No Mass Poetry

This is from a letter sent by the organizers of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival:

Dear Poets & Poetry Lovers,

We are writing to update you on the planning progress of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival and tell you about some upcoming poetry events.

After the 2010 Poetry Festival we consulted with dozens of poets, poetry partners and cultural organizations to help us think through where we should take the Festival and the overall Massachusetts Poetry Outreach Project. Out of those consultations has come a number of exciting plans that we are in the process of putting into action. Over the next month we will update you on many of them as they unfold including how to better use our website, a program for working with teachers on how to integrate poetry into their teaching, to be held this summer, and plans for statewide efforts to get tens of thousands of readers across the Commonwealth all reading some of the same poems over the course of a month.

For the Massachusetts Poetry Festival itself we have made the decision to follow the advice we were provided in the consultations and to divide the festival into two parts:

The first part will be a series of regional events held across the state in the first two weeks in October. These regional events would include partnerships with already planned happenings as well as readings designed specifically for the Mass Poetry Festival. In Boston, on the weekend of October 16th, the Mass Poetry Festival would be working with the Boston Book Festival to put together a weekend program of poetry readings and workshops.

The second event would be held the very last weekend in April of 2011 and would be a slightly streamlined version of the Mass Poetry Festival. We are still working to nail down a location for the festival as of now. As part of an effort to develop the poetry audience in Massachusetts, we will also be working with local libraries and literary organizations on creating coordinated state-wide poetry reading groups. Our hope is to boost and publicize many of the events that take place for national Poetry Month and work to have even more events across the state and have those lead up to the statewide Festival on April 29th and April 30th, 2011. So please mark those dates in your calendar now and we will update you on the plans as they unfold.


I'm disappointed that the Mass Poetry organizers could not put on the festival on this year. I know spin when I see it, and this feels like a money/resources problem. Divide the festival? Why? I'm grateful that we were able to participate the first two festivals in Lowell, MA, but I'm not keen on adding it to the Boston Book Festival (BBF), destined to be swallowed up by big corporate sponsors and non-diverse headlining poets.

What I like about the Mass Poetry Festival is its grassroots spirit. I thought Mass Poetry was moving toward the Dodge Poetry Festival model, but I expect Mass Poetry will be assimilated by the BBF and/or die a quiet death in a year or two. Too bad, because I know a lot of people who have put the time and effort into making it a success.

As for Poetry Outreach, we've been waiting more than two years for this outreach. I'll believe it when I see it in action. And I really want to believe. The whole thing feels like a state-run initiative going nowhere.


Jessie Carty said…
seems like so many of the festivals try to become almost too big. we had a nice one here at a community college but now it has morphed into less about literary arts and more about print arts *sigh*
Anonymous said…
i had the same reaction. i was hoping our pilgrimage to lowell would be an annual one. :(
Anonymous said…
Exactly how I felt upon reading that. One of the other great things about MassPo was that it wasn't all about BOSTON.
January said…
Marie--exactly! The poetry community is so tightly wound in Boston it's hard to break in. And, there are plenty of wonderful communities outside of the Boston area that can host a festival.
J.D. Scrimgeour said…
. . . like Salem! As someone who has gone to a few meetings about the Festival, i would say don't give up on it yet. I think it just might need to find a new home.
January said…
Hi J.D.

I would love for Salem to be up for consideration, and I will be right there to help if the city hosts the festival. But we've just seen so many fits and start with this project that it's frustrating from the outside looking in.

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