2022 Newburyport Literary Festival Poetry Events

Saturday, April 30 – Poetry Readings via Zoom

8:30–10:00 AM  Breakfast with the Poets. Yet another year without coffee! But we’ve got strong poetry to get you up and going.  Seven Powow River Poets, Midge Goldberg, Don Kimball, Jean Kreiling, Zara Raab, Andrew Szilvasy, Paulette Turco, and Deborah Warren, will read from books they’ve published since last year’s festival.  

Registration Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_QoQaGVBxTaS7iMzMqq2h7w

10:15-11:15 The Poetry of Richard Wollman and Kirun Kapur. How much of the world is gathered in the work of these two poets from Amesbury, just across the river! In their cadences we hear echoes of the Psalms and the Ramayana. They bring us news from Steubenville, Basra, Surat; from Ashkelon and the defiled Jewish cemetery in Carpentras. But they also bring our attention to what’s happening in the sky above the Merrimac river and in the waiting room of the hospital, for theirs are intensely personal poems. Richard Wollman’s newly published work is a love poem which reads like a whispered prayer to “the twin gods of want and need.” Kirun Kapur’s new book makes expressive use of silence and dares to utter in compassion what emerges from silence, words left unsaid for generations.

Registration Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_4JRPYg0qQ6exIq4fzoG9jA

11:30-12:30 The Poetry of Taylor Byas and Greg Williamson. Two bright stars in the firmament of formalist poetry, Greg Williamson and Taylor Byas extend tradition by inventing their own forms and by adapting inherited forms to meet new challenges. At a time when our understanding of reality has been radically transformed, Williamson brings the language of thermodynamics and quantum physics into the sonnet sequence. Byas uses the six recurring words of the sestina to send a message about the new reality of social media; she addresses the cyclical violence of racism in the repeated lines of the pantoum. If one can speak of the cutting edge of tradition, this is it. 

Registration Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_N1TcxdrVTmGcwOYVUWXIgw

12:45-1:45 The Poetry of Caitlin Doyle and Jeffrey Harrison. The ancient connection between poetry and memory is everywhere apparent in the work of Caitlin Doyle and Jeffrey Harrison.  The first-generation Irish-American poet Doyle, who first encountered the sound of rhyme and cadenced language in anthologies found on her parents’ bookshelves, creates memorable lyric poems of her own. In long meditative lines of verse, Harrison recalls and relives the arc of his own journey through a life replete with love and loss. As Stanley Plumly notes, his “writing has that quality of being at one with the experience.”

Registration Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_AUEGOzeuRLKc0BDPvPRA1g

2:00-3:00 The Poetry of Danielle Legros Georges & Geoffrey Brock. As Danielle Georges reaches back into “the waters of history” in Haiti and to the island’s French legacy, she finds a gorgeous, resilient voice that echoes Baudelaire, and operates by vivid juxtaposing of images.  She advises, “do not turn . . . //Against a neighbor. . . // Your human // Self, keep it alive. A type/ Of flame.”  If Georges’ influences are French, Goeffrey Brock’s are Italian, for it was through his translations that he acquired a formal aplomb. “Everything wants to dream itself into something. . .” writes Brock—and write he does with eloquence, whether it’s an ode to Ovid with stanzas in three meters and perfect rhyme, or variations on the theme of Orpheus, who knew “I couldn’t bring her back, / Because it wasn’t her / But grief that I love. . .”

Registration Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_pgDJcHFYS9CPwTASRxuEkw

3:15-4:15 The Poetry of Regie Gibson & Marilyn Hacker. These astute, urban poets eschew the garret; they’d rather work with other poets, dead (through translation) or alive, Marilyn Hacker most recently in a book-length renga, a collaboration with the French-Indian poet Karthika Naïr, and Regie Gibson in the classroom, hip-hopping with teenagers, “We gotta do a Mic Check, an Everything-all-right Check,” translating “The Cat from Strat” (Shakespeare) into 21st C. dialect and calling, like Hacker, for greater social responsibility: The one life I have, Hacker knows, “will be “same” unless I make it “other.” Being American isn’t always easy. “Once, it was lucky,” says Hacker, whose grandparents immigrated to the U.S. before the Holocaust, while Gibson calls on us to rewrite our dark “isms” with new ones—”the right to remain black and not shot-ism,” for example. 

Registration Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_AwLdXfTCSYGeYlq6lCuTnAewbury

Ann Sexton and Her Kind

“On Ann Sexton and Her Kind,” a discussion of Sexton’s venture into pairing poetry with music with her band’s manager and her daughter, includes recently released tapes of original concert material. Well worth watching.

The 80th Writers Conference at Ocean Park, Maine: August 12, 2021

I’m pleased to return to the beautiful coastal town of Ocean Park to teach a class titled “Forms of Repetition.” The so-called French Forms have been popular for centuries as intricate games with language that often use their sophisticated play to convey, with apparent lightness, some of the least “light” aspects of life. Some have been called obsessional forms, others perfect mechanisms for encapsulating memory, still others brave little dances in which the human spirit faces down the inevitable.

In this workshop, poets are invited to draw on something in their personal experience —whether pleasant or painful—that bears repeating, to see what can be made of it.

The conference takes place from August 9 to August 13, 2021. My one-day seminar will be held on August 12. Click here for more information.

The Frost Farm Conference, August, 2021

Here’s exciting news: There will be a Frost Farm Poetry Conference in 2021! It’ll take place in August, a little later in the summer than usual. I’ll be teaching a workshop called “Common Meter and The Ballad. Other instructors include Deborah Warren, Dan Brown, Caitlin Doyle, and Midge Goldberg. If you’ve never attended this annual gathering in Derry, NH, you owe yourself the experience. If you have joined us before, I don’t need to tell you that it’s something you don’t want to miss.

Click here for more information:

2021 Newburyport Literary Festival Poetry Events (April 23-24)

Note: All events will take place via Zoom except for Saturday night’s melopoeia, which Port Media will stream on the internet and show on Newburyport Cable TV’s Comcast Channel 8. Links and further details will be made available at the Literary Festival Website soon.

Friday Evening April 23th Festival Opening Event via Zoom

6:00 PM Opening CeremonyLiving Glass: The Poetry of Deborah Warren

We kick off our festival weekend with a celebration of this year’s honoree – poet Deborah Warren.  Deborah is fascinated by the mutability of things, the ever-changing nature of everything in existence. She’s aware that she has set herself an impossible task: the reality she tries to capture in her poetry was never made to stand still. In her poem, “The Glassblower,” she scolds the craftsman who “should have stopped before” it hardened, “when there was nothing yet to shatter, only possibility and prism.” What quickness and lightness of intelligence it would require to work that way—the very qualities that make Warren’s art so exquisite! 

Join us to hear Deborah in conversation with Ernest Hilbert,book critic for the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, and winner of the 2017 Poets Prize

Presenters: Vicki Hendrickson, Jennifer Entwistle, Ernest Hilbert, Deborah Warren

Saturday, April 24th – Poetry Readings via Zoom

8:30-10:00 AM  Breakfast with the Poets. The Literary Festival happens only once a year—get an early start! Unfortunately, digital coffee and pastry are a poor subsitute for what Gina usually provides us. As for poetry, however, we’ve got the real thing to offer. Eight Powow River Poets, Paulette Turco, Michael Cantor, Anton Yakovlev, Joan Kimball, Kyle Potvin, A M Juster, Al Basile, and Anne Mulvey, will read from books they’ve published since our last “Breakfast” together. 

10:15-11:15 AM Nagging Questions: The Light Verse of Midge Goldberg and Chris O’Carroll. Here are two poets who aren’t afraid to ask the important questions (“What’s your sign?”). They’re not afraid to ask other kinds of questions, either, including the rhetorical ( “Are you sick of being seen as a cutie?”), the metaphysical (“Is it tomorrow yet?), the questions that arise from tattoo regret (Can I unprick my skin?), and those soul-searching questions we all ask ourselves upon entering a room, (“What did I want in here?”).  Midge Goldberg and Chris O’Carroll are unquestionably two of the brightest wits in po-biz. 

11:30 -12:30 PM A Visit with Natasha Trethewey We are honored to present Natasha Trethewey our first annual X. J. Kennedy Prize for Excellence in Poetry. The excellence of Trethewey’s literary work is no secret; she received the 2007 Pulitzer Prize and was chosen to serve as the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States (2012-2014). In his citation, Librarian of Congress James Billington wrote, “Her poems dig beneath the surface of history—personal or communal, from childhood or from a century ago—to explore the human struggles that we all face.” Trethewey was the first Southerner to receive the honor since Robert Penn Warren, in 1986, and the first African-American since Rita Dove, in 1993. Our distinguished guest will read from her poetry and from her memoir, Memorial Drive (2020)and she will engage in conversation about her work and life with local luminary Rhina Espaillat. 

12:45-1:45 PM Wary of Destruction: The Poetry of Susan de Sola & Robert W. Crawford. Both of these outstanding poets have connections to Robert Frost’s farm in Derry, NH —Crawford as founder of The Frost Farm Conference and de Sola as a recipient of the The Frost Farm Prize— but the connection goes deeper than that. Both poets are distinguished by their respect for the tradition of poetry that Frost embodied and the craftsmanship he demanded. And both of these makers seem warily “aquainted with the night,” and its way of undoing things. “The sea is a hammer, a rough refiner,” de Sola warns. Crawford doesn’t even trust himself: “Feeling the cold creep through the watery glass,/There is… a part of you—admit it!—That wouldn’t mind the starting all over again.”

2:00 – 3:00 Public Poems and Private Songs: The Poetry of Martha Collins and Ernest Hilbert. Martha Collins has written extensively about American’s open wound —race and racism— including a book-length poem based on a lynching her father witnessed as a child. Her most recent book, however, is a sequence of poems so private that she did not originally intend to publish them. Ernest Hilbert, too, has dared to wear the mantle of the public poet. Critics often compare Hilbert to Robert Lowell, not only because he allows his personal demons a say in his poetry, but also because, in many of his poems, his intended audience is not one reader or a small group of aficionados, but our nation, these hardly-united States —whether or not our nation is willing to listen.

3:15 – 4:15 The Art of Conversation: The Poetry of Rachel DeWoskin and Charles Coe. Anyone who pictures the poet as a stock character should be forewarned: here are two poets who break the mold. Rachel DeWoskin, who has authored five critically-acclaimed novels and once starred in a Chinese soap opera, and Charles Coe, who has mastered the didgeridoo, an Aboriginal wind instrument, bring to the art of poetry unique sensibilities and a world of talent that crosses over into poetry’s sister-arts: DeWoskin is an award-winning writer of prose, and Coe has an extensive background as a jazz vocalist, having performed and recorded with musicians throughout New England. What these two individuals do have in common is a recognition of how the arts speak to one another and a willingness to breeze past boundaries, to “open the imagination to the fantastic possibilities of a new way to look at – and see – the world.”

4:30 – 5:00 PM Linda Pastan- Underneath the Ordinary is often described as a domestic poet, one who finds art in the quotidien. She does not refute that characterization, but adds, “I am indeed interested, you might say obsessed, not with ordinary life per se but with the dangers lurking just beneath its seemingly placid surface.” “For Jews,” she writes, “the Cossacks are always coming.” Pastan’s interiors offer each of us journeyers a place to rest awhile and consider the things that matter. 

Saturday Evening, 7:00 PM 

The Diminished Prophets. On Saturday night, our weekend of events comes to a close with a performance of melopoeia, a stirring combination of music and poetry featuring poets Rhina Espaillat and Alfred Nicol, guitarist John Tavano, and bassist/cellist Roger Kimball. Don’t miss it!