Mass Poetry Festival on the Horizon

Elle Villanelle's Poetry Bordello at the 2017 Mass Poetry Festival

A few months ago, Mass Poetry flattered me by asking me to be a regional representative for Suffolk County. If you have a poetry group or event in the Boston area that is open to the public, please feel free to add a comment with your information, or fill out my contact form.

Here’s a brief round-up of happenings at the 2017 festival,  just two weeks away, Friday to Sunday, May 5 – 7, in Salem, Mass.

This year’s headliners are: Louise Glück · Eileen Myles · Kazim Ali · Andrea Cohen · Cornelius Eady and Rough Magic · Ross Gay · Rigoberto González · Aimee Nezhukumatathil · Emily Pettit · Tom Sleigh · Dara Wier.

Tickets are $20 General Admission, $7 Senior or Student, with a $10 additional fee to attend any workshops over the weekend.

Check out the full schedule, get all the details on venues, and purchase tickets at the Mass Poetry website.

Boston Area Poetry Readings for April 2017

Photograph of a window display for national poetry month. Photo credit: J Brew via Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0

April is National Poetry Month, which means the already vital poetry scene in the Boston area kicks it up to eleven. Start off the month with the Boston National Poetry Month Festival and wrap it up with the Mass Poetry Festival in Salem. In between take your pick from all the events listed below; with so many talented poets from Boston and beyond, it’s hard to go wrong with any of them. A few shout-outs:

This coming Monday, April 3:

  • Nicole Terez Dutton, Regie Gibson, and other luminaries give the second in a series of panels on African American Poetry at the Copley BPL. I attended the first one and found it very inspiring
  • Fellow Lesley poet Eileen Cleary appears that same evening at Newtonville Books with PoemWorks
  • Jill McDonough reads at the Blacksmith House in Cambridge.

Also of note:

  • US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera appears Thursday, April 6 at Harvard
  • My former workshop-mate Grey Held reads from his second book of poems on Friday, April 7 at Chapter and Verse in Jamaica Plain
  • Boston Poet Laureate Danielle Legros Georges appears Thursday, April 27 at Rozzie Reads in Roslindale.

Saturday, April 1, 7:30 pm
“Singing the Body Electric”: Contemporary Poets Respond to Walt Whitman
Linda Bamber, Nancy Boutilier, Robert Carr, Christine Casson, Amy Clark, Jennifer Clarvoe, Steven Cramer, Tom Daley, Regie Gibson, Joan Houlihan, Dorian Kotsiopoulos, Julia Lisella, Jonathan Weinert, Gail Mazur, Lloyd Schwartz, Theodora Stratis, Joyce Swagerty, Cammy Thomas, Daniel Tobin, and Rosamond Zimmermann
Munroe Saturday Nights at First Parish Church
7 Harrington Rd.
Lexington, MA

Continue reading “Boston Area Poetry Readings for April 2017”

Boston Area Poetry Readings for Late March and All of April 2017

Photograph of crocuses over snow

March is the cruelest month, breeding
ice out of vindictive snow, frosting
wintry mix with freezing nights, forcing
whimpers from our dull mouths.

But at least there’s April — National Poetry Month — to look forward to.  As usual, there’s a convocation of poets at the end of the month in Salem for the Mass Poetry Festival on May 5-7. If you’re feeling like too much of an introvert for a mini-AWP though, you can attend one of the readings below instead.

All venues are in Massachusetts unless otherwise noted. If you have an event in the area not listed here, please feel free to leave the information in the comments. Posts are moderated.

Sunday, March 19, 2 pm
Frannie Lindsay and Lynne Potts
Brookline Poetry Series
Brookline Public Library Main Branch in Brookline Village
361 Washington St.
Brookline

Sunday, March 19, 2 pm
Celia Gilbert, Ruth Lepson, and Ethel Rackin
Cambridge Public Library
449 Broadway
Cambridge

Monday, March 20, 7 pm
Kathleen Ossip
Continue reading “Boston Area Poetry Readings for Late March and All of April 2017”

Mass Poetry Events in April 2017

April is National Poetry Month, and in a poet-heavy city like Boston it means events are as numerous and ephemeral as cherry blossoms. Here are three from Mass Poetry, an organization that recently asked me to be a regional rep for Suffolk County. Mass Poetry has a strong educational component, and these events are geared toward students and teachers.


STUDENT OPEN MIC – APRIL 1
On Saturday, April 1st from 5pm – 7pm, Mass Poetry is hosting a student open-mic at Barnes & Noble Burlington (98 Middlesex Turnpike, Burlington, MA 01803), open to all middle and high school students in Massachusetts. Poet Regie Gibson will open and emcee the event, and then the students take over. Two participants will be drawn to receive a Barnes & Noble giftcard.
Please email sara@maspoetry.org with any questions.

STUDENT DAY OF POETRY AT THE MASS POETRY FESTIVAL
Mass Poetry will host a Student Day of Poetry on Friday, May 5th with writing: generative workshops, performances and student open mics, and readings and q&as to kick off the Mass Poetry Festival in Salem, MA. After attending the SDOP, students can attend the rest of the festival for free.

Confirmed poets include Anna Ross, Enzo Surin, Hannah Baker-Siroty, Krysten Hill, Laurin Macios, Lindsey O’Neill, and Regie Gibson. Open to students grades 8 – 12. Registration is $50 per school. Email sara@masspoetry.org to sign your students up.

SUMMER PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT COURSE
Join Mass Poetry for a Summer Professional Development Course August 8 – 10. Poet Regie Gibson will lead the course at The Atlantic Wharf Building (right by South Station) where teachers will learn new techniques to invigorate the classroom next year.

While the session is geared to high school teachers working with the Common Core Curriculum, anyone who seeks to strengthen their knowledge and skills in creative writing poetry instruction are welcome to attend. Teachers can earn PDPs, while others earn Certificates of Completion.

Cost is $50. Register here.

Craft Annotation: Denise Levertov’s Use of Argument and Rhetoric

Photograph of a hummingbird sipping from a red flower.

The concept of argument and rhetoric as craft elements of poetry is very new to me and still feels slippery in my mind, which is why I wanted to focus on it. It’s a novel way to approach the art form and calls attention to a poem’s ability to persuade. According to Wikipedia, literary argument is a brief summary at the beginning of a section of poetry or prose, often used to orient the reader within a larger work. Another definition of argument is a poem’s central idea or thesis. Argument is the thing being said, and rhetoric is the way it’s being said.

In his book Poetic Argument: Studies in Modern Poetry, Jonathan Kertzer writes, “poetic thinking demands an intricate display of reason, which must call forth and submit to its mysterious double, known variously as unreason, the irrational, visionary, intuitive, or transcendent.” This extra element, which gets beyond the purely prosaic and into the realm of unconscious beliefs, yearnings, and desires, is the one that seems to baffle those who “don’t  understand poetry.” Prose writers also employ rhetoric and appeals to emotion, but poetry allows for leaps of intuition and seemingly random association more difficult to sustain in prose.

William Carlos Williams famously said, “no ideas but in things.” The poetry of Denise Levertov illustrates this aesthetic. While her poems easily evoke a particular feeling or even an idea, it can be difficult to tease out a poem’s argument, especially without converting it to dull prose. Continue reading “Craft Annotation: Denise Levertov’s Use of Argument and Rhetoric”

Boston Area Poetry Readings for Late February and All of March 2017

Photograph of the cereal aisle.

It’s easy to get cereal-aisle paralysis in Boston, especially in the spring, when the already robust list of events swells. I’ll let you in on a little secret: I rarely get to more than one or two events in any given month. But the longer days and unseasonably warm weather gave me the energy to go to not one but two poetry events in the past week. I feel refreshed and revitalized. Leave off your mind of winter and brave the mud this month. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.

Thanks to Daniel Bouchard for the bulk of the listings and to Sandee Story of the Jamaica Pond Poets for the extra listings in Suffolk County. All events are in Massachusetts unless otherwise noted.

Monday, February 27, 8 pm
Martha Rhodes and Josh Bell
Blacksmith House
56 Brattle Street
Cambridge

Tuesday, February 28, 6 pm
Kirun Kapur, Open Mic
Amesbury Public Library Poetry Series
149 Main St.
Amesbury, MA

Tuesday, February 28, 7 pm
Oswald Egger and Laura Mullen
McCormack Family Theater
70 Brown St.
Providence, RI

Wednesday, March 1, 5 pm
Arthur Sze
Morris Gray Poetry Reading
Forum Room, Lamont Library
Harvard University
Cambridge

Continue reading “Boston Area Poetry Readings for Late February and All of March 2017”

Craft Annotation: Elizabeth Bishop’s Use of Rhyme

Close-up photograph of a fish, referencing Elizabeth Bishop's famous poem "The Fish"

by Frances Donovan

In her book The Discovery of Poetry, Frances Mayes discusses rhyme within the context of repetition. This element of craft goes far beyond the end-stopped pure rhymes (mop/top) most people associate with poetry. Rhyme can be any kind of repetition of sound: slant rhymes (month/up); internal rhymes (the loud cloud growled); alliteration, consonance, and assonance (“tremendous fish,” “speckled with barnacles,” “coarse white flesh”); repetition of words, or repetition of entire lines.

Elizabeth Bishop uses all these techniques. Rhyme runs through her poetry like a subtle thread: always there, but not often when or how it’s expected. Even her prose poems (“Rainy Season: Sub-Tropics”) contain internal rhyme, alliteration, consonance, and assonance: “My sides move in rhythmic waves, just off the ground, from front to back, the wake of a ship, a wax-white water, or a slowly melting floe.” One can also interpret the overlap of events in these prose poems as a kind of rhyme. In each piece, the titular animal speaks but portrays the same encounters from a different perspective: “Beware, you frivolous crab,” says the toad. “And I want nothing to do with you either, sulking toad,” says the crab. “Cheer up, O grievous snail. I tap your shell, encouragingly,” says the crab. “What’s that tapping on my shell?” asks the snail. Continue reading “Craft Annotation: Elizabeth Bishop’s Use of Rhyme”

Craft Annotation: Voice and Point of View in Sylvia Plath’s Poetry

Photograph of bees in a hive. Photo credit: Jordan Schwartz via Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0.

by Frances Donovan

One usually hears about point of view as a craft technique in the context of prose. Students of poetry tend to focus on the speaker – “the eye of the poem,” as Frances Mayes puts it. But the two are linked. The mode of narration (first person, second person, third person limited or third person omniscient) informs the kind of “I” from which the poem unfurls. All poems have a speaker; it may be a strong presence that affects the whole tone of the poem, or it may be unobtrusive, a hidden narrator presenting facts without editorializing.

Continue reading “Craft Annotation: Voice and Point of View in Sylvia Plath’s Poetry”

Some Notes on Imbolc

Newborn lamb in a stable
  • Imbolc means “in milk,” or “in the belly.”
  • The Wheel of the Year turns to Imbolc on February 2.
  • If it is warm and sunny on this day, it will be cold for six more weeks. If it is cold and cloudy on this day, it will be cold for six more weeks.
  • Lambing season starts in February.
  • A shepherd’s hut is a tiny house on wheels.
  • At Imbolc, the shepherd is the trusted servant of the sheep. The lamb lies in the belly of the Great Mother. It emerges into darkness.
  • Shepherds wait in their tiny houses, they shiver and they stoke the fire.
  • They keep vigil with the ewes. They usher the lamb out into the cold.
  • Many cultures kill and eat a lamb in the spring. Easter happens near Ostara, when the sun shines merciless over the thawing ground.
  • Imbolc happens in darkness.
  • At the monastery, we would sing “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world. Have mercy on us.”
  • Continue reading “Some Notes on Imbolc”

Boston Area Poetry Readings for February and March 2017

A human form sculpted out of snow, sitting on a park bench

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice

— Wallace Stevens, “The Snow Man

Bring your mind of frozen junipers, of frozen ponds, of melting snow, of snowdrops and crocuses–bring whatever mind you have to a poetry reading. All minds are welcome.

Friday, February 3, 7 pm
First Friday Youth Open Mic (music and poetry)
First Baptist Church
Centre Street and Green Street
Jamaica Plain

Friday, February 3, 7:30 pm
Chapter and Verse
Susan Donnelly, Jeffrey Harrison, Jennifer Jean
Loring-Greenough House
12 South Street (across from the Monument)
Jamaica Plain

Continue reading “Boston Area Poetry Readings for February and March 2017”