Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Somerville News Writers Festival Nov. 11 2007

The Somerville News Writers Festival: Five Years and Still Growing Strong

By Doug Holder

This is the fifth season of The Somerville News Writer’s Festival. When Tim Gager and I started the festival in November of 2003 we thought it would probably be a one shot affair. But much to our surprise it has become an annual tradition. With the support of The Somerville News and the Norton and Tauro families, we have presented an impressive roster of local and national poets and writers to the folks of Somerville and beyond. Over the years we hosted such readers as: Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Franz Wright, Lan Samantha Chang (head of the Iowa Writers' Workshop), Alex Beam (Boston Globe Columnist and author of “Gracefully Insane”), Andre Dubus lll (author of “ House of Sand and Fog), Sue Miller (“The Good Mother”), Hallie Ephron, Pulitzer Prize- winning novelist Robert Olen Butler, poet Afaa Michael Weaver (author of “ Plum Flower Dance.”), and many others.

We have also founded an Ibbetson Street Press Poetry award. The first winner last year was Newburyport poet Michael Alpert. We have had quite a few submissions this year, and are pleased with the interest that has been stirred up.

At each festival we award an “Ibbetson Street Press Lifetime Achievement Award”. “Ibbetson Street” is a Somerville- based small literary journal and press, that gives the prize out to people who have played significant roles in the small press and or the poetry community. Previous winners have been Jack Powers (founder of “Stone Soup Poets”), Louisa Solano (former owner of the “Grolier Poetry Book Shop”), Robert K. Johnson (retired Suffolk University professor and author of “From Mist to Shadows.” (Ibbetson 2007)), David Godine, (founder of David Godine, Inc.), and this year the winner will be Robert Pinsky, former Poet/Laureate of the United States and founder of “Americans’ Favorite Poems Project”). I am proud to say I was in Pinsky’s first “Americans’ Favorite Poems” anthology with my introduction to Robert Lowell’s poem “Waking in the Blue” The poem was set at McLean Hospital where I have worked and run poetry groups for over 20 years.

Our fifth festival (Nov. 11, 2007 at 7PM) at the Jimmy Tingle Off Broadway Theatre will of course be hosted by the comedian Jimmy Tingle. There will be a number of featured readers in the poetry and fiction categories. Tom Perrotta (author of “Little Children,” and nominee for an Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts) will head a line up that includes: Steve Almond, (author of “Candyfreak”), Stephanie Gayle, Errol Uys, Joe Ann Hart, and Timothy Gager (cofounder of the Festival)

In the poetry category we will have Somerville poet and publisher Gloria Mindock author of “Blood Soaked Dresses (Ibbetson 2007) ), Danielle Legros Georges ( Lesley Professor and author of “ Maroon”), Irene Koronas, ( Wilderness House Literary Review poetry editor), Lo Galluccio ( author of “Hot Rain”) and yours truly Doug Holder.

In the past we have had such talented singer/songwriters as Jennifer Matthews, and Meg Hutchinson perform as part of the festival. This year the literature will be complimented by the music of the “Swaggering Growlers.”

Of special note poet Lo Galluccio will read from the work of the late Boston poet Sarah Hannah. Hannah, a lecturer at Emerson College and a brilliant poet, tragically took her own life at the tender age of 40. The Tupelo Press is releasing a collection of her work this fall, ( “Iridescence”) her previous poetry collection with Tupelo was “Longing Distance.”

As always we thank Porter Square Books, and Grub Street for sponsoring this event. We hope you will join us this year. Go to: for more information.

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