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.  

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.

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. 

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.”

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. . .”

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. 

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.

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