Poet and Port Angeles Public Library staff member K’Ehleyr McNulty has organized an Indigenous Peoples’ Day Poetry Slam, scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday via Zoom. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Poet and Port Angeles Public Library staff member K’Ehleyr McNulty has organized an Indigenous Peoples’ Day Poetry Slam, scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday via Zoom. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Indigenous writers compete in poetry slam

PORT ANGELES — A variety of indigenous writers from across the North Olympic Peninsula will partake in a public poetry slam — available free online — on Indigenous Peoples’ Day this Monday.

This event just might “help everyone understand our communities better,” said K’Ehleyr McNulty, the poet and Port Angeles Library staffer putting it together.

The 7 p.m. poetry slam will be livestreamed via Zoom, with the link provided at NOLS.org and on the North Olympic Library System’s Facebook page.

Six writers from the Native Voices poetry group, facilitated by poet-professors Alice Derry and Kate Reavey, are scheduled to compete in the slam — which is different from a poetry reading. A slam is a contest among spoken-word artists who recite their work, often with dramatic flourishes.

The Indigenous Peoples’ Day Poetry Slam is recommended for viewers and listeners age 13 and older, with parental discretion advised.

“It’s going to be powerful,” said Leslie Briggance, the public services lead staffer at NOLS. The evening’s poetry “may be deep. It may be hard to hear. But it’s important to have indigenous voices heard.”

McNulty, for her part, said the Native Voices group has been a source of inspiration. The poets meet once a month on Zoom, and “those sessions are invigorating and healing and loving,” she said.

A member of the Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation, whose traditional lands are in California, she has assembled poets from the Lower Elwha Klallam, Makah and Colville tribes, among others, for Monday’s online gathering. The participants include Brenda Francis-Thomas, Anika Stephan, David Carney and John Pritchard, while library staffers Briggance and Jennifer LuBecke will serve as hosts.

With each participant reciting for about three minutes, there will be room for more indigenous voices, McNulty added. Tribal members interested in participating in the livestreamed slam can email her at [email protected] — “or they can bring their poetry to the session, and let us know they want to read, in the chat,” she said.

“The only requirement is that they are Native poets.”

McNulty will serve as a judge during the slam; she’ll also recruit additional judges from the audience. Together they will select the slam’s winner, who will receive a $50 gift card for Port Book and News in Port Angeles. The winner will be announced later next week.

The event is part of a lineup in which Peninsula College is participating in honor of Indigenous People’s Day. Magic of Cinema, Studium Generale, House of Learning, Peninsula College Longhouse, and The Native Poets Group join NOLS in the poetry slam. Screenings of “Island Road” and a climate change discussion also are planned.

Local Friends of the Library groups have provide support for this first Indigenous Peoples’ Day Poetry Slam. For more information about the program, visit www.nols.org, email [email protected], or phone 360-417-8500.

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Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

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