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April 19, 2013

'Common Threads' among poetry

Pastoral poetry shows scenes of rural repose and contrasts them with the strife in cities.

This subject was first treated by ancient Greek and Roman poets and is still an important topic for poets today, 10 of whom will be discussed next Sunday, April 28, at 2 p.m. at Marblehead’s Abbot Library.

Led by Claire Keyes of Marblehead, a poet and professor of English emerita at Salem State, this “poetry salon” is part of the “Common Threads” program hosted by Mass Poetry.

“There are people like me all around the state who are conducting workshops,” she said.

These will be followed on Saturday, May 4, by a program at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Salem, in which the authors of those poems — those who are still alive — will meet to discuss them.

“It’s an opportunity for people who have done this project to meet the poets, hear them read their own poems and talk about what inspired them — and even ask them some questions,” Keyes said.

The poems were chosen by poet Jill McDonough, who teaches at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and all were written by poets who live in or have some connection to Massachusetts.

They include familiar names like Robert Frost and Frank O’Hara, but also lesser-known figures like Stephen Jonas, Andrea Cohen and Matt W. Miller.

Keyes likes to read a poem aloud first and examine its unique details before comparing it with other poems in the group.

“We’ll take it as itself, and then ask, what is the common thread here?” she said.

Keyes said comparison is inevitable with the first two poems, which share the same title, “Leaves.”

“Those of us from Massachusetts can identify,” she said. “We have this experience each fall, which is a season of dying but is also so beautiful.”

The salon in Marblehead is free and does not require registration, but the Mass Poetry Festival charges a fee for three days of programs, workshops and readings, some of which require registration.

Anyone interested in participating in “Common Threads” can find the poems at masspoetry.org by clicking on “Common Threads” and downloading the reader’s guide.

“It’s a good idea for them to look at the poems before they come,” Keyes said.

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