Poets from all around the world gathered in the atrium of the University Downtown Center to share their work and participate in “Crossroads: The Fourth Annual Binghamton International Poetry Festival,” which took place Saturday afternoon and featured 15 poets and musicians performing in a variety of languages and styles.
Organizers including Italian professor Mario Moroni and Brian Trimboli, a Ph.D candidate studying English, put their contacts together to get poets and musicians from around the world to come to Binghamton for the event.
“Mario got me through the creative writing department,” Trimboli said. “So we reached out to the right people and it kind of just worked out.”
Some artists came from as far as Iran, Hungary and Italy. Performances included readings of 14th century Persian poet Hafez in both English and Farsi, a musical number dedicated to Emily Dickinson sung in Italian and a piece about the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.
Performers each took their turn on stage — sometimes one at a time, other times in groups. During intermissions, the audience was able to speak with performers while snacking on refreshments or buying CDs and books by the performers, which were sold in the back.
This was Trimboli’s first year as an organizer. He said he would like to see this festival continue to return every year as a part of Downtown Binghamton’s budding art scene.
“A lot of people don’t know this but Binghamton has a great art scene. We have a great community here and the more that we put in, the more we will reap from it,” Trimboli said.
He said that this year, his goal for the festival was to be centered more on the different cultures featured from around the world while still bringing the local community together.
“For a while, the festival was a lot of Binghamton grad students. We minimized the University’s impact on it and brought in members from the community, like people from the Binghamton Poetry Project,” Trimboli said.
The Binghamton Poetry Project is a literary outreach program that is part of the Binghamton Center for Writers and is designed to bring awareness for art and literacy. Through poetry, the program aims to bring together Broome County and BU.
New Yorker James Ellis also performed. He has taught poetry to inmates and homeless people as a way of self-expression and he said that he hopes people will walk away from this festival with an understanding about the power of words.
“Poetry gives people a chance,” Ellis said. “I think festivals like this help to bring back what pure poetry is supposed to be about — transcendence through the power of words.”
Shai Re’em, a senior majoring in psychology, said he was surprised at the interesting variety of performances and that his favorite was the back and forth readings of Hafez poems in English and Farsi.
“It was really cool how there was someone playing music behind the performance. A lot of it wasn’t in my native tongue, but I didn’t necessarily have to listen to the words to appreciate the delivery,” Re’em said.
Paola Diaz, a senior majoring in psychology, also appreciated the diversity of the festival.
“It was nice to see how culturally diverse it was,” Diaz said. “Even though I didn’t know these people and they’ve lived completely different lives, I felt I could still relate to them and feel their emotions and experiences through their poetry.”