Photos from Newburyport Literary Festival

Thanks to John Foy for sending the pictures he took of poets reading at this year’s literary festival.

Alfred Nicol introduces an impressive lineup of poets
John Foy reads from Night Visions
Catherine Chandler, whose poems are bright candles
“If you thought you knew what formal poetry was, you need to read Jenna Le.” (K. Bridgford)
Rachel Hadas reads poems of “unapologetic bliss”
Mark Doty: “Poetry…represents the resolutely specific experience.”
2017 Yale Younger Poets Prize winner Duy Doan



Jiggery-Pokery Semicentennial

The double dactyl is aptly described on the jacket of this new anthology as “a devilish amalgam of rhyme, meter, name-dropping and pure nonsense,” but editors Daniel Groves and Greg Williamson have somehow persuaded the likes of X. J. Kennedy, J. D. McClatchy, Kim Bridgford, Caki Wilkinson, Andrew Hudgins and Charles Martin to contribute their efforts to this new anthology, conceived as a follow-up to the original Jiggery-Pokery anthology compiled by the inventors of the form, Anthony Hecht and John Hollander. Also included are three of my own poems, along with several by my good friend A. M. Juster.

Une chanteuse Parisian

John Tavano and I were thrilled to hear Parisian singer Anne Marie Codur and pianist Jill Borenstein perform our song, “La Girafe” at the Boston National Poetry Month Concert last night. It was a wonderful evening all around: Sufi poetry read to the accompaniment of the Turkish bowed tambour, Derek Walcott’s poetry paired with the mesmerizing sound of steel pans —even a Japanese pop song!

Naming the Darkness

James Martin, SJ, sent out this gospel-inspired tweet: “In the tale of the Gerasene demoniac, the darkness must be recognized and named before it can be cast out. You must name it clearly.” Here is the poem that Pedro Poitevin translated into Spanish recently for publication in Letras Libres. It is taken from my book Elegy for Everyone:

What To Call It 

Suppose we call the monster Monster?
Would it create a stir?
Till now, we have addressed the monster
Timidly, as Sir.

We’ve left him ravaging in peace;
We’ve given him his way.
He got a nicely-rounded niece
To picnic on in May.

We prayed for her; and prayed that he
Would find her to his taste.
It tears at one’s insides to see
The offering go to waste.

Much good it’s done us. Hear him roar.
We’ve whet his appetite.
It’s made him clamor all the more
And rattle things at night.

We keep awake. We count our sins.
No man of us is blessed.
He prowls among our might-have-beens,
Too violent to rest.

And no one calls the monster Monster.
We have ourselves to blame.
You don’t domesticate a monster
By using a pet name.

We ought to use the tautonym.
No ifs or ands or buts—
We need a name that sticks to him
Like a dried string of guts.

Monster. Monster. Monster. Monster.
—Say it if you can.
What innocent would trust a monster
To be a gentleman?

                                           —Alfred Nicol