Friday, August 21, 2009

The Massachusetts Poetry Festival for 2009

Friends --

The Massachusetts Poetry Festival for 2009 has been established. This year -- our second! -- the Festival will start on the evening of Thursday October 15th with 7 simultaneous opening events in Boston, Worcester, New Bedford, Salem, Lowell, Amherst and the Berkshires. Then the Festival returns to downtown Lowell for two days.

During the day on Friday, the focus is on student poets with separate programs of workshops and readings for high school students, college undergraduate and MFA graduate poets. Friday evening there will be a music and poetry event in Lowell cosponsored by the Urban Village Arts Series with Michael Casey, Jessica Smith, Caleb Neelon, and Capoeira Rosa Rubra/Mestre Calango.

Festival Schedule

Thurs (15th)
Fri (16th)
Sat (17th)
Sun (18th)
View all events

Saturday from 11:00 AM to midnight, downtown Lowell will be filled with more than 35 readings, workshops, performances. There will be the second annual small press fair running all day. There will be an official opening and favorite poem reading at 11:00 AM. There will be readings by dozens of Massachusetts poets. There will be a sequential reading (and book signing) by all the Massachusetts poets with new full length books out in 2009. There will be haiku and dance, environmental themed readings, smaller hands on workshops (like this one, this one, and this one). Readings by acclaimed African American poets produced by Cave Canem and more readings by such poets as Ann Waldman, Afaa Weaver, Louise Gluck, Robert Pinsky, Franz Wright, Ellen Watson, Dara Wier, Erica Funkhauser, Joan Houlihan, Fred Marchant, Lisa Olstein and many, many more.

The evening will culminate with a nationally sanctioned Poetry Slam competition with a local Lowell team and an established Cambridge team taking on two national renowned NY team with the winner automatically getting a place in the National Slam Championships.

Sunday afternoon the Festival moves to the Boston Children's Museum for an afternoon of poetry for kids and families, featuring author/poet/illustrator Calef Brown and other performances and workshops designed for kids and their parents. The Festival closes in Cambridge with poetry and jazz, co-sponsored by Harvard's Woodberry Poetry Room and Adams House.

How much do tickets cost? $0, Zero, Nada, Free!

This year all the events are free. We need your support to make this possible. So we are asking all of you to make a donation. You do not have to. You will not be hounded into doing so. But we will give you the option when you sign up for an event to make a donation. Or you can make a donation to the Festival right now by clicking here. All donations are tax-deductible. We are still $6,500 short of the minimum we need to put on the 2009 Festival. Please make a donation, support Massachusetts Poetry and help us keep the Festival Free for everyone.

Important: Space is Limited. Reserve your seat now.

Especially in Lowell on Saturday, there is limited seating. If you will sign up for the events that you want to attend we will gurantee you a seat. The cost of the ticket: nothing. We do ask for a donation. We have had to guess at how many people will attend certain events. You can help us and yourself by signing up now to hold a seat - and getting your friends to so the same. We will hold your seat for you - and if too many people sign up we can move most events to a larger venue if and only if we know soon that more people want to attend it. So please sign up and get your friends to sign up for the events you want to attend. All of the workshops held in the Mogan Center on Saturday are limited to 15 participants. We will assign participation to them to the people who sign up in advance on a first come basis. So go through the schedule and sign up now for the events you want to attend. We've even got maps that will show you exactly where each event is being held.

Saturday in Lowell: Meet at Poetry Festival Central

On Saturday, with so many events being held throughout Lowell, we have created a central meeting place. Please come to the National Park Visitor Center at 256 Market Street. At the Visitor Center, there are all the basic necessities for your festival needs: bathrooms and space to meet your friends, greeters will provide maps & program books, and guides can assist you with finding your way to events or a good place for coffee, tea, lunch or dinner. Public parking is just down the street at the Market Street garage. You can read more on our directions and map page.

Thanks for everything -- and please, spread the word! Poetry is alive and well in Massachusetts -- see you in October!

The Massachuestts Poetry Festival Organizing Committee

Michael Ansara
Charles Coe
Chloe Garcia-Roberts
Jacquelyn Malone
Paul Marion

Nicco Mele
LZ Nunn

Massachusetts Poetry Festival
Office of Cultural Affairs & Special Events

Susan Tepper will be read reading in Four Stories Series Sept 14

Susan Tepper will be reading in Four Stories series, Sept. 14

A warm welcome to please join us for the Fall 2009 Opening Night of the award-winning, "Best of Boston" literary series, Four Stories, on September 14. The evening's theme: "The Long Goodbye: Stories of endings and loss."

Featuring readings by:

--Lisa Borders, author of the novel Cloud Cuckoo Land and contributor to the anthology Don't You Forget About Me; and teacher of writing at Grub Street

--Steven Brykman, author and comic with work published in, Cracked, Nerve, and Awake: a Reader for the Sleepless; former writing fellow at the University of Massachusetts; and winner of the Harvey Swados prize for fiction

--Tim Horvath, author of the novella Circulation and stories out or forthcoming in Conjunctions, Fiction, Puerto del Sol, Alimentum, and elsewhere; and teacher of creative writing at Chester College of New England and Grub Street Writers

--Susan Tepper, fiction writer and author of the new collection Deer & Other Stories , and five-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize

Monday, September 14, 2009
The Enormous Room
567 Mass. Ave (Central Square T stop)
(617) 491-5550
7-9pm (Music starts @ 6)

Plus the Four Stories style of literary investigation: ask the best question; win a free drink!
Free and open to the public.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

D.A. Boucher "The Butcher”: A Poet With Prime Cuts.

D.A. Boucher "The Butcher”: A Poet With Prime Cuts.

D. A. Boucher, also known as The Butcher, has been a regular at open-mike
poetry events throughout New England for years.

He founded The Collective,a troupe of poets, actors, comedians, musicians, and performance artists that shook up Boston with performances that shattered political, cultural and artistic boundaries.

He has published a chapbook, Uncle Gay Dave, and is best known and loved for Penguins, a poignant and profound commentary on ecological catastrophes in Antarctica, the decline of the New England seafaring tradition, and fluctuations in price structures in the illicit cannabis market.

I talked with him on my Somerville Community Access TV Show “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer”

Doug Holder: As so many poets have, you cut your teeth with Jack Powers’ Stone Soup Poets.

DA Boucher: Yes. I started there in 1991. From there things took on a life of their own, and off we went. We gathered momentum and an entourage of all these poets and people, perfecting and honing our craft.

DH: What was it about Stone Soup that made it such a good spot for emerging poets?

DA: At the time there were only a couple of poetry readings in Cambridge. It was held at T.T The Bear’s in Cambridge’s Central Square. The place was a bar, had a stage, a sound system, so you really could have some fun with this open space. It was a real, hole-in-the-wall music club—all kinds of bands played there. It was dirty and you could smoke. You had beer and cigarettes, poetry and music. And Jack Powers was a mover and shaker and brought people in from all over the world. It was a really great experience. Everything I know about poetry I didn’t learn in the classroom, I learned it in the barroom at Stone Soup.

DH: Can you talk about the iconoclastic collective you founded, with such characters as Cat and Rat Bastard?
DA: The collective sort of came together. It wasn't "Hey, I think I'll go and form a poetry performance troupe!' It just sort of happened. I had a feature, and I had 30 minutes to fill, and I thought: "I can't do this by myself." So I asked Cat and Rat to join me. The next thing you know we are doing more and more shows. We had a big band, a guitar player, a bass player, we had painted naked boys. It was one of those things that was organic--it just happened.

DH: What is your philosophical approach to your art?

DA: To do stuff that doesn't suck. You know that is uplifting, and fun. In the poetry world we tend to take ourselves too seriously. So we tried to develop some humorous observations on life.

DH: I noticed your earlier poetry was of a more traditional form. You have morphed into something else since then.

DA: It just happened. I just write and it just happened.

DH: You are a child of the stifling, conformity of the suburbs. Did this spur you on to be a writer?

DA: Certainly. It was a whole breeding ground of fodder for my writing later on in life. I had an overpowering urge to get out of the suburban neighborhoods.

DH: You wrote a book Uncle Gay Dave, and you are known as a Gay activist. Did the book exorcise your demons so to speak? Was it written to educate?

DA: It was a little of both. I wanted to write something a little different from what I had been writing. It jus opened doors.

DH: You have conducted many interviews with poets like CD Collins, Michael Brown, Jack Powers, Bill Barnum, in your magazine Umbrella. What is the secret to the art of interviewing?

DA: We had set questions. So that always helped. We sat down and worked out 20 questions. We tried to ask something that was offbeat. Like: "What kind of car do you drive, Doug?" They probably know all about you and your influences, but people want to know this. " My God, he drives an SUV, in these times!"

DH: How long did you do the magazine?

DA: We did it for a year. Then we went to a website. We did one a month. The Umbrella brought many poets out of the woodwork.

DH: Can you talk about your poet mentors and influences?

DA: My influences are mostly songwriters like Neil Young and Cat Stevens. I wasn't into poetry as a kid, but I read a ton of novels.

DH: You were the opening act for a number of musicians.

DA: I was part of an opening act for Billy Bragg at the Middle East one year, I shared the stage with Michelle Shocked, and I also performed with David Amram and John Sinclair.

DH: Any poets you read religiously?
DA: Charles Bukowski is my favorite. I was introduced to Bukowski at the City Lights Bookstore. I like Ginsberg's short poems. I am a short attention span poet.

DH: Can you talk about the CD you put out "Beyond the Pages?"

DA: We put it out in 2003. We have Cat on that, as well as others. There are vocals. We wanted something for posterity.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks. Ethan Gilsdorf

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks. Ethan Gilsdorf. (The Lyons Press Guilford, Conn. 2009) $24.95

Somerville writer Steve Almond submerged himself in the arcane world of candy fetishists in his book “Candyfreaks…,” and now we have yet another Somerville writer Ethan Gilsdorf who chooses to go into that enigmatic subculture of gamers and fantasy geeks. Gilsdorf who unapologetically recounts his own younger years as a geek and fantasy cultist, revisits the world he left behind for more adult concerns in this quirky survey of the marginal. He becomes a scholar of these mostly men (but some women), who choose to use their allotted time on this stage to play games like Dungeon and Dragons and other escapist fantasies of that ilk. Gilsdorf, a man in his 40’s, goes back to the roots of the term “geek.”

“ Geek used to stand for “ General Electrical Engineering Knowledge,” a leftover scrap of U.S. military lingo. A geek was also a circus performer who ate the heads off animals. Hence the science-math-freakazoid association. In its common usage, nerd is synonymous with computers and poor social skills. You know—the smart kid who lacks confidence, is physically awkward, and unaware of appropriate cues like eye contact and the normal give-and-take of conversation. But the term geek has recently come to mean anyone who pursues a skill or exhibits devotion to a subject matter that seems a bit extreme….”

Gilsdorf had a hardscrabble childhood, with a mother who became severely disabled, an embarrassment to the self-conscious adolescent. Gilsdorf was not particularly athletic or popular, and didn’t kiss his first girl until he was a senior in high school. He had a profound desire to escape the cage of his own skin. Later girls, college, and career, pulled him away…or at least he thought so. However he still pined for the fantasy world, the balm this society of “misfits” provided for Gilsdorf. He writes about his release from the “Cages of Identity:”

“ Geeks are tolerant people. They take in ‘the other’ the misfit toys, and not simply because no one else would sit with them at the cafeteria table. They have felt the sting of not being included. They know what it is like to not feel cool…Populated with cross-breed elves and dwarfs, fantasy realms make people feel not so freakish, releasing them from their cages of identity.”

Gilsdorf has always had a strong case of wanderlust, and he recounts his travel from his home in Somerville, Mass. to the bowels of the Pandemonium bookstore in Cambridge; a home of the geek, a refuge for the freak, as well as to Oxford England, and the hinterlands far and wide to see what makes these folks tick. Overall the adult freaks, gamers and geeks have turned out OK according to the author:

“So what if some were a little overweight, or liked labyrinth rules. D&D had turned them into problem solvers and creative thinkers, because the rules required them to figure things out as they went along. To use their minds to imagine a different world.”

The book will be of interest to the geek, the freak, the sociologist, and many of us readers who will wind up looking in the mirror at our oh-so studied hip faces, and remember at one time we were denizens of other places.