Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Somerville Poet Samantha Milowsky: Making the small press a home at the Mass. Poetry Festival

Somerville poet Samantha Milowsky has for the past few years immersed herself in the Boston area literary scene. Milowsky, a software technology executive is the founder and managing editor of Amethyst Arsenic and her work has appeared in magazines like the 2River View, White Whale Review,The Written Wardrobe, and is forthcoming Revolution House. She is now involved with the Mass. Poetry Festival's Small Book Fair that is to be held in Salem, Mass--during National Poetry Month-April 2012, as a part of the larger festival. I recently had a chance to chat with Milowsky:

You are a Somerville resident--poet- and publisher. How did you get involved with the poetry festival, and how has the milieu of Somerville worked for you as a creative person?

My friends have participated in past MassPoetry events and told me how much they enjoyed it. Getting involved is something I've been thinking about for awhile, so I visited the MassPoetry site and got in touch with Michael Ansara. He told me about the opportunities to participate, so now I'm helping to organize the Small Press and Magazine Literary Fair.

Somerville is a creatively nourishing city. We are surrounded by great poets from many backgrounds and styles, and people knit together our community by creating poetry spaces, readings, and events. I feel lucky to have a collective of friends and peers that will help each other in our work. All of that is here in Somerville.

I started the poetry journal Amethyst Arsenic this year. Getting local poets involved by submitting work and serving as editors has been key to establishing a great journal.

Tell us why you feel the small press fair is an essential part of the festival?

Small presses are the lifeblood of poetry. The purpose of the festival is to support poetry and poets, so we have always included a Small Press Fair as an essential component of the Festival. Last year we expanded it to also include literary magazines. This is a great chance for small presses and magazines to reach a broader audience, as well as meet others who share their passion and mission.

How will it be presented at the festival, compared to last year?

This year we hope to provide more space to the fair as each year the number of presses has increased. We are working to locate a space in downtown Salem that will be more conducive to housing the fair, providing the maximum space, and best flow of foot traffic. We are working with the Museum Mall owners who have offered us space there . What is nice is that there are a series of cafes and small restaurants in the mall as well as some seating in the large walkways where we would place the exhibitor tables. Although that is not definite yet, it might provide for a larger, better, and more social space than last year. We also hope to offer panels with editors about publishing.

Would this be a good event for students and emerging poets to attend?

The festival as a whole is ideal for students and new and emerging poets to attend. There are workshops, readings, panels, and a chance to meet poets from across the state from various schools, backgrounds, styles, and communities of poetry. The Small Press and Magazine Fair is a great opportunity to learn more about who is publishing emerging and new poets . At the Fair, there is plenty of opportunity to look at the publications and talk with the publishers and editors one-on-one.

The Mass. Poetry Festival has a history of bring top literary talent to Massachusetts--who is anticipated this year?

The whole line up is not set yet. The Program Committee has its hands full. So far, over 80 program proposals have been filed and the deadline is not until the 15th. However, we will have some popular names to announce. So far, according to Mike Ansara, the founder of the festival, the Native American Poet Joy Harjo, Major Jackson, Nikky Finny and Robert Pinsky are on the lineup.

Can you talk about some of the volunteer opportunities offered?

We need volunteers now, and we need volunteers during the festival. MassPoetry is a grand experiment in collaboration and decentralization, and it is totally dependent upon volunteers.

We have roles for people who want to work on the festival programming, scheduling, venue selection, fundraising, program book, out reach and coordination. We need volunteers who can give 3-4 hours a week for the next 4 months, and we need volunteers who can give 2-3 hours one day at the festival. At the festival itself we need people to set up and take down venues, chairs, and tables, to provide information and guide visitors, to provide sound and tech support, to handle button sales, etc. We especially need skilled audio and video people.

You can sign up to volunteer at

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