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With 160 participating and performing writers, the New Orleans Poetry Festival is almost a conference for writers and small press publishers, but is open to the public and some events are free.

“It’s four days of being a poet nonstop,” says organizer and poet Megan Burns. “You’re around poets, so nothing you can say is going to seem weird or strange.”

The roster of poets includes invited headliners, an international array of writers from Brazil, Uruguay, Croatia and elsewhere, small press publishers, teachers and translators. The main event is a Saturday night showcase at Siberia (2227 St. Claude Ave.) featuring award-winning poet Anne Waldman, New Orleans writer Kalamu ya Salaam, Waldman’s Fast Speaking Music and musical performances with Skin Verb and The Call Girls. Waldman is a co-founder (with Allen Ginsberg) of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute.

Events take place at the New Orleans Healing Center and other venues in Bywater and Faubourg Marigny. There’s a marathon reading featuring five-minute slots for more than 50 poets beginning at noon Thursday at The Dragonfly (3921 St. Claude Ave.). The festival runs Thursday, April 18 through Sunday, April 21.

Panels and readings address topics including gender and inclusiveness, social activism, dreams, incendiary and apocalyptic writing, experimental work, long-form poetry and more. Several small presses and writing collectives present their own writer showcases. An international visual poetics expo is at Barrister’s Gallery (2331 St. Claude Ave.) with an opening reception at 10 p.m. Friday. A small press book fair is at the New Orleans Healing Center Saturday and Sunday and admission is free.

A festival pass is available in advance for $75. Full and half-day passes for readings and seminars are available at the event. Tickets to nighttime events are available at the door. Visit www.nolapoetry.com for schedule and information.