Poetry at the Grand

Terry Phipps/Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau

If you happen to be on Mackinac Island on a Wednesday this summer, head to Grand Hotel for "Poets at the Grand"—a free, public-welcome, eight-week series centered on studying some of the world’s greatest poets. We rang up writer Jim Lenfestey, who runs the program—and who, it was rumored, had been named the Grand’s poet laureate—to talk poetry and its place on Mackinac.

So, are you really the Grand’s poet laureate?

The actual title, which appeared in a brochure to my complete chagrin and amusement, is "poet-in-residence." Poet laureate is an overstatement, and poet-in-residence is also a bit of a dramatic statement. I didn’t know I had a title at all until the brochure appeared, and there it was.

What’s the aim of these classes?

These are about what poetry is and how it works. It’s music. We read aloud and recite and discuss the poets themselves. The first year, we did Yates, William Stafford, Mary Oliver … frankly, it was killer.

Poetry and Mackinac Island seem a fitting pair.

Yes, and these classes are a gift to the island from Grand Hotel. It has a tremendous art gallery and we view this poetry program as a poetry analog to that art gallery. It’s a chance to put up the great artists of all time. In the gallery, they put them on the wall, and in the Audubon bar, across from the art gallery, where we hold the class, we put up the greatest poets who have ever written. But—poetry is a lot cheaper than a painting. It’s available to all. You can memorize a poem and carry it around with you for the rest of your life.

Check out "Poets at the Grand" every Wednesday, 10:45-11:45 a.m., starting July 12. 800-33-GRAND, grandhotel.com

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