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April 19, 2012

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POETRY FESTIVAL IN SALEM FEATURES 100 EVENTS THIS WEEKEND

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.

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