The Poetry of Work - The Work of Power

Scan of my ID tag

Never have I been to a poetry reading where I had to go through a security checkpoint. But then again, never I have read poetry inside a power plant. Such was the venue of the latest Improbable Places Poetry Tour stop this past Wednesday.

The reading was was part of the exhibit "Across the Bridge," documenting the visual and narrative legacy of the Salem Harbor Power Plant--created by the students of Montserrat College of Art.


The reading was held in Turbine Hall and I can't emphasize that it was a completely different world for me. Physically, visually, acoustically--being in that huge hall was a unique experience. Up until then, I couldn't imagine what the inside of this coal fire power plant would be like. Or any type of factory. Not only was I moved, I was changed. 

Footprint Power gave Montserrat College unprecedented access to record and document the past, present, and future of the workers. And for one night, more than 100 poets, artists, and community members were privy for a nice of poetry and remembrance. The coal plant has been decommissioned and, as I understand it, will be restructured for use to process gas in the near future.  

Exhibit: "Across the Bridge" 

The biggest concern for organizers were protesters. Fortunately, everything ran smoothly (as far as I could tell). Also, there were no constraints on what could be read at the event. Our fabulous host, Colleen Michaels, did a terrific job weaving poems about the plant and its people with the overarching theme of work. But when is she not terrific, fabulous, amazing ... I could go on. No really, I could.

The Improbable Colleen Micheals

The last "poem" of the evening was not a poem, rather than a moment of silence. The folks of Montserrat provided audio of the turbines. Loud and powerful. Honestly, that's what was missing from the event, so I'm glad the organizers found a way to incorporate it into the evening. 

My humble blog post does not do this event justice. The poets, who ranged from someone sharing their first poem, to those of us who had a few books, gave this industrial space life. The poems were compassionate and reverent, but funny and sometimes pointed in tone. Colleen moved the evening along with her usual grace and flair, always respectful of the space. So many catwalks and crawl spaces. So much metal and grit. The event truly was a nod to our industrial past, and the power of art in our community.

Well done.


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