Watermark Art Center’s Spoken Word Series celebrates the literary arts by hosting regional authors to lead readings and workshops in our Main Gallery. We also partner with other organizations to bring distant authors to our region. Past featured writers have included poet Jane Hirshfield and Minnesota Poet Laureate Joyce Sutphen, as well as novelist Maureen Gibbon and National Book Award nominee Kevin McColley.



Poetry Slam! series hosted by Watermark Art Center

Watermark Art Center is excited to present three poetry slam events as part of the 2019 Spoken Word series.

Each slam will feature contestants reciting original poetry in three rounds of competition, with prize money for the top three finishers. The first place winner will receive $100!

Admission is free and audience members are encouraged to let their opinions on both the poetry and the judging be known. Judges are selected from the audience and score each point reading on a 1-10 point system.

Poets who wish to participate should prepare three original poems, none exceeding over three minutes. Pre-register for each event by calling Watermark at 218-444-7570. Same-day registration is available in advance of each event, but space may be full.

2019 Schedule

SLAM #1: Thursday, April 18 at 7 p.m. at Red Stu Breakfast Bar (217 Minnesota Ave NW #109).

SLAM #2: Wednesday, July 10 at 8 p.m. at Red Stu Breakfast Bar (217 Minnesota Ave NW #109).

SLAM #3: Wednesday, October 9 10 at 6 p.m. at Red Stu Breakfast Bar (217 Minnesota Ave NW #109).

SUPER SLAM: The FOURTH and final Poetry Slam 2019 will be held on December 4th, at 6:00 P.M., at Red Stu Breakfast Bar in downtown Bemidji. Food and drink available when doors open at 5:30. Prize money: $100, $75, and $50 for the top three finalists. Those who make it to round two but who do not advance will receive $20.

Poets who wish to participate should prepare three original poems, none exceeding over three minutes.

Sonny Johnson will play short sets before, at intermission, and after the Slam concludes. BONUS he has agreed to be a special guest judge. Sign up at the door or at Watermark Art Center 218-444-7570

Admission is free and audience members are encouraged to participate (loudly and with enthusiasm), cheering or jeering not only the poets, but the judges. Red Stu will provide an open bar and a special selection of appetizers. Poets can sign up in advance at Watermark Art Center (by phone or in person), or at Red Stu half an hour before the event.

Prize money for this final event was made possible by generous donations from the community.


The first three 2019 SLAMs were made possible, in part, by funding from the Bemidji Area Arts Endowment.

The Last Night of the Carnival: Book release and workshop

The Spoken Word Committee of Watermark Art Center announces an upcoming release party, reading, and discussion by Marsh Muirhead to celebrate Last Night of the Carnival, Muirhead’s new collection of haiku, published by Red Moon Press of Winchester, Virginia.

The event will place in the Forks Room at Sparkling Waters restaurant in Bemidji on Thursday evening, May 23, at 6:30 P.M.  Admission is free and bar service and appetizers will be available.

In both the reading and writing of haiku, Muirhead will share the idea that haiku are not only a form of poetry, but also work as photograph, memoir, meditation, revelation, and humor. “Haiku explore the connection between ourselves and others, the natural world, and even inanimate objects, the ‘oneness’ of human experience,” he says.

Copies of Last Night of the Carnival will be for sale at the event. Muirhead will also be offering a workshop on the writing of haiku on Saturday, the 25th, from 9:00 A.M. until noon. The event will give students the opportunity to learn about and write haiku. Cost is $25 and includes a lunch with social time following the class.

The workshop will be held on the porch of the author’s home, on the banks of the Mississippi River, just east of Bemidji (address provided at sign-up). The setting will offer a rich environment, in the fullness of spring, for inspiration.

For information about both events, contact Marsh Muirhead at mgmuirhead@midco.net or 218-556-6313.

Disability Isn’t Sexy: Book launch at Watermark Art Center

The Spoken Word committee of Watermark Art Center announces an upcoming book launch by local poet Erin Lynn Marsh. On Saturday, April 6, hear Marsh read from Disability Isn’t Sexy, her new poetry book that explores the longing, vulnerability and strength experienced while in a disabled body.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m., with the reading beginning at 6:00. A Q&A and book sales/signing will follow. Due to the sensitive subject matter, parental discretion is advised.

Disability Isn’t Sexy has been praised by several award-winning writers. Jim Cohn of the Museum of American Poets says, “Marsh invites us to access within ourselves the truth that Disability lives matter. Her poems are transformational invitations, stripped bare, openings to reflect upon and consider a re/visioning.”

Christy Merry

Opening the reading at Watermark will be special guest Christy Merry of Minneapolis. Merry writes colorful absurdist landscapes that take the listener on a journey, as well as more concrete work that touches on social issues, relational issues and struggles with faith, grief and identity.

Poetry Workshop

On Tuesday, April 9, from 6 – 9 p.m., Marsh will lead a poetry workshop at Watermark. The class is only $40. Register here.

Workshop Description:

Reframing Life’s Difficulties:  How Perspective Can Transform Our Poetry

Can poetry help us reframe a difficult situation? During this 3 hour class, participants will discuss sample poems, techniques to alter a poem’s perspective, and do some writing and discussion of each other’s work. Please bring one poem (your own or someone else’s) that you think offers a unique perspective.

Erin Marsh

Erin Lynn Marsh earned her MFA through Lesley University’s low-residency MFA program in Boston, MA. She has been published in Post Road Magazine, Sugar House Review, Paper Darts, Emrys Journal, the Hers Anthology and wordgathering.com. She currently lives, writes and teaches in Bemidji, MN.

Interested in viewing past lineups for the Spoken Word Series? Click on a year for full details! 2018 – Marley Kaul & Geri Wilimek, HC Palmer & Al Ortolani, Wendell Affield 2017 – First City Reads 2015 – Diane Pittman, Bao Phi, Lin Enger, Will Weaver, and Marley Kaul. 2014 – Jane Hirshfield and Lauren Cobb 2013 – Tom Evans, Marsh Muirhead, Susan Carol Hauser, Minnesota Poet Laureate Joyce Sutphen, and Carol Ann Russell 2012 – Great Twin Cities Poetry Road Show, Wendell Affield, and Kevin McColley 2011 – Mark Christensen,  Heid Erdrich, and Susan Carol Hauser 2010 – Sean Hill and Maureen Gibbon 2009 – Anthony Swann and Marsh Muirhead