Poet Heid Erdrich Finds Motivation from Fellow Authors, Fans

Heid Erdrich will be featured at the 2017 South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood Sept. 21-24. Find her schedule on her author page. 

Festival of Books is a Source of Creativity

By Ryan Woodard

When you attend the South Dakota Festival of Books, you expect to learn from the authors. But did you know that the authors you're listening to may also be learning from you?

Award-winning poet and past Festival author Heid Erdrich said events like the Festival of Books are among her "many sources of creative motivation."

Poets and authors find inspiration from a wide range of experiences and ideas. Because they also inspire each other, an event that brings 50-plus authors together is an indispensable opportunity.

Attending fellow writers' sessions is one of Erdrich's favorite parts of the event. Being a fly on the wall is a change of pace for authors, who are often the center of attention. It's also an incredible learning experience.

"Listening to other writers is very important to me," she said.

Erdrich and others often find themselves across the hall from fellow presenters whose presentations they likely would have traveled to see.

"I got to listen to Naomi Shihab Nye three years ago," she said, remembering the award-winning poet's reading at the Deadwood event in 2013. "That was really memorable for me."

Heid Erdrich returns to the 2017 South Dakota Festival of Books as a featured author.

Inspiration from Fans

Big-name writers aren't the only people who capture Erdrich's attention during the large gatherings, however. Because authors necessarily tend to work in solitude, they are eager to rendezvous with fervent readers who aren't afraid to ask questions of their favorite authors.

From listening to lesser-known poets explain their work to hearing readers dissect novels from the audience, Erdrich counts Festivalgoers from all literary backgrounds among her "many sources for creative motivation."

Erdrich noted the value of comments she hears from audiences during Festival sessions in rooms that are oozing with well-read and creative people.

"This is the third or fourth time (at the Festival of Books)," she said. "I totally enjoyed it, so I'm really looking forward to being there. It's one of my favorite book festivals in the country."

Erdrich is just as excited to share her own knowledge as she is to learn. As someone who knows the value of good writing advice, Erdrich brings her best tips to the Festival of Books.

A Form of Art 'Meant to be Shared with the Voice

Erdrich, who is Ojibwe enrolled at Turtle Mountain, grew up in Wahpeton, N.D. Her father read poems to her when she was a child, ingraining in her the power of the spoken word. She passes his lesson along to writing students and those who attend her Festival of Books sessions.

Erdrich, who teaches in the low-residency MFA Creative Writing program of Augsburg College, recommends reading poetry aloud to her students and anyone who is interested in poetry.

"I just think it's an art that's meant to be shared with the voice," she said.

People tend to understand poetry better when they read it out loud, she explained. For poets, it's an excellent way to "recognize what you don't need on the page."

Plenty more advice will be available during Erdrich's sessions at the 2017 Deadwood event. The Minnesota poet will also share a form of art that may be new to some poetry fans.

Animated Poetry

Erdrich attended a national writers conference that featured animated poems and got the bug to create her own.

"I realized that with some of my poems, I had been making little films in my head my whole life," she said. "I wrote poems visualizing them, hearing music, hearing sounds. I didn't ever think I'd have the freedom or wonderful collaborations that made them possible."

Erdrich's poems have won numerous awards, as have her collaborative poem films, which you can see on her Vimeo channel. Her virtual gallery is www.agencyapophany.com

Erdrich is the author of five collections of poetry, including her brand-new "Curator of Ephemera at the New Museum for Archaic Media" from Michigan State University Press. Her most recent non-fiction work is "Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories and Recipes."

For more information, check out her Festival bio.

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