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.  

Registration Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_QoQaGVBxTaS7iMzMqq2h7w

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.

Registration Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_4JRPYg0qQ6exIq4fzoG9jA

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. 

Registration Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_N1TcxdrVTmGcwOYVUWXIgw

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.”

Registration Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_AUEGOzeuRLKc0BDPvPRA1g

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. . .”

Registration Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_pgDJcHFYS9CPwTASRxuEkw

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. 

Registration Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_AwLdXfTCSYGeYlq6lCuTnAewbury

The 80th Writers Conference at Ocean Park, Maine: August 12, 2021

I’m pleased to return to the beautiful coastal town of Ocean Park to teach a class titled “Forms of Repetition.” The so-called French Forms have been popular for centuries as intricate games with language that often use their sophisticated play to convey, with apparent lightness, some of the least “light” aspects of life. Some have been called obsessional forms, others perfect mechanisms for encapsulating memory, still others brave little dances in which the human spirit faces down the inevitable.

In this workshop, poets are invited to draw on something in their personal experience —whether pleasant or painful—that bears repeating, to see what can be made of it.

The conference takes place from August 9 to August 13, 2021. My one-day seminar will be held on August 12. Click here for more information.

The Powow River Poetry Anthology II

Fourteen years ago I edited, typeset and designed the first Powow River Anthology, released by Ocean Publishing with an introduction by X. J. Kennedy. There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then! Paulette Turco, one of our newest members, took up the challenge of editing a second anthology, enlisting the aid of Rhina Espaillat, Jean Kreiling and myself, but shouldering the greater part of the workload herself. She and Alex Pepple of Able Muse Press teamed up to issue an exquisitely designed and edited showcase of the immense poetic talent that has been gathering once a month in the town of Newburyport to share poems and lively discussion of the art and craft of poetry.

Place your order here: https://preview.mailerlite.com/g6s8s8/1513520248504977672/m1e7/

Syd Lea Reads from Here

I first met Syd when I took his creative writing class at Dartmouth College. He was my professor, though he did everything in his power to level that hierarchical relationship. Though he was not drinking himself, he’d bring a big jug of wine and set it down in the middle of the table where we would-be poets sat. He told us right up front, in our first class, that we’d learn more from one another than we would ever learn from him. Basically, his role would be to welcome us into a conversation with other writers and trust that our common interests would lead us… somewhere.

I don’t mean to imply that he was abdicating his responsibilities. I think he was showing us the truest thing he knew about poetry and about “Literature” in general: that it’s all one big conversation, a conversation that goes on for centuries, and when you pick up your pen and try to say something from the heart, you’re joining that conversation, trying to make your voice heard. But you’d better be saying something from the heart, or no one’s going to listen.

Thought, no matter how lofty, seems duller than lead,

Without heart to match, just as faith without works is dead.

Here is a video of Syd talking about his most recent collection of poetry, Here.

My Interview with A. M. Juster

In 2010 Paul Mariani gently “outed” Commissioner of Social Security Michael Astrue, who had served in senior roles for four presidents, as the poet writing as “A. M. Juster.” That year Astrue won the Alzheimer’s Association’s Humanitarian of the Year Award to go with awards from many health care and disability organizations. A poet with a background very unlike that of most contemporary poets, Juster talks about auspicious and inauspicious trends in contemporary poetry and his own approach to the craft of writing and translating verse.

https://www.betterthanstarbucks.org

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.