park that gives you something to ponder during your walk in nature. The Pathways to Poetry trail includes 12 posted poems along the trail written by local students. The trail even includes QR codes that send listeners to an audio recording of the author reciting their piece of work.
- In Tucson, there is the University of Arizona Poetry Center with its internationally renowned poetry library and poetry events throughout the year.
- The Tucson Poetry Festival happens in April each year. All events are free and open to the public. Much of it is also accessible online. There are workshops and readings.
There are many options in California. While I am sure there are places beyond San Francisco, all my sources focused on the San Francisco area as a great destination for poetry lovers.
- City Lights Bookstore was founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1953. In addition to being a bookstore, it is also an event venue and a publishing company.
- The Litquake festival is in October but they also hold events throughout the year, including Poetic Tuesdays which runs one Tuesday, every other month, June through October.
- The San Francisco Center for the Book is interesting if you’re into the actual making of quality books. They hold events and workshops and offer tours.
- For inspiration from nature, travel a couple of hours south of San Francisco to Big Sur. It is a place where much poetry has been written.
- Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering has been operating for over 30 years in Golden, Colorado. This multi-day event includes poetry and songs, including yodelling. It’s held in January and is a celebration of the Old West. They have a video archive of all their 2022 performances available online for a $99 donation.
- Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering is held in the September/October time frame. Events take place all across the city. Many of the daytime performances are free and tickets for the evening shows and music range from $15 to $45 depending on the performer. There’s also a motorless cowboy parade.
- Sunken Garden Poetry Festival is presented by the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, CT every September. From their site: “Featuring the top tier of American poets such as Billy Collins and Natasha Tretheway, as well as emerging and student writers from the state and region, the festival has given equal weight to the quality of text and the poet’s ability to deliver an engaging, powerful and entertaining experience.”
- The weeklong Palm Beach Poetry Festival is held annually in January. The festival features a series of Craft Talks and Readings, plus interviews and panel discussions. It usually takes place in Delray Beach. You can read about Simon’s experience at this festival here: Solo at The Palm Beach Poetry Festival.
- The Chicago Poetry Center They have the “BLUE HOUR, a free monthly online reading series and generative writing workshop hosted and facilitated by Marty McConnell.”
- Eventbrite has many events listed for poetry in Chicago.
- Southern Fried Poetry Slam is an “annual performing arts festival celebrating poetry, spoken word, and community outreach. During the first week of June every year, a city in the Southeastern region of the United States plays host to one of the largest Spoken Word and Performance Poetry tournaments.” In 2022, it will be in Louisville, Kentucky.
- The New Orleans Poetry Festival and Small Press Fair typically happens in the spring. It offers a combination of live and online readings.
- The Splice Poetry Series offers monthly poetry at the Saturn Bar in New Orleans.
- Ignite the Mic Second Sunday events are held in Alexandria, LA. “Bring a date; bring a friend. ‘Ignite The Mic’ is Central Louisiana’s #1 gathering place for poets, artists, and lovers of the arts. Join us for food, drinks, poetry, singing, and live music.”
- Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival is a month-long celebration of poetry with workshops and readings held in April at the University of Maine at Augusta.
- Massachusetts Poetry Festival is held in Salem in May on a biennial basis. The next one is in 2023. Check out Mass Poetry for more events.
- WordxWord is a week-long summer festival held in August. WordXWord also presents events year round including poetry slams, commissioned challenges, workshops, and their Poets Creating Conversation series.
- Brookline Poetry Series was founded in the spring and summer of 2001 as a place for a multiplicity of poetic voices.
- Boston University’s Poetry Reading Series “strives to make poetry a fundamental part of university and community life.” All readings are free and open to the public.
- Button Poetry Live events happen throughout the Twin Cities area on the first Monday of every month.
- Icehouse bar and restaurant in Minneapolis has Button Poetry Live events every Sunday.
- The St. Paul Sidewalk Poetry program “re-imagines the city’s annual sidewalk maintenance program and allows residents to claim the sidewalks as their book pages by creating moments of contemplation and reflection through printed poems.”
- The Loft Literary Center is located in the heart of Minneapolis. The Loft is known for hosting numerous author events, classes, writing workshops, and competitions.
- Go to Explore Minnesota’s guide to literary tourism for more inspiration.
- Sierra Poetry Festival in Nevada County was established in 2017 by the Nevada County Arts Council. The festival takes place at Miners Foundry Cultural Center.
- National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is a weeklong festival of cowboy poetry, music, and art that is held annually in January in Elko, Nevada. The festival began in 1985 and continues to bring stories of “hard work, heartbreak, hilarity, and what it means to make your way in the rangeland West.”
- Taos Pueblo is a mecca for poets and visionaries and there is something to take in, enjoy, and contemplate on every street corner in town.
- SOMOS, the Society of the Muse of the Southwest, is a space for readings, workshops, conferences, and gatherings, with thousands of used books, categorized into nearly 70 sections.
- The Taos Writers Conference was named one of the best in the Southwest by The Writer magazine and will be held July 29-31 of this year, a particularly good time for poetry lovers to visit.
- The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival is the largest poetry event in North America. It is held in October every other year. The next festival will be held in 2023. You can see videos of their last festival online. It’s held at New Jersey’s Performing Arts Center & the Newark Downtown Arts District, which has easy access from New York City.
- New York City Poetry Festival is a two-day event held in the late summer or early fall that takes place on Governor’s Island.
- Nuyorican Poets Cafe was established in 1973. It was a well-respected poetry venue in the 1970s. Located in New York City’s Lower East Side, they have open mics, slams, and poetry many nights a week.
- The Poets House is a poetry library in New York City with a rich collection of books. They also host events. It is currently under repair due to flooding in 2021 but will reopen late in 2022. In the meanwhile they are holding their Hard Hat Reading Series.
- Bowery Poetry is a spoken word poetry and reading venue in New York’s East Village. There are performances Saturday afternoons, Sundays, and Mondays.
- Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF) holds a retreat in May, a festival in the fall, and workshops throughout the year, just outside of Asheville. “Since 1995, LEAF has hosted over 16,000 performers from 104 countries… The LEAF Global Arts Experience is a creative, immersive, and interactive experience that weaves together elements of an interactive museum and an arts center.”
- Literary Portland is a site that tracks all kids of literary events in the Portland area.
- Slamandia has continued to run slams every third Thursday at 7:00 pm over Zoom. They intend to restart in-person events when possible.
- Langston Hughes Community Poetry Reading takes place in February, sharing the poems of Langston Hughes dating from the Harlem Renaissance through the 1960’s.
- The Providence Poetry Slam, ProvSlam, has been a staple within the Providence community for over 20 years. Held on every first and third Thursday of the month, the first Thursday is an all-ages slam and open mic, while the third Thursday is a youth slam and open mic. Every show has a featured poet.
- Austin International Poetry Festival is a two-day event held in April that has panels and workshops in addition to performances.
- Poetry at Round Top is an annual, three-day festival (though it’s taking a break in 2022) that includes readings, workshops, and conversations on craft. Located on Festival Hill campus between Austin and Houston, in Round Top, Texas.
- Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival The Rio Grande V.I.P.F. is a four-day poetry festival in deep South Texas on the last full weekend in April.
This is another great destination for poetry lovers.
- Library of Congress promotes poetry and literary events year-round through online and in-person programs, honors, and prizes.
- National Book Festival is about poetry and more. They coordinate live events in Washington and across the country. Check the schedule for D.C. and your state here.
- Planet Word is a museum dedicated to the power and beauty of words, located at D.C.’s Franklin School. Within Planet Word there’s an entire section dedicated to poetry, called “Word Surround”.
- Busboys and Poets is a restaurant, bar, bookstore, and community gathering place. First established in Northwest DC in 2005, Busboys and Poets is now located in eight distinctive neighborhoods in the Washington D.C Metropolitan and Baltimore areas.
Canadian Destinations for Poetry Lovers: Province by Province
For a comprehensive list of literary events in Canada check out this page on the Writers’ Union site.
- Edmonton Poetry Festival runs a few programs in conjunction with Litfest in October.
- People’s Poetry Festival in Calgary runs in October.
- Vancouver Poetry House runs many programs including Verses Festival of Words in April. It’s Canada’s largest alternative literary arts festival that includes spoken word poetry and page-based poetry.
- Planet Earth Poetry in Victoria holds weekly readings at Russell Books in downtown Victoria. They also run workshops and the Poetry Caravan that “highlights the rich cultural landscape of Southern Vancouver Island.”
- ThinAir Winnipeg International Writers Festival is a month-long celebration of books and ideas, including poetry. It’s held in September/October each year. They host workshops and a children’s festival as well.
- The Art Bar Poetry Series in Toronto is held Tuesdays at 7:00 pm at Clinton’s on Bloor Street. It’s the longest continuously running poetry series in Canada.
- Verse Ottawa produces VerseFest, an English and French poetry festival held in March.
- Artfest Kingston is held in July in Kingston, Ontario. Poets@Artfest is their programming dedicated to poetry.
- Spring Pulse Poetry Festival is held in Temiskaming, Ontario.
- Antler River Poetry hosts monthly readings and poetry workshops in London, Ontario.
- Hamilton Poetry Centre runs a monthly Workshop Series and readings throughout the year.
- Word Feast is Fredericton’s annual Literary Festival is held in October. It began as a legacy project of Fredericton’s inaugural Poet Laureate, Ian LeTourneau.
- Festival de la poesie de Montreal is held in June annually though information on 2022 is not yet available.
- Saskatchewan Festival of Words is held in Moose Jaw in July. It features all genres of literature, including poetry.
Are there events and destinations for poetry lovers that you can recommend? Leave a note in the comments section below and we will add to this post over time.
Last updated: 6th December, 2022