2017 Newburyport Literary Festival Poetry Events

8:30 M Breakfast with the Poets: Four Powow River Poets with new books, Bill Coyle, David Davis, Nancy Bailey Miller, and Anton Yakovlev, along with special guest, David Berman.

10 AM Deft with a Dagger: A. M. Juster & Alexandra Oliver. You’ll die laughing.

11 AM The Play of Thought: Deborah Warren & Dan Brown. “Wit” has meant different things at different times. My favorite definition is from the 17th century: “Natural Wit consisteth in two things: Celerity in Imagining (that is, swift succession of one thought to another), and steddy direction to some approved end.” Here are two of our wittiest contemporaries.

1 PM Imagination Without Pretense:  Kevin Carey & Midge Goldberg. William Wordsworth would have loved these two poets, who write about “incidents and situations from common life” in “language really used by men [and women].” That’s probably what makes them both favorites of Garrision Keillor as well.

2 PM Licensed by the Muse: James Matthew Wilson & Catherine Chandler. In a time when many poets declare themselves “liberated” not only from meter and rhyme but even from punctuation and the rules of grammar, these two poets have devoted themselves to the study and practice of Engish verse technique, tapping into a creative wellspring over 700 years old. Theirs is truly “roots” music!

3 PM Master Craftsmen: Robert Shaw & Robert Mezey. Robert Mezey has been accused of “an unyielding poetic integrity;” Robert Shaw would plead guilty of the same offense. That may explain why these two excellent poets have stayed out of the spotlight despite lifetimes of high literary achievement. Like skilled burglars, their focus is not on getting attention but on getting the job done.

A Big Prize for Midge Goldberg

The 2016 Nemerov Sonnet Award winner is Midge Goldberg for “Tennis Pactice Against the Garage Door.” Because the Nemerov Award is a prestigious prize, many of the today’s finest poets enter the competition. Among the finalists were two other poets who’ll read for us at the Newburyport Literary Festival next spring, Robert Mezey and Anton Yakovlev.

Midge is truly on a roll. Her second full-length collection of poetry, Snowman’s Codewas chosen as the 2016 New Hampshire Literary Awards Reader’s Choice for Outstanding Book of Poetry.

Reading at The Frost Farm

We were blessed with another idyllic weekend this year in Derry, New Hampshire, where the second annual Frost Farm took place June 17-19. One of the participants, Cal Johnson, managed to capture the readings on Friday evening without disrupting the proceedings! (Thanks, Cal!) Here is a link to the “Faculty Reading,” which features the four workshop directors each reading three poems. You’ll hear Deborah Warren read first, followed by myself, A. M. Juster and Midge Goldberg, in that order.

A New Morning for Light

Light Quarterly, the magazine that John Mella founded and edited for twenty years, would have ceased publication when John died last year, but Melissa Balmain wouldn’t let that happen. A regular contributor to Light, Balmain is now Editor of the magazine. I can’t imagine anyone better suited for the position. Not only is she one of the best writers of light verse there is—I call her one of The Three Muse-kateers, with Wendy Cope and Gail White—but she’s already shown her ability to pull together a big event. She’s the one who organized the Tribute to John Mella at The West Chester Poetry Conference. With Kevin Durkin as Managing Editor—another perfect choice—every issue of the magazine is going to qualify as “a big event.” Certainly the first issue meets that qualification, with contributors like Rhina Espaillat, A. E. Stallings, Bruce Bennett and the aforementioned Wendy Cope and Gail White, who is this issue’s Featured Poet. Also contributing are my fellow Powow River Poets A. M. Juster and Midge Goldberg. I’m proud to have one of my own poems included in such company! Here’s a link: Light