In November 2015, more than 20 nonprofit poetry organizations, including Mass Poetry, joined forces to form a national Poetry Coalition working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture and the important contribution poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds.

Poetry & Environmental Justice (2021)

In March 2021, Mass Poetry hosted a series of writing workshops exploring the theme of Poetry & Environmental justice with poets Elizabeth Bradfield, Eleni Sikelianos, Lucía Hinojosa, Everett Hoagland, and devorah major where participants created works of ecopoetry and engaged in discussions around environmental justice. Students, teachers, and community members participated in writing generative workshops around the themes of water and environmental justice. This workshop series is Mass Poetry’s contribution to a national collaboration by the Poetry Coalition—an alliance of more than 25 independent poetry organizations across the United States—to explore the theme “It is burning./ It is dreaming./ It is waking up.: Poetry & Environmental Justice.”

Workshop participants were encouraged to submit their final work to a Raining Poetry contest. The winning poets will have their poem or an excerpt of their poem installed in the pavement surrounding the Center for Creative Writing for its grand opening later this year! Learn more about the workshops below.

Listening Under Water: A Generative Poetry Workshop with Elizabeth Bradfield
Listening Under Water: A Generative Poetry Workshop with Elizabeth Bradfield Thursday, March 11th, 7:00pm – 9:00pm EDT

What the [Waters] Have Made Us with Eleni Sikelianos and Lucía Hinojosa
What the [Waters] Have Made Us with Eleni Sikelianos and Lucía Hinojosa

Living Waters: Workshop with devorah major and Everett Hoagland
Living Waters: Workshop with devorah major and Everett Hoagland Tuesday, March 30th, 7:00pm – 9:00pm EDT


Poetry & Protest (2020)

“In This Place (An American Lyric)” features a stirring choral recitation of a protest-themed poem of the same name by National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman. This short film, released in conjunction with National Poetry Month, features 16 Massachusetts poets hailing from across the state, including Northampton Poet Laureate Karen Skolfield, Worcester Poet Laureate Juan Matos, Worcester Youth Poet Laureate Amina Mohammad, poet and children’s author Rich Michelson, and Brandeis University Visiting Poet-in-Residence Chen Chen, among many others listed below. This video, created in collaboration with videographer Paula Champagne, also marks Mass Poetry’s contribution to a national collaboration by the Poetry Coalition—an alliance of more than 25 independent poetry organizations across the United States—to explore the theme “I am deliberate / and afraid / of nothing: Poetry & Protest.”


What Is It, Then, Between Us?: Poetry & Democracy (2019)

Mass Poetry kicked its project off on March 13, 2019 with a blackout poetry workshop at Trident Booksellers & Cafe, led by poet M.P. Carver, which was attended by a couple dozen participants. Throughout the spring, Mass Poetry enlisted members of the community, including high school students and poets from across the Commonwealth, to create erasures, or blackout poetry, of political documents, including the US Constitution, Bill of Rights, Letter From Birmingham Jail, and Malala Yousafzai’s speech delivered to the UN. Continuing in the rich, experimental tradition dating back to the 1960s, Mass Poetry asked poets to create altered documents of the originals by blacking out text while exploring their newfound meaning.

Banned Posters

While Mass Poetry was under contract to display six of the submitted poems for display on the MBTA this summer, Mass Poetry’s leadership learned in early July that all six of the posters had been rejected due to their political nature. Mass Poetry is now collaborating with Soofa, a women-founded company launched out of MIT and Harvard in 2014, and will be exhibiting the banned posters in August on their digital kiosks in neighborhoods throughout Greater Boston. The winning posters were designed by Cyndy Patrick and feature the poetry of Julia Toplyn, Catherine Fahey, Sarah Sousa, Renuka Raghavan, Julia Haney, and Wendy Drexler & Jodi Colella. The artists of the selected poems share these words about the experience:

“’United’ is a textile erasure. The choice of materials is a nod toward ‘women’s work’ of past generations and the societal challenges women have always faced. I was happy to find this little poem in King’s letter as I feel it addresses the marginalization and oppression so prevalent in America today, but also recognizes the union, support and strength that can be found even within those strictures.” – Sarah Sousa, of “United”

“Blackout poetry challenges me to find the hidden poem. I wanted to highlight the phrase ‘no person shall be…without just compensation’ so I chose a plain green background, to call to mind money and also greed. Facing a large empty space, I tore a dollar bill. This fills the space, and it also highlights the need for just compensation, fair pay, and living wages as a basic right.” – Catherine Fahey, of “Living Wage”

Look out for the winning submissions on Soofa’s kiosks!

You can also take a look at all of the works submitted in the gallery below and share your responses with us on social media using #PoetryCoalition and #PoetryandDemocracy.


Where My Dreaming and My Loving Live: Poetry & the Body (2018)

We are pleased to share that the 2018 Massachusetts Poetry Festival will feature poems about the body in its Raining Poetry project. Five poems will be selected to be displayed on the streets of Salem to celebrate our 10th Massachusetts Poetry Festival, May 4-6. We are looking for poems specific to the broad theme of the body.

The phrase “Where My Dreaming and My Loving Live” is an excerpt from U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith’s poem “Flores Woman” from her collection Duende, which won the James Laughlin Award in 2006.

Using a biodegradable water-repellent spray and stencils made by local artists, the organization will place poems throughout the streets of Salem. The spray vanishes once dry, so the poems are invisible—until it rains. Once wet, the area around the poems will darken, enabling passersby to read them.

Winners

  • From “AS YET UNBORN” – Stanley H. Barkan
  • From “Fingertip” -Louisa Clerici
  • From “HERE ON MY ANKLE” – Wendy Drexler
  • “Instructions for Skipping” – Marjorie Thomsen
  • From “The Art of Healing” – Prema Bangera

Because We Come from Everything: Poetry & Migration (2017)

On a rainy weekend in Salem, poetry reigned supreme during festival weekend. City streets were covered with poems as part of the Mass Poetry Festival’s Migration Poetry Contest.

Sixty-four entries were received from Massachusetts residents on the broad theme of migration. Our theme, Because We Come from Everything: Poetry & Migration, borrows a line from U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera’s poem, “Borderbus.”

The five winners are

  • From “Embarkation” – Lisken Van Pelt Dus
  • From “Explorer” -Ashmita Malkani
  • From “EXQUISITE FRUIT” – Janet Aalfs
  • From “From the Sky” – Sarah Snyder
  • From “Kneeling to Kiss the Ground” – Jane Yolen

The poems were featured on Salem Streets through our program Raining Poetry.

Using a biodegradable water-repellent spray and stencils made by local artists, we placed poems throughout the streets of Salem. The spray vanishes once dry, so the poems are invisible, until it rains—which it did on festival Saturday. Once wet, the area around the poems will darken, enabling passersby to read them. The poems will remain for 6-8 weeks.

Excerpts of the poems were stenciled near Old Town Hall at Front Street in downtown Salem just in time for the festival. They will be on the streets for a few more weeks. Bring a bottle of water and watch the poems appear before your eyes!