It’s a Wrap: Seven People Tell Us What They Liked Best About the Festival

by Jacquelyn Malone

One person couldn’t possibly tell you what makes the Massachusetts Poetry Festival wonderful. There just too many things happening. But seven can give you a broad idea.

If you weren’t able to make it this year, here, in the words of people who did attend, is a brief taste of what you missed.

Doug Anderson

Doug Anderson

First from Doug Anderson whose most recent book is Horse Medicine:
There is something delightful about battalions of poets invading Salem. The witches approve. I can feel their emanations rattling in the woodwork of the old buildings and rising from the espresso machines. The old town becomes a stage set for this shamanic enterprise -- Essex street lined with tables of books and the Sophia Room of the Hawthorne Hotel packed to capacity for the presentations. Poetry is very much alive in this country and this particular celebration is very American in all the good ways. Hester Prynne would approve of the secrets bared here without censure in letters of fire.
Doug represents the Amherst area.
 

M J Mulholland

M J Mulholland

Here is M J Mulholland, writer and teacher from Lynn, Massachusetts.
This year’s Massachusetts Poetry Festival was a panoply of exciting, thought provoking experiences. Each event I attended left its mark on me, from the W. S. Merwin documentary, “Even Though the Whole World is Burning,” to Rita Dove and Richard Blanco’s headliner readings on Saturday night. These poets are not only prize-winning national figures but also wonderful speakers and engaging personalities. Every one of us has stories and ideas; the festival poets make art of theirs. I came away inspired to emulate their examples of activism and consciousness, and perhaps more important, their willingness to communicate what they care about.  In so many of this year’s offerings I wished my students or a missing friend could have been there.

Richard Michelson

Richard Michelson

This year’s winner of the Pitt Poetry Prize, Richard Michelson, loved meeting people:
We have a wealth of poetry events in Western MA, but it was a wonderful weekend to head east to MassPoetry Fest 2015. I loved the panels, readings, and outdoor book fair, but my favorite part was sharing informal meals with poets I respect and admire; meeting Marge Piercy over lunch, sitting down to dinner with John Murillo, Adrian Matejka and Oliver de la Paz-- none of whom I knew previously—because there was an empty chair at their table, sharing breakfast with Alice Kociemba when we arrived at a full dining room at the same time, snacking with Martin Espada and Doug Anderson after our panel.  Thanks to January, Laurin, Michael and team for creating a low key, friendly atmosphere.

Karen Skolfield

Karen Skolfield

Here is a word from Karen Skolfield of Amherst:
Here’s some Massachusetts Poetry Fest love I didn’t see coming: the mingles. I’m not a mingler; I may adore your poetry, but talking at a bar or in a group makes me seize up worse than your grad school car after two years without oil changes. But something this year – have I matured? was I wooed by the deep-fried avocado? – made them a blast. If you stood still long enough, I talked to you. I even remarked outside the Howling Wolf that it was the “least unpleasant mixer I’ve ever attended.” High praise indeed. Sign me up for next year.

Dawn Paul

Dawn Paul

Dawn Paul, a poet from the North Shore, gives us a moment of stillness at the festival.
In the hurly-burly of the Festival, it’s hard to find a quiet moment.  But this year, I stood still one morning and felt the Festival flow around me.  The early rising volunteers who set up tables and signage; booksellers setting out their wares; panelists going over notes; drivers heading to Logan; Headliners laying out their clothes in hotel rooms; Festival goers making their schedules for the day.  All this effort, for poetry.  Surely the work of all these poets and lovers of poetry must tip the world’s balance toward beauty and connection. Then I hurried to my next reading.

Joey Gould

Joey Gould

Joey Gould loved the poetry circus.
They unfolded tents. People clapped, poets read, & listeners did that cute little sigh thing when words hit them in that reflexive cute-little-sigh pressure point. Young children threw Wiffle balls at Neruda & Plath. A yellow-eyed dancer flitted between two drummers, squawking & singing. A man turned a playing card into a crown. A poet spoke while a knife flew by her body, catching in a target behind her, close enough to catch a bead of her sweat. A man danced in the trees, in the air, somersaulting yards above the ground. Then, alas, they left for the next town.
 

Robert Clawson

Robert Clawson

Bob Clawson, a Director of the Robert Creeley Foundation, just enjoyed himself!
We booked lodging and, for the first time, spent two whole days [at the festival].  It was a cornucopia of opportunities to encounter the bounty produced by poetry’s workers in the fields.  I especially enjoyed three musical shows: Big Apple Blues, Regie Gibson, and Susanna Rich’s “Shakespeare’s *itches.”  Altogether, we loved it!   

So long to Festival 2015 and all its fun!

Hey, January, what’s up for 2016?