The Fall 2018 LEAF Festival

This past weekend the marked the 47th LEAF Festival. Children ran through the grounds, their giggles and laughter only overpowered by the fusion beats and South American rhymes of the House of Waters and the delectable symphony of other bands. Vendors, from Mexica Crafts and Autumn Teneyl Designs to Girl & Goblin and The Elven Caravan, had tents spread throughout the grounds. Among these tents were over 25 presenters of healing arts from massage therapists to meditation with Monks of Tibet.

The LEAF Festival is a bi-annual event that brings together families and friends to experience the power of music, art, culture and poetry. Over 12,000 people camp out or visit the festival on the beautifully majestic grounds surrounding Lake Eden, near Asheville, NC. 

The LEAF organization is committed to using music, art and festivals to create welcoming places and spaces of possibility that foster shared experiences powerful enough to transform lives, connect cultures and generate unity. The organization works with youth in and around Asheville by offering teacher artist residencies.They also work in 10 countries in an effort to engage youth in learning their cultural traditions, empowering them with the life skills necessary to be active agents of change in their communities and in our world at large. 

Through these programs, the festival holds a youth poetry slam to provide children with the opportunity to have an outlet for their work and allows others to share in their artistic expression; however, there is still a lack of youth participation. Kids and teenagers are not allowed to attend the festival without parental supervision. On top of that, tickets cost a great deal, and many parents cannot afford to buy themselves, as well as their children, a ticket. Many parents of the youth poets in the area are working and can’t take the time away to help their kids with this.

For the adult poetry slam, LEAF provides the top 12 qualifying poets tickets to the next festival. While trying to create a stronger artist base in the community, the LEAF Festival lacks the understanding to help allow budding performers to participate.

This year only five teenagers signed up. Typically a slam has three rounds with half of the poets eliminated each round. However, due to the lack of participation and the fact that many of them only had one poem, it was decided that it would merely be a reading of their work. Despite the lack of competition all the poets requested that they be scored by judges so that they might better be able to know how the crowd perceived each poem.

These kids wanted to learn, to develop their poetry. They had the courage to get up on stage in front of a crowd of near 50 people and perform their work. Sure, they stuttered and they stumbled and the wind blew so hard the papers in their notebook were thrown into chaos. Yet, despite all those inconveniences they were happy to share their pieces.

A boy of about nine was the only poet that had three poems to share. For his first piece, he strutted on stage with an amp and an electric guitar on his back. He spoke of rock and roll and after he finished reading he set down his binder, filled to the brim of his work, and rocked out. The crowd whooped and hollered giving him the encouragement he had wished for.

After it was over, they dispersed, mist into the fog of other campers, their heads not yet tall enough to show over the mass of tents that littered the fields.