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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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!

“Joy and The Loud Cars”—A Poetry Reading

On Rosh HaShanah–Yom Teurah or the “Day of Shouting”–we raise a loud noise by blowing the shofar. Inspired by the late David Davis, author of The Joy Poems, poets Michael Cantor, Robert Crawford, Midge Goldberg, Alfred Nicol, Kyle Potvin, and Deborah Warren will explore the idea of finding joy in the world around them, including in loud cars and mud puddles. All the poets have published books–Cantor’s Furusato, Crawford’s The Empty Chair, Goldberg’s Snowman’s Code, Nicol’s Winter Light, Potvin’s Loosen, and Warren’s Dream with Flowers and Bowl of Fruit. The reading will be followed by an open mike.

Adult Continuing Education Department of Etz Hayim Synagogue, 1 ½ Hood Road, Derry, NH 03038 has developed and sponsored these programs.  For more information about them, please contact: Stephen Soreff, MD, at soreffs15@aol.comor 603-895-6120   

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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