Sunday, April 04, 2021

Boston National Poetry Month Festival, 2021: Virtual, virtuoso poets & musicians April 15-17.


Somervillian, singer, saxophonist, flutist, actor, Stan Strickland has performed with or opened for everyone from Miles Davis and Aretha Franklin, to three-time U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky.

Boston National Poetry Month Festival, 2021:

Virtual, virtuoso poets & musicians April 15-17.

By Kirk Etherton, co-producer of the Boston National Poetry Month Festival.


The 20th annual B.N.P.M.F. almost happened in 2020. Instead, the 20th Festival is taking place this year, on Zoom.

Certain things change—like everyone saying “Zoom.” One constant is Somervillians being a notable part of this event. I could easily fill the entire page by mentioning everything that Doug Holder (professor, publisher, interviewer, etc.) does for poetry, and the arts in general. But I’ll just say he’s a Festival board member, and one of this year’s featured poets.

2021 is the first year that musician-plus Stan Strickland will be performing. I don’t know exactly what he’ll be doing, but it could be almost anything: besides his collaborative, multi-instrumental work with all kinds of famous folks, his one-man show Coming Up For Air won the Eliot Norton Award.

(NOTE: When I ran into Stan a few months ago in Union Square, he may have said that he was going to be moving. But it’s easy to misunderstand someone when you’re both wearing masks. Plus, I really, really don’t like the thought of our fine city losing someone of Stan’s amazing talent and generosity to some other city. So enough about that.)

OK! Let’s talk about Lucy Holstedt, who has lived in Somerville for about 20 years. Like Stan, she’s a professor at Berklee College of Music. Lucy is a Festival board member and co-producer. She also created the website, which includes bios of all the poets and musicians. Check out

You’ll find singer-songwriter Thea Hopkins’ bio under the “Saturday” tab. Yet another Somerville resident, her work has been recorded by Peter, Paul & Mary, and the Prague Symphony Orchestra. Thea’s voice is perhaps one of the most beautiful things in the world.

I, too live in this unique city. Among other things, I’m one-third of a bi-coastal group, Cedar Gate Writers (Lucy Holstedt is another third). We’re also performing on Saturday.

Here are just five of the exceptionally fine, “outside Somerville” poets: Richard Hoffman, Rhina P. Espaillat, Fred Marchant, Charles Coe, and Martha Collins. (If you don’t know them, go take a look on our website.)

The Festival is proud to be partnering with our new ally and fiscal agent, Writers Without Margins--a tremendous organization that takes literature beyond traditional spaces. They’re led by writer / attorney / film producer Cheryl Buchanan. Learn more by clicking the site’s “Thursday” tab.


We are incredibly fortunate to have Martín Espada as our special guest. As a poet, translator, editor, and essayist, Espada has published more than 20 books and won many major awards. He has been compared to Walt Whitman for his ability to make readers feel “an undeniable social consciousness and connectedness.” For me, Martín’s timely, timeless work has a uniquely potent blend of power, passion, and precision. His readings take it to another level. You can experience this for yourself on April 17th.

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