Englishfest honors power of language
From poetry to music to drama, a love of language is being celebrated on campus this week.
This year marks the 15th annual week-long English festival, sponsored by the English Department.
Englishfest is among the largest student-run language arts festivals in the country, according to an overview of the festival from the English department.
This year, it has expanded to include collaborations with the University Activities Commission and Music Department, said Joanne Juett, assistant professor of English and the faculty advisor for the festival. Some new additions include a vocal recital Tuesday and a German drama Wednesday evening.
The theme this year is “Interactive English Festival,” deriving from the various forms of linguistic expression that Englishfest attendees are given the opportunity to experience, she said.
There will be presentations by English capstone students, readings and presentations by local and national authors, local music, sessions to learn about trends in literature, an open mic night and even the chance to play an Englishfest video game, according to the faculty overview.
Possible festival-goers should also know that English is not the only language that is being celebrated.
“There (were) at least 35 languages represented at the International Poetry Reading Wednesday night,” Juett said. “The festival is created each year in the spirit that we often take our language for granted.”
She added contributions would be coming from students, faculty and community members, and she hopes the festival provides a way for festival attendees to celebrate language and see it in its various forms and expressions.
Freshman Kelli Basa, University Activities Commission special events chair, said the UAC was excited to be sponsoring and bringing Dasha Kelly, a Milwaukee-born and nationally-known writer and spoken-word artist, to the festival this year.
Kelly is the founder and director of Still Waters Creative, an outreach program that uses creative writing for empowerment and leadership, according to a UW-Eau Claire press release. Kelly will be performing at 8 p.m. today in the lower level food court in Davies Center.
“The UAC hopes to help bring more publicity and student exposure to the event,” Basa said.
The UAC pairing with Englishfest was perfect timing for helping the UAC honor National Poetry Month, Basa said.
“We were thinking of things to do, and it just kind of fell into our lap,” she said.
The festival is developed and executed primarily by students enrolled in English 398: English Practicum. The course allows students to earn one to two credits for their work with the festival and is offered both semesters. Those students enrolled in the fall semester are responsible for Winterfest, a similar but smaller event that occurs in December. Students enrolled in the course also participate in some community events and speak at local schools.
Students involved in the festival have the option to participate for course credit, service learning or as a volunteer activity, according to the overview.
While Englishfest is a medium through which faculty assess the program, that is not the primary purpose of the festival, Juett said.
“The main goal behind the festival is to keep it fresh and show the significance of English that might otherwise be overlooked.”