President John F. Kennedy on Poetry and Robert Frost

Kennedy and FrostAs the nation acknowledges the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, we look back on what he meant to poetry and the arts. When he drew up plans for his inauguration, he was the first president-elect to  invite a poet to the ceremony. Those old enough remember Robert Frost on that snow-blinding January day as he stumbled again and again in trying to read his newly written poem in the glare of the sun. The intense awkwardness of the moment was broken when he gave up the attempt and recited from memory another poem,  “The Gift Outright.”  Huge applause followed the amazing recovery by the aging poet — an indelible moment in the ceremony. See a snippet  of the moment here.

Setting the precedent for a poet at the inauguration wasn’t Kennedy’s only salute to poetry and the arts.  [Read more...]

Massachusetts Poet in the Spotlight: Nicole Terez Dutton

Massachusetts Poet in the Spotlight is a monthly installment from Mass Poetry. Each
month we will be shining the spotlight on a poet affiliated with, and nominated by, 
one of our poetry partners. If you are a partner with a poet to nominate, email

Highlighted by Grub Street

Nicole Terez Dutton

Nicole Terez Dutton’s work has appeared in Callaloo, Ploughshares, 32 Poems, Indiana Review and Salt Hill Journal.  Nicole earned an MFA from Brown University and has received fellowships from the Frost Place, the Fine Arts Work Center, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her collection of poems, If One Of Us Should Fall, was selected as the winner of the 2011 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts and teaches in the Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program, as well as Boston University and Grub Street.

[Read more...]

With Ifeanyi Menkiti at the Grolier Poetry Bookshop

Ifeanyi Menkiti

Ifeanyi Menkiti

On a side street not far from the center of Harvard Square stands a small bookshop you could pass without noticing. If you did, you would be passing an outstanding monument to 20th Century poetry, a monument that poetry aficionados from across the country and around the world hurry to Cambridge to visit. At 85 years the Grolier Bookshop is not only the oldest bookstore dedicated to poetry in the nation, but the fact that it is dedicated solely to poetry probably does amaze you.

Yet historic as it may be, the Grolier almost didn’t survive.

[Read more...]

Memories of Seamus Heaney, 1939-2013

from a painting of Seamus Heaney by M. A. Schorr

from a painting of Seamus Heaney by M. A. Schorr

Since the great Irish poet Seamus Heaney spent two and a half decades at Harvard, we decided to celebrate the poet by inviting those who knew him to share their memories of the man. In an interview on the NPR program Here and Now, Robert Pinsky, former Poet Laurette,  commented on his personal experiences with Seamus Heaney:

He was a great artist who’s also a great spirit. He’s a really decent person. As I used to enjoy calling him, Seamus was a mensch.

[Read more...]

New Bedford Poetry Scene Hotbed of Diversity

The New Bedford literary scene is a hotbed of diversity. An interview with Maggie Cleveland, local poet and long time reading coordinator revealed the dynamics of the area: there are upcoming writers working with in styles ranging from hip-hop poetry to more traditional, formal styles, and long time veterans, such as Everett Hoagland.

Cleveland began organizing readings over 15 years ago due to a lack of local events. The New Bedford area has been highly receptive since then and rewarding to work with. When asked if she believes there is a specific purpose behind the readings, Cleveland answered, “They are driven by the ever-evolving purpose of bringing together local poetry lovers and getting people excited about what the New Bedford literary community has to offer.”

Cleveland then described the astounding diversity of the community itself. John Landry, local poet laureate, ran a previous incarnation of Cleveland’s website, Whaling City Review. Landry is a passionate poet who has read at venues across the United States, including the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco and the Library of Congress. He’s also a proud participant in the New Bedford scene. See more information and samples of Landry’s work,

Hip-hop poetry is popular among the high school and younger crowd in the New Bedford area. One up-and-comer is Tem Blessed, a poet and musician (check out Blessed’s work). On the more traditional side, preferred by older members of the community, is Marybeth Rua-Larsen. Here is an example of Rua-Larsen’s work.

As for veteran writers, New Bedford is home to the previously mentioned Everett Hoagland. Hoagland has been publishing work since the 60s. Cleveland described his work as “vivid” and “honest.” He’s also known for his powerful readings. Caroline Knox, who resides in nearby Westport, is another longtime poet. Cleveland described her work as “quirky,” and “intellectual.” Here is more information on Hoagland  and on Knox.  

Cleveland recently read at her own series, announcing her new book, ATOM FISH. Also present at Saturday’s reading was Jake John, described by Cleveland as a post-Beat poet. ATOM FISH itself is one long, unusual meditation on life through personal and historical relationships. One Time Press, ATOM FISH’s publisher, puts out photocopied and stapled chapbooks and indie journals. One Time Press has connections to indie publishers throughout the nation.

More info on events in the New Bedford community can be found at Cleveland’s website.

Festival Announcements

Check this page for special deals and announcements about the Festival. We’ll be adding to the list below as we have other items to report.

  • This year we are again using a social media schedule — our “Facebook for Poets”– that allows you to register, choose the events you wish to attend, and connect with your friends. You also can and post your events to Facebook and Twitter.
  • Please reserve your seat at the workshops and other programs with limited seating. Already three of the workshops are filled and several are near capacity.
  • The Poetry Trains & Trolleys are back! Listen to poetry on the way to Salem in a special poetry car on the Newburyport/Rockport Linedeparting from North Station:
    • Saturday, April 21: Train 1105 departing North Station      at 10:15 AM
    • Saturday, April 21: Train 1109 departing North Station      at 12:15 PM
    • Saturday, April 21: Train 1105 departing North Station      at 2:15 PM
    • Sunday April 22; Train 2109 departing North Station at      12:15
  • On Saturday morning a Poetry Trolley will loop among the venues with poets performing on board at no cost if you have your festival button.
  • Buy buttons for the Festival at the following places (Keep checking; we have more listed.):
  • Beverly
    The Book Shop of Beverly Farms – 40 West Street
  • Brookline
    Brookline Booksmith - 279 Harvard Street
  • Newburyport, MA
    Jabberwocky Bookshop -  The Tannery Marketplace,  50 Water St.
  • Salem
    The  Roost - 40 Front StreetSophia’s – 105 Essex Street
    Scratch Kitchen 245 Derby St   978-741-2442
    The Hungry Whale -  72 Wharf St 978.745.6659 i

    Gulu Gulu Café - 247 Essex Street (978) 740-8882 

    Salemdipity – 86 Wharf Street on Pickering Wharf

    Salem Witch Museum – 19 ½ Washington Square North

    Salem Trolley Depot – 191 Essex Street (on the Pedestrian Mall)


  • Cambridge:
    Grolier Bookstore - 6 Plympton Street  617)547-4648
    Porter Square Books - 25 Whilte St ( Porter Square Shopping Area) 617)491-2220
    Rodney’s Books - 698 Massachuetts Ave., Central SquareHarvard Book Store – 1256 Massachusetts Avenueiiii
  • Concord
    Concord Bookshop - 65 Main Street  968)369-2405
  • Marblehead
    Spirit of ’76 Bookstore 107 Pleasant St 781-631-7199
  • Check Hotel discounts for festival attendees.
  • Thinking about attending the festival, but want to know more? See our video of last year’s festival.
  • We still need Volunteers to help at the festival.
  • Special restaurant deals include:
    • Essex NY Deli & Pizza
      Museum Mall Place — adjacent to the Small Press Fair on Saturday
      Show your Poetry Festival Button for 10% off
    • Capts Waterfront -Premium Steak & Seafood Grill
      94 Wharf Street, Pickering Wharf (978) 741-0555 |
      Show your Poetry Festival Button to receive 10% discount off lunch and a 15% discount off dinner.
    • Rockafellas
      231 Essex Street 978.745.2411
      Show your Poetry Festival Button to receive a 10% discount on food purchases
    • The Regatta Pub
      The Salem Waterfront Hotel, 225 Derby Street (978) 740-8788
      Use the coupon in the Poetry Festival Program to receive a free dessert from the new dessert menu with the purchase of any lunch or dinner entrée! Offer expires May 15, 2011.
    • Victoria Station & Vic’s Boathouse
      86 Wharf Street, Pickering Wharf (978) 745-3400 |
      Show your Poetry Festival Button and save 15% off your meal (does not include liquor, tax or gratuity).
  • For more information on Salem, restaurants, hotels, & shopping go to our partner DestinationSalem

New Addition to Saturday Headliners

Sherwin Bitsui will be joining his fellow poets Joy Harjo, Nikky Finney and Wesley McNair at the headline event in the Peabody Essex Museum, Saturday, April 21st. Sherwin comes from White Cone, Arizona where he lived on the Navajo Reservation. He is Dine of the Todich’ii’nii (Bitter Water Clan), born for the Tl’izilani (Many Goats Clan).

Sherwin received his BA from the University of Arizona and an AFA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts. While at the Institute, Sherwin studied poetry and painting and received a Truman Capote Creative Writing Fellowship. Additionally Sherwin has been granted an Individual Poet Grant from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, a Lannan Foundation Marfa Residency, a 2006 Whiting Writers’ Award, a 2008 Tucson MOCA Local Genius Award, a 2010 PEN Open Book Award and an American Book Award for his book Flood Song.

The cover art of Flood Song was painted by Sherwin himself.

Shapeshift, Sherwin’s first book, was published in 2003 by University of Arizona Press. The Navajo Times said of Shapeshift: “What is exciting about Shapeshift is the fresh voice and perspective it introduces to Native American and Navajo literature. The times and attitudes have changed, and Shapeshift does not ignore this fact. . . . A must-read for anyone interested in discovering a new Native American author.”  Festival attendees will be happy to note that Sherwin will be joining poets Joy Harjo and Susan Deer Cloud in a reading and discussion of themes in the Peabody Essex Museum exhibit Shapeshifting: Transformations in Native American Art.

The MPF Schedule of Events Is Now Online!

Okay! We are getting close now — the Massachusetts Poetry Festival is only weeks away — and our plans have a definite shape. In fact they are so definite you can take  our schedule and create your own for each day. Check out all the poets who will be there. Check out the readings, the lectures, the workshops, the performances, the dance groups, and more. Start your personal schedule now.

Once you register for an event, we save a place for you at any of these events. And you can print your own schedule to take with you to Salem.

Your registration also helps us see if an event needs more space than we originally planned for it.

Not only can you browse the schedule, you can check out who is planning to attend. It’s an easy way to get together with friends you haven’t seen in a while.

Make your plans right now to take part in the Massachusetts poetry community!


The Festival Needs Your Help — Volunteer!

Wordsmiths, literacy advocates and community builders—assemble! Volunteer here! The Massachusetts Poetry Festival needs your help!

Held in historic Salem from April 20-22 (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), The Fourth Massachusetts Poetry Festival is expected to bring in 1,500 poets and poetry lovers alike and will showcase a variety of extraordinary local and regional poets, as well as engage the public through readings, interactive workshops, panel discussions, and much more.

However, in order to pull off this extraordinary event, the festival requires the help of a lot of volunteers!

Here are just a few of the excellent opportunities to consider:

  • Program Planning
  • Produce A Festival Event
  • Be A Guide During The Festival
  • Work on Outreach and Publicity

So, if you’re interested in volunteering, sign up with this link:

If you need more convincing, check out this lovely story:

Bidart, Collins and Dunn Headline Sunday Afternoon at MPF

With the announcement that Frank Bidart, Martha Collins, and Stephen Dunn will headline the Sunday afternoon program, the Massachusetts Poetry Festival completes its roster of featured poets. The Festival runs April 20 through 22 in Salem, Mass.

Friday night program will spotlight poets Robert Pinsky, Major Jackson, and Maggie Dietz.

Saturday night poets are Joy Harjo, Nikky Finney, and Wesley McNair.

Take a look at the accomplishments of Sunday afternoon’s poets:

Frank Bidart’s first books, Golden State and The Book of the Body, both published in the 1970s, gained critical attention and praise, but his reputation as a poet of uncompromising originality was made with The Sacrifice, published in 1983. All three books are collected In the Western Night: Collected Poems 1965-1990. His position in American letters has been solidified through his later works, including Desire, Star Dust, and Watching the Spring Festival. Desire was nominated for the triple crown of awards—the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award—and received the 1998 Rebekka Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress for the best book of poetry published during the previous two years.

About his work, the former U.S. Poet Laureate Louise Glück has said, “More fiercely, more obsessively, more profoundly than any poet since Berryman (whom he in no way resembles) Bidart explores individual guilt, the insoluble dilemma.” And about his career as a poet, she said, “Since the publication, in 1973, of Golden State, Frank Bidart has patiently amassed as profound and original a body of work as any now being written in this country.”

His honors include the Wallace Stevens Award, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Foundation Writer’s Award, the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Shelley Award of the Poetry Society of America, and The Paris Review’s first Bernard F. Conners Prize for “The War of Vaslav Nijinsky” in 1981. In 2007, he received the Bollingen Prize in American Poetry.

Martha Collins is the author of White Papers (Pittsburgh, 2012), as well as the book-length poem Blue Front (Graywolf, 2006), which won an Anisfield-Wolf Award and was chosen as one of “25 Books to Remember from 2006” by the New York Public Library. Collins has also published four earlier collections of poems and two collections of co-translated Vietnamese poetry. Her other awards include fellowships from the NEA, the Bunting Institute, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and the Ingram Merrill Foundation, as well as three Pushcart Prizes and a Lannan Foundation residency fellowship. Founder of the Creative Writing Program at UMass-Boston, she served as Pauline Delaney Professor of Creative Writing at Oberlin College until 2007, and is currently editor-at-large for FIELD magazine and one of the editors of the Oberlin College Press.

Stephen Dunn is the author of 16 collections of poetry, including the recent Here and Now and What Goes On: Selected & New Poems 1995–2009. Different Hours won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001, and Loosestrife was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist in 1996. His other W.W. Norton books are New & Selected Poems: 1974–1994, Landscape at the End of the Century, Between Angels, and Riffs & Reciprocities: Prose Pairs. Local Time (William Morrow & Co.) was a winner of The National Poetry Series in 1986. A new and expanded edition of Walking Light: Memoirs and Essays on Poetry, was issued by BOA Editions, Ltd. in 2001.The winner of many awards and fellowships, Dunn is Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, but spends most of his time these days in Frostburg, Maryland, where he lives with wife the writer Barbara Hurd.



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