, Salem, MA


May 2, 2013

Words of meaning

Mass Poetry Festival celebrates the written art

SALEM — Reading poetry is often a solitary act. But some meanings only come to life when we hear poems read aloud, discuss them with others or meet the people who wrote them.

“We talk about poetry, and people have their ideas about it,” said Beverly’s January Gill O’Neil, executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, which is sponsoring three days of readings and programs this weekend. “But when you experience it, and see how poetry is lived in a way — when you can be in the moment with a person expressing themselves — that community is what the festival is about.”

It’s a sense of community that will be created in part through workshops, where visitors can learn from practicing poets how poems are made.

“We noticed two years ago that workshops are extremely popular,” O’Neil said.

After sending out a request for proposals for this year’s festival, the organizing committee got 138 responses and accepted around half of the programs, 28 of which are workshops.

One of these will consider how poems can depict “the inner lives of objects” by imagining their histories.

Another will ponder haiku, which workshop leader Jeannie Martin — a member of the Haiku Society of America — defines as a poem with “no need for verbs,” in which the action is provided by “the interplay between images.”

There are also workshops on poetry and gender, on persona in poetry, on surreal poetry, and on literary collage.

Additional programs will look at the way poems treat the natural world, including one on poetry and global warming, while another set of sessions will explore connections between poetry and performance.

The latter includes several forms of dance — even belly dance — while other programs will focus on staging poems as dramas or dramatic monologues.

In addition to practicing writing, festival-goers can attend readings by several award-winning poets, who will appear at seven headline events.

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