A tradition that pre-dates the first Mountain Harvest Festival in 2001, the annual Harvest of Voices reading happens Saturday evening at the Blue Sage Center for the Arts.
A "grand buffet of tasty prose and poetry," the event is a joint effort by the Blue Sage Center for the Arts and Delta County Libraries. It grew out of a poetry writing group, said local poet/artist Tara Miller. In spring the event was called the "Garden of Voices," and in autumn, the "Harvest of Voices." Early on it was all about poetry, said Miller. From the beginning, "There was always a packed house."
"The tradition of the spoken word in this valley goes way back," said Miller. While she's not positive about the year the Harvest of Voices began, based on the dates of some of her poetry, it goes back at least to 1994.
Among members of the original group were Jane McGarry, Marian Stewart, Rita Clagett, Lucy Woods-Darby, who met weekly to share their work and hone their craft. Along the way some notable authors joined in, including Lisa Jones, author of the award-winning book, Broken: A Love Story, and fiction novelist Paolo Bacigalupi.
Writers knew each other so well, said Miller, that early readings were organized into topics: landscapes, wildlife, and erotica. "At one point we each read our own set."
Early venues included the former Casa Restaurant on Grand Avenue and the Paradise Theatre. Wherever they held it, "there was always a packed house," said Miller.
Over the years the Harvest of Voices has attracted nationally-recognized local authors including conservation writer and High Country News contributor Michelle Nijhuis, poet Art Goodtimes, and Craig Childs, author of numerous books including Crossing Paths: Uncommon Encounters with Animals in the World, Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Future of Earth, and Atlas of a Lost World: Travels in Ice Age America. Childs and High Country News copy editor/illustrator Diane Sylvain are among this year's readers.
Because the event sells out every year, the Blue Sage is again partnering with The Paradise Theatre to live-stream the reading. Tickets for the Blue Sage event are $15 and available at the Blue Sage; admission to the live-stream screening at the Paradise is $5 at the door and available on a first-come, first-served basis.