When a friend asked filmmaker Katja Esson to document a poetry conference in 2006, she hesitated.
With more than a dozen documentaries under her belt, she did not see poetry as a subject that would show up well on film. But these poets all wrote about resilience after surviving extreme hardship and persecution Hiroshima, the Holocaust, the Rwandan Genocide and Esson saw emotional truth in their work.
Stories, like gifts, just come to you sometimes, Esson said. When I saw these people on stage talking about what they had survived, I knew there was something there.
Two screenings of the resulting documentary, Poetry of Resilience, take place next Wednesday and Thursday as part of Sensoria 2013, Central Piedmont Community Colleges festival celebrating the arts Friday through April 20.
As with many Sensoria events, the documentary is an example of several art forms and will be used to discuss filmmaking and poetry. (Poet Li-Young Lee, a survivor of Chinas Cultural Revolution and a subject of Essons documentary, will attend the festival Thursday to participate in the talk.)
Esson and Lee will present their work alongside CPCC students and faculty, a level playing field uncommon to most arts festivals. CPCC English professor Amy Bagwell feels that presenting professional art with student art is a powerful way to accomplish one of her primary goals as a teacher instilling confidence in her students.
As a teacher, Bagwell said, my biggest challenge is promoting the idea that their individual voices and experiences are valid, that theyre things we want to hear. A level playing field gives them that extra assurance that, Yes, youre the only one who can do it this way.
Bagwell co-chairs Sensorias literary events and has a show of her own in the festival. The Factories Dont Install Emotion Tapes, titled after a line in an episode of The Jetsons she watched with her young son, features discarded objects that have been repurposed, giving an environment to her poems.
I think the objects that I collect and hold onto over the years have a real capacity for life and animation, Bagwell said. Ive always had difficulty letting go of something that has beauty to it, even if it has no use. These things are haunted in their own ways.
This article is part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance, a consortium of local media dedicated to writing about the arts.
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