Volunteer Profiles

We love our volunteers! Between now and the festival, we'll be highlighting a handful of them here. If you've volunteered in the past and would like to be profiled, please fill out this form and we'll be in touch as space allows.

If you're interested in volunteering for the 2017 Massachusetts Poetry Festival, to be held May 5-7 in downtown Salem, sign up here. Volunteers receive free entry, a free T-shirt, and an invite to the VIP reception.

Hannah Baker-Siroty


Tell us about yourself! 
I am a poet-by-accident. Organizers of the Arlington Festival of the Arts learned of my habit of writing short stories as gifts for people. One day, long ago, my phone rang. "Globiana, will you do a story for our Arts Festival? You have four minutes." There was no way I could do a story in four minutes. I solved the problem. I wrote a poem. Four minutes. So, I had a poem. What does a person do with one poem? My poem and I stumbled into the Slam Poetry scene. Over years, I heard hundreds of people find and shout their voices. I found and shouted several of mine. Decades later, I am writing a prequel to Beowulf--adhering to the form of the original poem, but in modern English, using Anglo-Saxon-origin words. Maybe I'll never finish it. I am having so much fun, I don't care.

For which festival(s) have you volunteered, and what role(s) have you filled?
2014 -- I was a Greeter.

Globiana's poem "Jadwiga, Scylding Bride" opens like this:

Am I dead? Is this the dreaded underworld
that claims us all forever? Surely
I have traveled far to find a place
with such a distant sun, so weak,
so piteous, failing to pierce the ash-hung
air. Mere streaks of slanted light
dissolved into the grey gloom, sketching
ghostly figures gathered around her.
These pale Danes draped in thick
fur against grinding cold,
stood still and stared,
their eye-spears set upon her.
Whispers like blades being honed
-- the shushing sound of sharpening steel
made menacing mouth-swords
in an ugly language Jadwiga did not know.
Too proud to seek escape, she endured
the harsh, piercing hate flying at her
from gray eyes and grimy teeth
and tongues. Alone, determined, she trod
the sorrowful path pledged for her
to take. Her echoing shoe-heels shocked the stone
floor on which she walked. Their sound
shot into the gloom, struck the wood walls, 
and cracked back on the brave, resentful
girl and the silent, solemn Scylds
who watched her slow and steady progress
to the man Jadwiga would wed that day.

What have you enjoyed about the role you've filled? What's been the best part about volunteering?
In 2014 I thriftily avoided paying to attend the Massachusetts Poetry Festival by volunteering. Then I booked myself into the Hawthorne Hotel for the weekend. While wearing my bright yellow MPF T-shirt, I helped people find bathrooms, chatted about poetry or a colorful hat, solved minor confusions, and (during unbusy times) snuck into panels and readings. I recall grinning a lot, both to let people know I was glad they had come and to release the giggly sense I had of participating in the event.

Share with us a favorite memory from the Mass Poetry Festival!
It was windy. I suppose the poetry I offered at an outdoor open mic was carried to unsuspecting places. It didn't matter. We spoke our words. We hooted and applauded for the others. We were all stars.

Hannah Baker-Siroty

A poem by Hannah Baker-Siroty:

There is a thrum in the air, a hot heat
because maybe it is July but maybe
also the concrete resounds. The time I
kissed her on Grand and Bowery and she
whispered Bansky into my ear, said,
I remember when all of this was trees.

It was then I realized what we were headed
towards. Something short, though strong. 
Resilient, but not nearly enough.

Tell us about yourself!
I am a poet who lives in Arlington, MA. I teach writing at Pine Manor College, where I run the Creative Writing Program. I like a range of poets like Adrienne Rich, Langston Hughes, Larry Levis, Claudia Rankine, and most recently I love the work of Tarfia Faizullah. I have been writing poetry since I was a eleven or twelve. I struggled with reading and writing, and poetry provided an outlet for me to express myself without walls. I have always found it amazing that language, no matter how difficult, can be an amazing vehicle for understanding and learning. I am drawn again to poetry in these tough political times. When it seems like there is no hope, I read a beautiful poem, and poof! there is hope again, renewed and beautiful.

For which festival(s) have you volunteered, and what role(s) have you filled?
2009-2014. I did whatever was needed. I have set up events, taken pictures, run errands, checked people in. Lots of stuff!

What have you enjoyed about the roles you've filled? What's been the best part about volunteering?
I love volunteering for the festival and for Mass Poetry. I think it's so important to contribute in any way that I possibly can, and I love connecting with the festival. Volunteering is so different from presenting or reading the the festival, because you get to see how much work and dedication goes into the weekend--and to promoting poetry across the state (and in the country). It's such a good time and every time I volunteer I am extremely honored to be a part of the work Mass Poetry is doing.

Share with us a favorite memory from the Mass Poetry Festival!
One year I volunteered taking photographs, I don't remember what year, and Mark Doty was giving a talk. It was a smaller room in the Peabody Essex Museum--it was such a fascinating presentation--maybe it was on poetry and art. I think I still have some of the photos somewhere. It was an amazing opportunity, to be able to listen to Mark Doty talking about his work in such a cool intimate space, and to be up close taking photographs. Another favorite memory was a few years ago when Forrest Gander and C.D. Wright read together. I knew it was special at the time, because they are both so talented--but their work is so different and they don't often read together. Now that C.D. Wright has passed away, it makes it even more special. To have had the opportunity to hear her read--to hear her with her husband, to have had that opportunity is something I will never forget. So thanks, guys!