Reading series interview: lily poetry salon

a conversation between Frances Donovan and Eileen Cleary

Does your series happen on a regular schedule, such as the second Tuesday of the month? If so, what is it?

We typically meet once a month on a Friday evening. The date each month is based on the availability of the featured poets.

How did this reading series come about?

The Lily Poetry Salon came about during my second year at Lesley University’s MFA program. I was looking for a way to connect with local poets and to include my dear friend Mani Iyer, who is a blind poet. He also requires an audio amplifier device in order to hear. We decided to hold monthly readings at his home. We typically have a bit of socialization with food and wine, followed by a reading and a Q&A session. 

Did you develop it on your own, or do you collaborate with others?

A core group of my friends and fellow poets started the project, and I continued to administer it afterwards. The attendees helped and continue to help us to shape our series.

Are you affiliated with any organization such as a journal, a press, a school, or a bookstore?

The Lily Poetry Salon is not affiliated with any organization.  We are a group of poetry lovers in the community and everyone is welcome to participate.

What makes your reading series different from others?

I think what makes Lily special is its intimacy. We are able to really celebrate each writer and artist and to have a conversation with them about their work. We all benefit so much from these conversations.

Who comes to your series?

Many poets and neighbors come to our series regularly. Some people attend based on the featured artist, or because they would like a nice evening out. As far as people who have read at our salon, they are numerous. Martha Collins, Andrea Read, Tom Daley, Fred Marchant, Kevin McLellan, Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Jennifer Martelli, Patrick Donnelly, Kathy Nilsson, Jay Featherstone, Cindy Veach, Kathy Aguero, Dzvinia Orlowsky, Wyn Cooper and so many other talented folks.

What upcoming featured poets are you really excited about?

Jennifer and Sebastien Jean are scheduled for a virtual Lily Poetry Salon on April 10, 2020.

Jennifer will read poetry and Sebastien is a talented musician who will play the oud and possibly the electric guitar. Some other upcoming features include Valerie Duff, July Westhale, Christine Jones, Robbie Gamble, Enzo Surin, Steven Cramer, Faye Snider, Josette Akresh-Gonzales and Joyce Peseroff. We will take each one as it comes, scheduling virtual events until we can resume live meetings.

Can you describe your physical venue? Is it wheelchair accessible?

It is a private home. There are a few steps to enter the front door, so unfortunately it is not wheelchair accessible.

Since you’re online during the physical distancing measures due to the coronavirus pandemic, please tell me about your virtual venue and how people can access it.

We can be accessed on social media, especially through our Lily Poetry Review Facebook Live Event Page. We will be heavily advertising the day and time our events will go live (when people can access the performance) For instance, Jennifer and Sebastian Jean on April 10 at 7 PM and then there will a Zoom Q&A with the performers at 8 pm.  The link and zoom call will be posted on our Facebook Live Event page and elsewhere. We hope to make this as much like sn in-person Lily as possible, so there will be plenty of virtual wine and snacks.

What can your guests expect when they arrive? Things like a cover charge, lines, or other helpful tips.

No cover charge. No line. When we meet in person, we do ask our guests to take off their shoes and–if they can–to bring some wine or food to share. Expect to be part of a group photo which we have taken at every event since we started. The photo is optional but most people participate.

Are you aiming for a particular aesthetic or vibe with your featured poets?

We aim for variety in our featured poets. We welcome all types of poetry.

Does your series include an open mic? If so, is there anything poets should know before signing up for it?

Generally speaking, we don’t hold an open mic at the events. On occasion we have.

If someone would like to be considered as a featured poet for your series, how should they go about inquiring?

Reach out to me at [email protected] or through Lily Poetry Salon Facebook page [URL: https://www.facebook.com/versedog/ — note, this is different than the event page above]. 

Do you have a mailing list or other way people can learn about your future readings? How can people sign up?

We used to have a mailing list, but now we primarily invite via Facebook. We will begin using Twitter as well. 


Photograph of Frances Dononvan, with her face taking up the majority of the frame. She is wearing glasses and smiling slightly at the camera. Behind her, a yard with a white picket fence and some yellow flowers is visible.Photograph of Frances Dononvan, with her face taking up the majority of the frame. She is wearing glasses and smiling slightly at the camera. Behind her, a yard with a white picket fence and some yellow flowers is visible.

Frances Donovan’s chapbook Mad Quick Hand of the Seashore (Reaching Press, 2018) was named a finalist in the 31st  Lambda Literary Awards. Publication credits include The Rumpus, Snapdragon, and SWWIM. She holds an MFA in poetry from Lesley University, is a certified Poet Educator with Mass Poetry, and has appeared as a featured reader at numerous venues. She once drove a bulldozer in an LGBTQ+ Pride parade while wearing a bustier. You can find her climbing hills in Boston and online at www.gardenofwords.com. Twitter: @okelle.