“Cruel April: Poems for the Pandemic”

In an email message, Daniel Mark Epstein writes, “I have long had a policy not to send unpublished poetry to friends or family. Now I’m breaking my own rule for a sequence of poems that is so much of the moment I feel an urgency to share them in the moment.” In the same spirit, Epstein has now produced a video of the sonnet sequence read by award-winning actors Tyne Daly, Paul Hecht, Jennifer Van Dyck, and Harris Yulin, and illustrated with artwork contributed by members and friends of Tivoli Artists Gallery. Producer: Holly Peppe; Art Director: Doug Trapp; Artistic Advisor: Paul Hecht

 

Poet Robert Mezey, 1935-2020

I keep a file labeled “100 Books,” which is a list of the best books I’ve read in my life. There aren’t really a hundred books on it yet. One of the books on my list exists only in manuscript: I had the extreme good fortune of reading a GBC-bound photocopy of that work. It is a translation of the poems of Jorge Luis Borges by the poets Robert Mezey and Dick Barnes, for which they never received permission to publish.

In 2017, Bob Mezey agreed to read at the Newburyport Literary Festival. In his correspondence he was fretful about his travel arrangements, about the sound system, about the amount of time he’d be given to read. And when he arrived, he appeared old and frail. My wife Gina attentively helped him get back and forth from his room at the inn to his reading. I’d arranged for Mezey to be the final reader, pairing him with Robert Shaw, saving the best for last. When it was Mezey’s turn, he asked for the microphone to be shut off, which didn’t seem like a good idea. Then he brought the audience in closer, where they gathered in a semi-circle near the podium, and he began his reading. It was something to see, something to hear: the authority returned to his voice, he read with great expression and a sense of humor. We saw laughter in his eyes, we heard more than personal sorrow in the words he spoke. He did me the great favor of reading his wonderful narrative poem, “The Golem,” which I’d requested. It was an unforgettable reading.

Robert Mezey died of pneumonia on Saturday, April 25. America has lost one of its finest poets.

Here is a link to his obituary in The Los Angeles Times, written by Dana Gioia.

“Talking All Night” on Youtube

Talking all night on Youtube sounds like something Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady would have done, had the technology been available. This is another kind of ambitiously spontaneous endeavor. Mark McDonnell and Mary Meriam have set up a Youtube channel called The Ballsians where you can hear poets read their work aloud, including several of the Powow River Poets: A. M. Juster, Kyle Potvin, and Andrew Szilvasy. Other talented contributors included Erica Dawson, David Southward, Rick Mullin and David Katz. Here’s a link to my reading.

2019 Newburyport Literary Festival Poetry Events

8:30-10:00 AMBreakfast with the Poets: Wake up on this festive day with coffee, pastry and poetry. The locally-based, nationally-recognized Powow River Poets never leave their readers in the dark!  Anton Yakovlev, Jose Edmundo Ocampo Reyes, Toni Treadway, David Davis andA. M. Justerwill read from books they’ve published since last year’s breakfast. (There must be something in those pastries Gina bakes.)

10:00 AM The Poetry of Maryann Corbett & Nausheen Eusuf: Two remarkable poets whose work appears in Best American Poetry 2018, Maryann Corbett and Nausheen Eusuf know that, whatever poetry is about, it is always about language. It is a kind of liberation to recognize that. Both poets, Eusuf with her virtuoso wordplay and Corbett with her knowledge of ancient tongues, employ a whole range of language—different tones and voices, high and low modes of speech, allusions, quotations, and puns—to touch on things that matter either for the moment or for eternity.

11:00 The Poetry of January O’Neill & Ned Balbo: “The world is too much with us,” but ultra-contemporary poets January O’Neil and Ned Balbo have not turned their backs on it. Their poems make room for tattooed girls and young men in grey hoodies, reruns of Star Trek, LSD and Wikileaks, hospital corridors and crabcake recipes and Smart TVs. Here you’ll find elegies for Prince and David Bowie and odes to brownies for Sunday breakfast. And family: imagined and real, close-knit and departing. Somehow, in the middle of so much stuff, a space is cleared for these poems to become “vessels of almost uncontainable longing” where— always—“there is that question of how to love.”

1:00 The poetry of Daniel Hall & Mary Jo Salter: It’s no wonder that these two distinguished poets are also distinguished teachers of poetry, Daniel Hall at Amherst College and Mary Jo Salter at Johns Hopkins. Each of them is a consummate craftsperson, and both seem to embody the ancient idea of sprezzatura, choosing “to avoid affectation in every way,” perfecting their art by making it appear to occur naturally and without effort. This is poetry that rewards our attention without clamoring for it. As in a clear night’s sky, we’re offered much to marvel at.

2:00 The Poetry of Major Jackson & Sydney Lea: Besides the state in which they reside, what these two Vermont poets have most in common is, paradoxically, what sets them apart. They don’t sound anything like each other —nor does either of them sound much like anyone else. “The poetry Major Jackson offers us…sounds different from any other being written today,” writes one reviewer. “The truth is, no one writes—or has written—like Sydney Lea, except maybe E. A. Robinson,” writes another. Here are two unique and original voices in contemporary American poetry. 

3:00 PM The Poetry of Rhina P. Espaillat & David Ferry: Biographies of famous poets sometimes leave us with the impression that poetic talent and decent behavior may be inversely proportional. That’s not the case with Rhina Espaillat and David Ferry, two of America’s finest poets, whose poetic visions are extensions of their personalities. Ferry, who volunteered for years at a dinner for street people, gives voice to the homeless and isolated in his poems. The poems of Espaillat, whose kitchen table has been the site of so many creative collaborations, envision humanity as “one single family.” 

2019 Newburyport Literary Festival Poetry Events

We’re proud to announce the list of terrific poets who’ve agreed to read in Newburyport on April 27, 2019:

Ned Balbo

Mary Ann Corbett

David Davis

Rhina  P. Espaillat

Nausheen Eusuf

David Ferry

Daniel Hall

Major Jackson

A.M. Juster

Sydney Lea

January O’Neill

José Edmundo Ocampo Reyes

Mary Jo Salter

Toni Treadway

Anton Yakovlev

See the festival website for more detail as the event approaches. It’s going to be a day to remember.