DELRAY BEACH — The Palm Beach Poetry Festival is taking a hiatus in 2023 as it regroups from the death of its founder, Miles Coon, and searches for a new home.
Officials said the festival plans to return in 2024 in a new venue, a new city and with a new name.
Founded in 2005, the festival brought many big-name poets, including poet laureates Billy Collins, Robert Pinsky and Natasha Trethewey, to Delray Beach’s Old School Square each January. That venue will no longer be available because the city canceled its longtime contract with the nonprofit group that had organized arts events there for 32 years.
“We know many of you — our dear poetry family — will be disappointed,” the staff of the festival wrote in an announcement. “We understand. We miss you too, terribly so, but this time to regenerate on a new plot of land will allow us to reestablish ourselves and come together again, most likely in 2024.”
Poet Nickole Brown, an old friend of the festival who has attended the six-day festival each year since 2005, is stepping in as festival president.
“Because of the gifts of the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, I’ve come into my own as a poet and teacher, and this is my way to pay back what I’ve received,” says Brown, who will draw from her 20 years of experience in independent publishing and teaching creative writing. “It’s my aim to assure that what Miles started (along with the help of his dear friends, poets Thomas Lux and Kurt Brown) continues to evolve and thrive.”
“I want to see the festival continue to provide the kind of nurturing community I’ve found there, a true home for any poet serious about words and what they can do in the world,” said Brown, who was appointed by Coon himself before his death of a rare blood cancer in May at 84.
“My time at the helm of the Palm Beach Poetry Festival these past nineteen years have been thrilling and rewarding,” Coon, a former businessman and lawyer, wrote in announcing the appointment. “Poetry has made my later years in life joyful and enriched, and while ending this chapter of my life feels like a door closing, I’m proud of what’s been accomplished.”
“This is a bittersweet new chapter, but I’m pleased to see this legacy carried forward,” he said.
Coon’s full-length collection of poetry, The Quotient of Myself Divided by My Self, was published just after he died. A guestbook is available on the festival’s website for sharing thoughts and memories of Coon, or experiences from past festivals. Please visit palmbeachpoetryfestival.org/guestbook.