expect the unexpected at the massachusetts poetry festival

    By Ashley Cunningham

This year on April 29 through May 1 is the 8th Annual Massachusetts Poetry Festival. It has its expected events, like featured poets, panels of discussion, and workshops, all the normal variety. But some events you may not expect are just as much fun and help with the creative writing process.

The event Write Poetry with a Natural Poet: A Workshop for Children and Parents allows parents to watch the magic of their children as they observe the world around them and as they are affirmed that they have a talent for wordplay. Children’s authors Burleigh Muten and Jeannine Atkins will be hosting this event, and when asked what inspired Muten to create it, she said, “Sparking and witnessing young poets engaged in the craft is a privilege. Most kids have such easy access to imagination and many are natural poets who notice rich details and love playing with words. I've led writing workshops with kids for years; most recently I created one called Writing with Miss Emily, in which all the writing prompts relate to Emily Dickinson. Seeing how seriously kids take Dickinson and their ability to capture depth and wit in their writing motivated me to propose this format for the festival. Many kids enjoy writing collaboratively with peers, so why not with parents or adult friends who also love words?” Muten also hopes that those who participate in the collaboration have fun writing together, and continue to do so after the workshop ends. This event is held at the PEM Create Space 2, on May 1st, at 10:15 AM.

Another interactive event that could trigger memories of  teenage years is Mortified, held on April 29th at 9:45 PM, location to-be-announced. The audience is asked to pull up poetry from their angst-y teen years and read them to the rest of the audience. Sure to cause laughs and blushing faces, it has been a celebrated project for years and hailed a “cultural phenomenon” by Newsweek.

The Saturday night reading (at 7:30) with Mark Doty and Marie Howe will be the most exciting event at the festival for two young emerging poets: Alma Bitran, a junior at Brookline High School, and Samantha Mackertich, a senior Creative Writing major at Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Natick. These two young women are winners of the Helen Creeley Student Poetry Prize, and part of their award is reading with the creme de la creme. It's another reason to attend the headliner reading on Saturday: hear what tomorrow's poets will sound like!

Embodied Creativity: Writing With The Self As Witness is a yoga poetry event, that uses the movement of yoga to invoke individual life experiences into poems and stories. If you have not done it before, it is a new way to engage the reader and yourself, and to allow for a new flow of thoughts. You never know what poetry or stories could be hidden in a yoga pose. You can attend this event at the Hawthorne Pickman at the Hawthorne Hotel on April 30th at 9:30 AM. Keep in mind that capacity is limited for this event.    

The Poetry Circus is another interesting event where an audience member can enter small tents and booths and hear the poetry of those associated with the Dime Museum and Carnival Circuit. You can get your fortune told through poetry or watch the performance of a juggler as you go from booth to booth. If you’re interested in this event it is being held on April 30th from 11 AM - 4 PM in the Amory Park across from the Peabody Essex Museum.

While there are numerous more unusual events at the Poetry Festival, the last one covered today is the Brown Bag Poetry: Workshop with Emily Jaeger. This workshop is being held at Charter School 3 on April 30th at 2:00 PM, and if you attend you will surely leave with a new poem of your own making. Each participant gets to choose a central image from a brown paper bag and use it as inspiration to write their poem. A challenge to your creativity, this will help you connect a roll of paper towels to the struggle of teen years, or use a shoelace to tell a love story. It all depends on what you pull out of that bag.

 Be sure to attend this year’s Massachusetts Poetry Festival, and enjoy the unique creativity that comes with it. You never know what inspiration you could find or the memories you could make.

Ashley Cunningham is a young writer and poet living in Brockton MA. She is currently finishing up her Undergraduate degree at Salem State University. A Massachusetts native she tries to travel as much as possible in her spare time. When not doing that she is reading, writing, and attempting to cultivate her backyard garden. She is recently engaged as of last fall, and is expecting a little one in October of 2016. Her ultimate goal is to become a freelance editor and teach young disabled children, as well as write children's novels.