Dig Baton Rouge

Open Your Ears and Close Your Mouth

By Kasha Lishman

When you think of literature, “festive” may not be the first word that comes to mind. You might think of having to drive to the library and, after a tedious amount of time spent devoted to finding a book in some genre that you vaguely remember, sitting quietly for at least 15 minutes and skimming before leaving. What if you could be read a book while enjoying a beer? At a bar? With music?

English graduate students partnered with the efforts of the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, EGSA, and New Delta Review are hosting the 6th annual Delta Mouth Literary Festival, an event that draws creators of literature from across the country. The event begins Thursday, April 3rd at the Haven Listening Room and continues on for three more days and three more venues, ending Sunday at Radio Bar.

“It started as a project by a couple of students in the MFA program,” festival co-coordinator James Nelson explains, “There was another literary festival before Delta Mouth, but it was losing funding. A few graduate students took it over and now (Delta Mouth) is one of the longest-running literary festivals in Baton Rouge.”

The event is free for everyone, creating an easily accessible medium for the spoken word.

“There are no other festivals that are free like this. It’s just a great excuse to bring really talented authors to the area. This particular festival brings authors from all over the country,” Nelson said. “One of our poets is bringing a musician with him—a lot of our poets are towing the line between poetry and musicianship.”

However, flying notable authors like Donald Dunbar and Cris Creek from across the country is no easy feat. The organizers receive a small amount of funding from the English Department, something which is almost unheard of when organizing a literary festival.

“We had to raise all the funds ourselves along with the small bit of department funding we had. We held several fundraisers—the Drag Ball that we hold annually in the fall is a big hit. We also had several events at Radio Bar—the Valentine’s Day Party and now Scrabble nights,” Nelson said.

In addition to events hosted around the city, a Kickstarter was started, drawing funds from fans, supporters, friends, and the coordinators themselves. The group reached their $5, 000 dollar goal at the last possible second.

“I didn’t know much about Kickstarter before now. I didn’t know if you didn’t raise all your goal, you don’t get to keep any money,” Nelson laughs. “We set a pretty high goal. You have to bet on yourself.”

For the community, Nelson hopes that through this new and exciting medium, that more people can be exposed to the beautiful and diverse culture of literature today.

“We just want people to appreciate and enjoy literature. It’s a great experience. There aren’t many literary festivals in Louisiana—it’s not something that you can just go to. We always strive to bring diverse writers, culturally speaking, we’re just trying to foster the literary base in Baton Rouge, get this experience, and expand in the future.”

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