Quilts: An Ekphrastic Anthology, History, and a Festival


When many people think of ekphrastic poetry, they think of the poet writing what he sees in a painting or other art form. Quilted Poems: An Ekphrastic Collaboration of Poets and Quilters is a twist on that. Instead of the poets writing feelings or what they saw in the art, quilters created art based on what they saw in our poems.

The submissions opened last summer. Quilters read through poems and were allowed to choose pieces that inspired them to create that image. Once they chose poems, they created pieces that would be exhibited in the 33rd annual Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival at the Hampton Roads Convention Center. It will be held February 24 – 27, 2022.

My primary memories of quilts are of the small blanket that was on my grandmother’s couch. I may have had a large quilt for my bed, but I’d always called anything on my bed a blanket (because it was bigger). So, I decided to ask about types of poems that would be best, and I looked for quilts online. I had no idea this festival existed, much less happened nearby every year.

Kathleen, the editor of the anthology, was kind enough to answer my questions and provide some basic history on quilting. I spent a few hours over the next three days learning. I saw international festivals, watched interviews, learned that there are different styles, discovered there’s a quilting channel, and saw the person known as the “quilting queen.” (I guess if we can call someone the “king of pop” then we can have a “quilting queen,” right?)

So, yes, I was fascinated and found myself watching everything from lessons to documentaries. There were a few videos that stood out to me, but I really liked these two. One discussed history and how quilts were used for communication on the Underground Railroad. The other has living historians.


“The Knowledge Exchange – Quilts of the Underground Railroad”


"The Quiltmakers of Gees Bend"



There’s more history and things to learn if you keep looking…

One ticket to the show will grant entrance for all four days. I’ve been looking forward to seeing these displays for the last few months. The same way I like to hear background information on poems is the same way I’d like to know more about these quilts…plus, I’d like to see them up close.

Here’s a short video showing displays, workshops, and participants at a past quilt festival.


Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival XXII



If you get a chance to attend, consider doing it. I’ll be reading my poem on Friday and Saturday morning. There will be poetry read periodically over the weekend. If you don’t get to go or would simply like a copy of the anthology collection of poems and quilts (pictures), you can purchase a copy through Bookbaby or order one through Amazon.

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