Mark Schorr’s Review of “Only Human”

Cast of "Only Human"

Cast of “Only Human”

The following is Mark Schorr’s review of the musical “Only Human”  with book by J.D. Scrimgeour and music by Aidan and Guthrie Scrimgeour. See J.D.’s earlier essay “A Poet Writes a Musical.”

Poetic Crossover

Oh, happy pair!

Oh, happy we!

It’s very rare

How we agree.
— Richard Wilbur’s lyrics for
Leonard Bernstein’s music in Candide

At their best, the lyrics of American musical theater form a rare agreement with the music by making a special kind of crossover from idea to poetry to music. [Read more...]

Richard Hoffman on Writing in Several Genres

This is the first of a series of postings on poets who write prose. We’ll be exploring how the prose mind can be beneficial to the poetic mind. Richard Hoffman, who has just published a memoir titled Love & Fury , is the author of three volumes of poetry.

Richard Hoffman

Richard Hoffman

I have been writing in several genres for a long time now, and I cannot for the life of me see the point in privileging one over another.

Mostly I write whatever I can on a given day. Later, I gather things together. Whenever I try to plan more than that, whenever I set myself a project, I’m in danger of seeing it as homework. I always hated homework. So if I’m supposed to be writing prose (as I was until recently, with a book under contract and with a deadline) then all I want to do is write poems and/or stories. I am ever the rebellious schoolboy. [Read more...]

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!



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