History of the People's Literary Festival
The People’s Literary Festival or PLF, once the Peoples’ Poetry Festival or PPF, idea came while Tom Murphy and Alan Berecka were putting together Stone Renga anthology between 2013 and spring of 2015. Alan Berecka said, “We should have a festival,” hand wave twirl as eye roll begins, “but neither of us is organized enough.” We called the poets in town we knew and started meetings in August 2015 and the PPF was born. Alan suggested February since most poets would like to go to a warmer climate. The first set of problems were venues, money, media and volunteers. We named it the “Peoples” after downtown Corpus Christi’s Peoples Street.
We tried to stay as autonomous as possible, but because we lacked outside funding, the 2016 Festival was on the Texas A&M University Corpus Christi campus and has continued in subsequent years. We also had two Open Mics that first year at Cactus and Vine 2016’s Festival was funded all by personal donations except for the College of Liberal Arts. In a letter dated January 7, 2016, Tom Murphy stated:
There is a growing population of poets in Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend and we thought what better way to unite these diverse groups and different genres of poetry by having a festival to share with the community. The People’s Poetry Festival: Corpus Christi will be a two-day event that will feature twenty poets across Texas and fourteen local poets, plus one from Oklahoma. Years ago, Alan Berecka, the Reference Librarian at the White Library, Del Mar College East, and I discussed the idea of a poetry festival and now with the help of the steering committee of: Robin Carstensen, Stefan Sencerz, Javier Villarreal, Alan Berecka (DMC), Sara Kaplan (DMC), Juan Manual Perez, Malia Perez and Joe Wilson (King High).
In 2017 we added the Poet Laureate program and the Robb Jackson High School Poetry Awards. These two items were conceived beforehand, but getting were too much to add in the first year. The two programs are linked in that Dr. Robb Jackson, an English Professor from TAMUCC was considered as the unofficial Poet Laureate of Corpus Christi who fostered many of the poets that started the festival.
In 2020, the PPF occurred two weeks before Corpus Christi shut down all the schools including higher education that all went online during the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2021, the PPF was fully online and since has been a hybrid between in person and online.
In the August of 2022, Tom Murphy, who had been the Committee Chair since inception, asked Sarah K. Lenz if she would be interested in taking over the festival, “Revamp it and make it new again.” Sarah agreed to co-chair the committee with her husband Over the years, the festival has hosted writers from all three coasts and many states between and continues to grow.