One hundred sessions will be offered at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Salem this weekend.
One of them, "The State of the Art," hosted by Jennifer Jean of Salem State University, will feature a panel of poets talking about who gets published (and who doesn't), the impact of new technologies, and trends in craft, among other topics.
The title for that talk could also easily fit almost any of the other 99 sessions, most of which offer a unique perspective on the state of poetry today.
There are sessions on sonnets, light verse, line breaks and "learning to write from great poems," showing that today's poets are concerned with mastering traditional skills. There are also several sessions promoting the blending of poetry with musical performance, showing that today's poets also want to explore the boundaries of their art.
Poetry will be presented by the many unique groups in which it is practiced and discussed, which include collectives like Cave Canem and Grub Street Poetry.
It also includes contributors to Boston's independent literary magazines, new Jewish women poets, North Shore Poets in the Round, two groups of slam poets, and five poets from Suffolk University.
There will even be a session, hosted by Steve Almond, devoted to not-so-great poetry.
"It's a celebration of bad poetry," said January Gill O'Neil, a Beverly poet who is now executive director of the festival and was recently appointed to the faculty at Salem State. "Because with bad poetry, you have to write it to get to the good poems."
Due to the festival's popularity, the schedule has expanded this year.
"We added an extra day, a full day of events on Sunday," O'Neil said.
On Saturday, there will also be an expanded version of Common Threads, a statewide program in which communities read and discuss some selected poems.
"The idea was to get people reading the same poems in National Poetry Month," O'Neil said. "Last year, we had seven poets; this year, there are nine."
Discussion was promoted through libraries and schools prior to April and will culminate at the festival in a forum led by poet Lloyd Schwartz, who teaches at the University of Massachusetts Boston and won a Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1994. The panel will feature several poets whose poems were included in the program.
Hearing them talk about their works will give participants tools to talk about those poems with each other, O'Neil said.
"You'll hear Sam Cornish talk about his poem 'Horse Face,'" she said. "Gail Mazur will talk about her poem 'Baseball,' which is in nine innings."
A program with local roots that will be making its festival debut this year, The Improbable Places Poetry Tour, has been entertaining poetry lovers in Beverly since 2010.
The brainchild of Colleen Michaels, who directs the writing center at Montserrat College of Art, it features poets reading original works in downtown Beverly businesses. Their poems address a theme related to the host business — ink, for instance, was the topic at a reading in Good Mojo Tattoos.
"We had 100 people in the audience, on a Wednesday night, for poetry," Michaels said. "We needed a police escort, we had so many people."
Rather than compete with the many readings at the festival, the tour will draw on the skills of visual artists from the Montserrat community to embed poems in local venues.
Sites include Gulu-Gulu Cafe, where poems will appear on coasters, and Green Land Cafe, where a menu will be printed with poems.
Then there are events — such as a return appearance by the Boston Typewriter Orchestra — that are difficult to classify but should help add some festivity to the festival.
Orchestra member Jay O'Grady, who works in the mortgage department at Salem Five Bank, said they play songs rhythmically, and manual typewriters are their instrument of choice.
"Electrics are too fast," he said. "You can't sync up playing a manual with an electric."
Among the tunes they will bang out is a version of "Wipeout," called "Whiteout," and they are working on a version of "My Sharona" called "My Smith Corona."
The orchestra will appear in the spacious atrium at the Peabody Essex Museum, while other events held there will respond to the works on its gallery walls. A reading of Jack Kerouac's haiku will be held in a room with Japanese art, for example, and a reading by Native American poets Joy Harjo, Sherwin Bitsui and Susan Deer Cloud will respond to the museum's current exhibit of Native American art, "Shapeshifting."
Other local venues will include several local restaurants, such as Victoria Station, which is hosting two poetry slams.
"We're thrilled with the interest and enthusiasm," said O'Neil, who pointed out that next year's festival will also be held in Salem.
MASSACHUSETTS POETRY FESTIVAL
When: Tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday
Where: Various locations, including the Peabody Essex Museum, The House of the Seven Gables, Old Town Hall, Salem Athenaeum and the Museum Place Mall.
Admission: Admission to all events requires a festival button, $10 adults, $5 seniors and students. Available online at masspoetry2012.crowdvine.com, or at local businesses, including Gulu-Gulu Cafe in Salem, The Book Shop of Beverly Farms and Spirit of '76 Bookstore in Marblehead.
Schedule and advance registration: masspoetry2012.crowdvine.com