11th Annual National Book Festival

For the first time ever, the National Book Festival will be over TWO days!

Yes, you heard me right; TWO DAYS!  This Saturday and Sunday, the National Mall in Washington, D.C., will be buzzing with book lovers, authors, and more.

Did you know that the Library of Congress has its own YouTube channel?  You should check out some of these great videos with authors and musicians.

If you are going to be in town early for the festivities, please check out the other special events book-ending the festival, here.  There will be a combination outdoor and reading event with former NFL linebacker Chris Draft on Sunday, Sept. 25.  I love events where books are read aloud.

I was getting excited about the festival because it will be the longest amount of time I’ve been out of the house with “Wiggles,” our daughter.  Rhapsody in Books will be there, and she’ll get to meet “Wiggles” in person, so that should be fun.  I have plans to go again on Sunday, which may be a solo trip since football is on, to meet one of my favorite poets, Yusef Komunyakaa, in person — whom I’ve missed out on meeting several times and I consider on the level with rock stars.  Yes, you heard that right, and I’ll probably be tongue tied when I see him.

The festival theme this year is the joy of reading books aloud, and I’d like to take that a step further by having you read this poem aloud.

Facing It
by Yusef Komunyakaa

My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn't,
dammit: No tears.
I'm stone. I'm flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way--the stone lets me go.
I turn that way--I'm inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap's white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman's blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird's
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet's image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I'm a window.
He's lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman's trying to erase names:
No, she's brushing a boy's hair.

In honor of this poem, I’ll likely head down to the Vietnam War Wall at some point to take photos since I promised myself to do it this year and get some bookmark material for our War Through the Generations participants.  I had also hoped to go with my uncle, who to my knowledge has never been, for the first time, but that’s not going to happen this year…maybe some time in the near future.

If you’d like to get together, while I’m there, I’ll likely be in the poetry/prose tent more often than not.  But I could be at the wall.  We might just run into each other, don’t hesitate to say hi.  I’d love to hear about your experiences at the festival.

Also, if you want to learn more about what’s going on with the festival and more, check out my DC Literature Examiner article.


  1. http://Dawn%20-%20She%20Is%20Too%20Fond%20of%20Books says

    Have a great time at the Festival, Serena – you , Wiggles, Jill, books … hopefully some sun.

    I’m happy for you, to meet a favorite poet who you’ve never had the chance to meet before. Get pics, even if you’re stumbling over your words 🙂

    • I will have to impose on the kindness of someone at the festival to take our photo together since Cris won’t be there with me. I’ve wanted to meet Yusef for gosh more than 10 years.

  2. Serena, this poem is beautiful, so powerful, I love the imagery…I’ll be reading it again.

    I’m so excited for you that you’re going to meet your favorite poet, Yusef Komunyakaa.
    Have a wonderful time at the festival, introduce Wiggles to the wonderful world of book festivals! I hope you’ll share your experience a little bit!

    • I’m glad that you enjoyed the poem. It is even more powerful when you read it aloud. I’ll likely be posting about the Festival afterward. Sometime next week or Sunday night.

  3. Yay, I didn’t realize Wiggles was coming too! Can’t wait! :–)

    • Yup, you said you wanted to meet her, so she will come. She may come later in the day with Cris or with all of us when I arrive. Not sure yet.

  4. I hope you have a blast! I wish I could join you!

  5. This festival has always sounded like so much fun. Someday…

    Give Jill a hug from me. One of these days I hope I get to meet all of you!

  6. Have fun at the festival! Stay dry! 😉

  7. I will be there both days. See you there.