The weekend of April 29-May 1, I attended the 2016 Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Salem, MA. I've lost count, but it's at least the fifth year I've taken part.
This year seemed different, but I haven't been able to put my finger on why! In looking over my notes, I find most are barely legible, so, my review this year will consist of a bunch of random quotes, titles of individual poems or books suggested by poets, and, a few photos.
My favorite session was a talk by Edward Hirsch. I was expecting a poetry reading, but Hirsch basically explained the origins of poetry to us all! Here are a few things he said:
Poetry "has a sustained life in culture."
The "meaning is in the relationship" between the poem and the reader. "The reader has been left out of the equation."
A poem "gives us this gift of privacy plus participation."
"Read a poem aloud--you are the instrument of that poem."
A writer of poetry has an "optimistic hope that someone will read it in the future."
He specifically mentioned a book of poetry by Afghan women. I searched online and found Songs of Love and War: Afghan Women's Poetry by Sayd Bahod Majrouh. I believe this is the book he spoke about since much of his talk had to do with work, song, and its relationship to poetry: "meter migrated into poetry from physical work." (See Kurious Kitty's post for today.)
Another enjoyable session, one that is held every year, was a panel discussion on the "State of Poetry." This year's panel was outstanding (left to right in the photo below): Gregory Pardlo, Ada Limón, Richard Blanco, and Sandra Beasley. Jennifer Jean was the moderator.
Tidbits from the session:
GP spoke of the "transmany," that is, today's poets claim a broad range of American-ness rather than one identity. He also said poets are in conversation with the larger world--they can no longer assume there is one audience for their work.
AL noted that the proliferation of social media enables a single poem to be shared and reshared, and, it can end up being read by those who don't normally read poetry. It also provides an opportunity for poets to easily "brand" themselves.
RB added that the "diversity of the self" is evident today. He identifies himself as Richard the gay guy, Richard the Cuban, Richard the engineer, and also Richard the poet. Blanco thinks we should drop the word diversity and use inclusive instead.
SB said, "You can engage through the act of listening" and that we should stop the "white framing" and listen to other voices.
I didn't note who said it, but one of the panelists said that "poetry as entertainment is okay."
One more session I'll mention had a panel with Laurin Becker Macios, David Rivard, and Charles Simic. Macios studied under Rivard and Simic at UNH and shared that once, after reading a poem in class, Simic told her, "It's a great poem, I think it needs a cat in it." She said, "Charlie taught me to be playful." She told the group that her college work was "overgrown with metaphors, but David taught me to landscape."
An interesting statement from Rivard: "'Who fed you the poison eels?' is one of the questions of poetry."
The B & B I stayed at while at the festival is the Stepping Stone Inn. It is the blue building next door to the witch museum. This was the second year I've stayed there, and I definitely recommend it!
Many of the festival's sessions took place at the Peabody Essex Museum, and although I didn't go to view the art and artifacts, I couldn't help but notice the surroundings as I went between rooms. Here are two very striking floors that I simply had to photograph!
Violet Nesdoly/Poems is hosting the Poetry Friday Round-Up this week, so please stop by!