Monday, April 14, 2014

ATTN: Somerville Residents: The Mass Poetry Festival May 2 to 3, 2014.

January O'Neil

ATTN: Somerville Residents: The Mass Poetry Festival May 2 to 3, 2014.

This week our guest columnist is Jacqueline Malone of the Mass. Poetry Festival.  She has just interviewed Executive Director of the Festival January O’Neil. The festival will be held May 2 to 3 in Salem, Mass.

In the last month or so there have been few people busier than our own January O’Neil, Executive Director of Massachusetts Poetry Festival, as she has been involved making and solidifying plans for the event. But she took time to answer some questions that give us her unique point-of-view on the May 2 through 4 event in Salem.  As you’ll see from her answers, she is one of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival’s most ardent fans!

What kind of feedback have you gotten about past festivals?
This is an event people enjoy coming back to year after year. Needless to say, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Every year, we get a little better at putting on a large-scale festival, and it shows. I’m most surprised at how our reputation is growing outside of New England. Whenever I go to national conferences or other large festivals, people have heard of our little event, which is simply amazing.

What will make this year’s festival special?
Mass Poetry has been fortunate to bring in an amazing group of poets locally and from across the country. Having two poets laureate, Carol Ann Duffy and Phil Levine, is a gift. Music and Poetry with Cornelius Eady. Kim Addonizio, Oliver de la Paz, and Susan Rich bring their poetic sensibilities from the West Coast. And having Rhina Espaillat, David Ferry, and Lucie Brock-Brodio on the same program is icing on the cake!

Name  a workshop you believe experienced poets will love?

Poets and poetry lovers will love all of our events! That being said, I’m looking forward to The State of Poetry with festival cofounder Michael Ansara, Oliver de la Paz, Kim Addonizio, and Don Share from Poetry magazine, hosted by Jennifer Jean. After an afternoon of verse, attendees will appreciate coming together to talk about the poetry landscape. I’m also interested in “Young Poets Address Issues of Identity: The Body, Trauma, Empowerment, and Transformation.” This panel speaks the power of poetry. And, I’m curious about “Five Poetry Prompts That Will Change Your Life.” What are those prompts? I must know!

What should those who are just trying out their wings as writers look for in workshop descriptions?
When the workshop is over, what are the takeaways? Will you have prompts, a basis to revise titles or whole manuscripts? Do you feel you’ll get what you need to start a poem or try a new style?

 Besides the planned events, what will people enjoy about the festival?
I hope everyone will cherish this time with like-minded people talking about poetry. And Salem is a terrific host for this! There are so many restaurants and spaces to gather and share ideas. What I really want is for people to take a few minutes in-between sessions to talk to one another, reflect on what they have experienced, and take it out into the world. The festival will end but that good feeling doesn’t have to.

For poetry lovers who have never made it to a festival, what are they missing?
You will miss the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the best poets writing poetry today—from emerging to established poets, our festival still has a grassroots feel. We don’t stand on pretension. Most important, you’ll miss the opportunity to “fill the well” with words, something much needed after this polar vortex of a winter.

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