Inside The Tent At Butler University’s New Poetry Circus

On May 14, the Divedapper Poetry Carnival will mix ballads with balloon animals.
“People tend to have this association with poetry that it’s all written by stodgy, starchy dead white dudes, and that it’s very serious and somber,” says Kaveh Akbar, a Butler University grad and creator of the poetry website “But the spirit of this event will be one of jubilation and glee.”

On May 14, Divedapper and Butler’s creative writing program are joining forces for a day of live music, fair food, and carnival games. The Divedapper Poetry Carnival will feature readings and workshops in addition to balloon animals, a dive tank, and carnival games. “Our unofficial tagline is the National Book Award meets the Indiana State Fair,” says Mindy Dunn, co-creator of the event and program administrator at Butler’s Efroymson Center for Creative Writing.

Dunn and Akbar, along with Dan Barden—a professor in the English department—set out to create an event that would bring together members of the larger community (not just poets) to engage with verse. “We feel like we’ve got this great cultural asset here,” Barden says. “We’re hoping that a lot of people who are not familiar with us will come and meet our graduate students and our professors.”

While there will be many regional poets, the carnival has three headliners who will read their work and lead the workshops: Aimee Nezhukumatathil (pictured), Danez Smith, and Heather Christle. For Akbar, who selected the poets, it was important to choose those who already had been “divedapped”—that is, interviewed on his website. “I also picked them because all three of them are really active in the poetry community in terms of reaching out to young people and building communities wherever they are,” he says.

Nezhukumatathil is the author of three poetry collections including Lucky Fish, which won the gold medal in Poetry at the Independent Publisher Book Awards. Smith is the author of [insert] Boy, the winner of the 2014 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. Christle is the author of The Trees The Trees, which won the 2012 Believer Poetry Award.

Planning to attend? Dunn and Barden ask you to RSVP on the Facebook event page. The food is free, but bring a pen and money to buy books.