We made it to 2022, in this exhausting world where everyday we’re grateful to be alive! I hope your start to 2022 has been a quality one.
Since my health issues at the end of 2018, I haven’t really been an active creative. During my treatment I couldn’t write at all. After 6 months I stopped needing morphine, I gradually worked on editing the book which was delayed due to my medical needs. The editing process takes months and by the end of that I had little energy to invest. At this time I was still on over 20 pills a day.
I struggled with myself, feelings of failing and frustrations of inability all through 2019. It took a further year after I was free from the stick walking and consultants to tackle this. By this point we were tackling the pandemic.
Many creatives suffered. I read an article which explained the area of the brain we use to process/ manage the emotional fallout of a pandemic is where the creativity comes from, so it was no surprise we all suddenly felt empty. I had been staring at my wall/garden in isolation for a year already so I didn’t have to tackle that feeling of having nothing to write about, but survival mode doesn’t lend itself to play and I lost any potential of artistic bliss.
I desperately needed to escape into words and place focus away from what was happening globally and at home. Thanks to many generous poets I was able to stay creatively buoyant throughout Lockdown, despite a gauntlet of life’s challenges. And I was finally able to write about my annus horribilis.
By 2021 my m/s was ready but I’ve sat on it for so long that it has become changed. Which was its destiny, but I know it needs to become a priority if it is ever to be completed.
That’s what I am working on as well as taking on almost full time real life work by way of compensating the devastation to the bottom line over the past three years! I am grateful to have work in these times and to be able to do it.
I was diagnosed with a chronic disease at the end of 2019 and another chronic condition in the summer of 2020, obviously the NHS was already in crisis before the pandemic, so people with other issues (1/5th of the population, I believe) are waiting for appointments connected to other conditions. The backlog is not something which can be worked through.
I was lucky to see the consultant for all allocated appointments last year. But news like this also takes some adjusting. So in addition to working offline on the manuscript, I am also giving myself time to focus on health and future.
I am involved in projects which take place over the next two weekends and WLFF (Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe) are planning the 2022 Festival.
I am still here and I am delighted that you are too. I wish you every success and happiness in 2022. Fingers crossed!
Over my morning coffee, I took great pleasure reading social media feeds and seeing all the poems people were sharing. I was lucky enough to be busy on NPD (and working from home, which is rare these days). I had hoped to post here, especially as there have been several blank months – but like most things in 2021 it was delayed.
You will recall I dived into a year of online poetry/learning in 2020 during the 1st Lockdown, there were a multitude of reasons, including my mental health. I was back face to face work in November (after 3 months of zero income, our Furlough set for only 4 months and for me was 80% of nothing as I had been off sick for a year)! So work was a battle, navigating my way through the 10 day self isolation rules and the possibility of Covid. After 9 months I was exhausted and spent most of the summer offline and away from the desk. This term work has picked up (thank goodness) after several non-existent/fallow years!
I had decided to cut back the amount of online activity but it naturally happened when the laptop was out of reach. I also tried a LIVE event and discovered I have a huge amount of anxiety about any indoor gathering other than family and work (which makes no sense but is one of those things we have little control over). Work IS the biggest risk of all, but is one I have to take/make.
So I paced down the events… however, this was NPD… so I was back to full throttle.
I loved catching up online with everything poets were doing to mark NPD and catching up with friends and not having to wear work trousers!
Just like Christmas (NPD for me/poets) a special meal is created… for me it was my mentoring session – when I booked it I had no idea it was NPD. A very brilliant way to spend an hour!
Prose poetry is something I write infrequently (I think I have managed 3 or 4), there is only one I am proud of. I do love Jennifer Wong, both her poetry and workshops. It was a last minute spot and a gift from Pen to Print! I absolutely loved spending time with Jenny and an international group (as most are) of writers & poets and I ended up with some decent material to work with!
Worcestershire Poet Laureate, Ade Couper was on FB Live for NPD, I managed to catch the video after the Livestream. There are always multiple events happening and NPD that ramps up!
Malika’s Kitchen were celebrating NPD with a special online event featuring Malika’s Poetry Kitchen contributors to the recently published Too Young, Too Loud, Too Different anthology. The event was hosted by the Director of the MPK writers’ collective, Jill Abram, and featured poets Dean Atta, Be Manzini, Soul Patel and Joolz Sparkes. And Nine Arches /celebrated in partnership with Birmingham Literature Festival with a Planetary Poetics event featuring Gregory Leadbetter, Khairani Barokka, Caleb Parkin and Cynthia Miller. I managed to catch all streams at leisure a little later on. Nine Arches had an enlightening Q&A and I loved Dean Atta talking age… he’s still YOUNG! Both events were a joy and I glad I managed to get to them, all be it in a different time-zone!
Hoping I wouldn’t have work the next day (I DID)! I stayed up late to attend a workshop in US for Ohio Poetry Day with the Riffe Gallery. A Creative Writing Workshop with Kari Gunter-Seymour (SHIFT). Another fantastic workshop, but after the first hour (bedtime) the brain fog started to get to me. I wrote some of the prompts down to try another day.
I don’t know how Santa manages to get to all those houses, it’s impossible to get to every poet or do all your social media posting on the day! CHOICEs had to be made… but I had a FEAST of a day. Huge gratitude to everyone involved.
Summer’s late to the UK this year and so is my May review. I didn’t manage to finish the content in time before getting swept up with festival programming. Rather than leave people out I decided to delay the post.
Better late, than never… May.
May and June are always Festival busy and life online is no different. I also had a few exciting projects I was working on, so it has been another packed month.
The Stay at Home! Literary Festival celebrated a 2nd year of stunning, FREE events and brought us a fortnight packed with Readings, Interviews, Workshops, Panel Discussions and Books! It was fantastic.
You can read my posts about the SAHLF events starting here.
Saboteur Awards Festival (10th – 15th May) The team have been working hard on how to adapt the awards to a digital platform for the 2nd year and have introduced the Saboteur Awards Festival -a Panel Discussion, Workshop, Reading Series ‘specifically to promote work that had been impacted by the pandemic and/or the various lockdowns throughout the UK’. At the end of the festival this year’s winners will be announced and then you can lock forward to the Spotlight Winners Series running all the way into June.
https://www.stayathomefringe.co.uk (11th -26th May ) The Still-at-Home! Fringe Fest is the punk-brat little sister of the award-winning Stay-at-Home Literary Festival. Now a year old, and on our third festival, we’re letting loose one last time because we’re still at home!
MASS Poetry Festival (13th – 16th May) This was an absolutely packed programme of events – ‘more than 50 events in total featuring well over 100+ poets‘ – no wonder it’s a biennial event! The festival is a mix of in place events and virtual. I attended a lot of MASS PF workshops and have always had an eye on this one so it is a delight to be in a position to join in.
This was an incredible festiand I am so glad I had a chance to catch it and be part of it online.
I was delighted to see the Urban Tree Festival back after its award winning 2020 Festival.
‘2021 marks the Urban Tree Festival’s fourth year As lockdown eases in the UK, we hope to bring some on-the-ground events and activities, however, the majority of the Urban Tree Festival is online. Building on the success of our entirely on-line festival last year, that introduced us to new audiences across the UK and far beyond…’
There were lots of great readings this week. Cheltenham Poetry Festival had more wonderful offerings, I went to the reading by Jonathan Davidson and Wendy Pratt. It was a joy. Pavillion Poets 2021 Reading (Liverpool University Press), featuring Alice Miller, Alice Hiller & SarahWestcott. I enjoyed the fine new work from these poets.
I managed to catch a wonderful reading at White Whale Book Store, with Adrienne Su reading from her latest collection peach state. She was joined by Kazim Ali & Erika Meitner. It was another reading worth staying awake for. Beautiful event. The flipside of no work for a 5th week… meant I managed to get back to the Live Canon Lunchtime reading series and enjoyed sets from: Nora Nadjarian, Benjamin Cusden, Sara Levy and Jeffery Sugarman.
I experienced the final MASS PF PEM Museum Workshop with Kirun Kapur which was a delightful look at epistolary poetry. Well worth staying up late for. I am now busy crafting these poems.
After seeing Rachel Bower again at SAHLF this year, I was delighted to discover her‘Glimmers: Writing out of the Ordinary’ Workshop with Union Street (which had a similar theme to the workshop I planned for Cheltenham Poetry Festival Freeverse series this month). And I found it just in time to attend this wondrous hour!
I took part in the final (of a series) Mindful Poetry Workshops with The Well. This week was Sarah Yeung of SKY Sound Yoga who opened our time with a sound meditation. And, Eddie Gonzalez, Director of Engagement at The On Being Project who led the poetry workshop. It was a fantastic experience to be a part of. I am now baking these poems too.
I finally submitted toIS&T earlier this year, a magazine I have read for years. I was delighted to have a poem accepted by them ‘Where We Begin’, was featured on the 2nd May.
Was a whirlwind of real world work, readings, workshops and multiple festivals. I also managed to make a submission and craft some new poems.
Live from The Butchery hosted another fabulous afternoon of poetry with Tim Liardet, Jennifer Militello, Jenny Pagdin and a week later were announced as winners of the Best Regular Spoken Word Night Saboteur Award 2021 , acategory full of stiff competition, so kudos to the team.
Followed by an equally exceptional evening at Cafe Writers featuring Tiffany Atkinson and support from Tristan Coleshaw & Eve Esfandiari Denney.
I did my usual sessions Line Breaks and Bronx Beats with Peggy Roubles-Alvarado which is always fast, furious fun and Redwing’s groups. The WLF team started finalising mini-festival 2021 plans and I had some wonderful readings and workshops from the Saboteur Festival and MASS Poetry Festival.
I made it to most of the Poetry Business Spring Launch and caught up on rewatch. Evesham Festival of Words have also been producing events online. I managed to get to Home and Away featuring the Cheltenham Poetry Festival – Anna Saunders, Ben Ray and Zoe Brooks.
I also missed some events and readings as I was working.
The festival events continued and a workshop I had been looking forward to for a long time with Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton. Great things have come from this session ‘Collision, Collusion & Craft’.
I enjoyed a workshop with Sarah L. Dixon and a Fair Acre Book Launch for Carl Tomlinson and Annie Freud’s wonderful launch event ‘Hiddensee’ with Jacqueline Saphra.
Last Autumn I was booked by Cheltenham Poetry Festival for the Freeverse Programme to facilitate a poetry workshop day. The theme I chose was‘Finding Fortune’and it was a pleasure to provide a bespoke Freeverse Workshop for this project.
To wind down afterwards I joined the Urban Tree Festival for Sounds of Plants with Planet Utopia. I discovered a while back the magic of tree communication – it was wonderful to hear it and lovely to be part of such a laid back hour.
I also caught another reading with Adrienne Su, for Caltech, a wonderfully generous event.
The organisation of Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe Festival ran full steam. I was busy with the tech side of the our 2nd Digital Mini Festival. Preparing for pre-festival meetings and Poet Laureate interviews as well as organising events and herding poets (and everyone knows we are like cats or badly behaved sheep)!
I had to miss events due to work and carved out one evening away from the desk.
I missed at lot of the Still-at-Home! Fringe LitFest (Fringe for SAHLF) – or as marketed, the punk-brat little sister of the award-winning Stay-at-Home Literary Festival. I did manage to get to enjoy Tawnya Renelle’s workshop and one at the Urban Tree Festival – Writing Wood Words with Electra Rhodes and the other with Chris Vox on ‘Serendipity’ as part of the SAHLFringe Festival. As well as a Magma Poetry Talk and I managed a couple of submissions.
I spent my weekend at a variety of festivals, went to a couple of workshops we had the 2021 Worcestershire Poet Laureate Interviews and I finally made it back to USA open mic with Great weather for Media. I missed some submissions, due to work commitments. I arranged an interview in June for BBC Hereford & Worcester radio. And the HAY Festival began with an amazing Gala event.
Sadly this year I didn’t make it to all the events I had hoped to catch at HAY. I haven’t been able to work properly for 2 years, so I am currently snapping jobs every time they come. I managed to catch some before they disappeared into Hay Player – which has a reasonable rate for an annual subscription. I was working and full of cold. I had lost my voice completely when 42Worcester came about and so for the 2nd time this year (after not missing any for the best part of 5 or 6 years) I missed it again, I managed to pop on for a few readings and then had to leave. I had managed to pen an on theme poem in my lunch hour and was fully prepared to join in.
I thought I had a quiet(ish) weekend to finish the month, especially after three weeks of work… but then, along came The Black Country Living Museum with a whole day of workshops facilitated by the Poets, Prattlers and Pandemonialists as part of the Loff Out Loud Festival, a Sheffield Libraries event and HAY.
May was finished off at the WWBPA where we celebrated Walt Whitman’s 202nd Birthday with a presentation of artwork and film inspired by Leaves of Grass. It was marvellous curation and an enjoyable watch.
This is the final part of my MASS PF write up, sadly I missed the Headline event which closed the festival but it was a fantastic weekend and I feasted well.
Sunday 16th May
The final day was absolutely superb! I started with a workshop.
Chaotic? Good!: Harnessing the Power of the Happy Accident in Your Poetry
James Merrill used a Ouija board to commune with the spirits of the dead. He got 560 pages out of it. French Surrealists described their dreams, Tracy K. Smith took an eraser to the Declaration of Independence, and Jericho Brown writes lines on slips of paper that he slides around until something interesting pops out.
In this workshop, we’ll use techniques such as erasure, web-surfing, tarot decks, and more to help attendees relinquish some control to outside forces (and the unconscious) during the drafting and revision stages of their processes. This can create work that functions less by logic than by juxtaposition, association, the element of surprise–what Robert Bly called poetic “leaping.”
Maria Pinto is a writer, educator, and mushroom enthusiast. She teaches at GrubStreet, reads for The Drum, and Peripheries, and has been awarded fellowships by Vermont Studio Center, The Writers’ Room of Boston, The Mastheads, and Garret on the Green. Find her work in Frigg, Necessary Fiction, and Cleaver.
Emily Franklin’s work has been published in the New York Times, Guernica, the Cincinnati Review, New Ohio Review, Shenandoah, Blackbird, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Rumpus, Passages North, The Journal, and Cimarron Review. Her poetry collection Tell Me How You Got Here was published by Terrapin Books in February 2021.
Walter Smelt’s poems have appeared in Colorado Review, Subtropics, Poetry East, Redivider, and Peripheries, and his translations of poems in The Battersea Review, and the Harvard Divinity Bulletin. Originally from Florida, he lives in Massachusetts and teaches English for Bunker Hill Community College and creative writing for GrubStreet.
Maya Demissie’s work has appeared in Monologue Project, a student publication, and they are the news managing editor of The Newtonite, their school newspaper. They also co-host Miamas, a storytelling podcast for students at their high school.
It was very interactive, we discussed finding inspiration, we played with form and poetry. Dynamic play with ideas from each of the panel. We all created some surprising work and it was experimental and great fun! Enlightening alchemy!
Every Place Has Its Story: Writing About Region
Mark Doty will moderate a panel discussion with Alice Kociemba, Robin Smith-Johnson and Rich Youmans, co-editors of From the Farther Shore: Discovering Cape Cod and the Islands Through Poetry (Bass River Press, 2021). Mark Doty will give an overview of the anthology and lead the editors in a discussion about how they conceived, selected, and organized the poems in order to bring the region to life.
They will then read a selection that illustrates how poetry can capture the spirit of the region—its history, its people, its landmarks, its industries, and its beauty.
Robin Smith-Johnson teaches at Cape Cod Community College. She is the author of two books of poetry: Dream of the Antique Dealer’s Daughter (Word Poetry, 2013), and Gale Warnings (Finishing Line Press, 2016), as well as being a co-founder of the Steeple Street Poets. Robin lives in Mashpee, MA.
Alice Kociemba is a co-editor of From the Farther Shore: Discovering Cape Cod and the Islands Through Poetry (Bass River Press, forthcoming) along with Robin Smith-Johnson and Rich Youmans. She is founding director of Calliope Poetry and is the author of Bourne Bridge (Turning Point, 2016).
Rich Youmans’s work has appeared in diverse publications, including Contemporary Haibun Online (where he currently serves as editor in chief), Cape Cod Poetry Review, the Cape Cod Times, and The Best Small Fictions 2020 (Sonder Press). He lives in North Falmouth with his wife, Alice Kociemba.
Mark Doty is the author of more than ten books of poetry, most recently Deep Lane (W.W. Norton, 2015), and three memoirs, including What Is the Grass: Walt Whitman in My Life (W.W. Norton, 2020). Fire to Fire, his volume of new and selected poems, won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2008l He is a Distinguished Professor at Rutgers University and lives in New York City.
This event, as advertised was geographically local in content. The Cape Cod area is an area I am still to explore – but listening in to the panel discussion certainly gave me a real sense of place. It was a most enjoyable hour.
They all talked about poetry as well as landscape and landmarks. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour in words.
Headline Reading with Ariana Reines and Patricia Spears Jones
Sponsored by The Shipman Agency with an opening reading by Jennifer Martelli.
Patricia Spears Jones is the recipient of The Jackson Poetry Prize, one the most prestigious awards for American Poets via Poets & Writers, Inc. The $50,000 prize is among the most substantial given to an American poet and is designed to provide what all poets need: time and encouragement to write. She is the eleventh winner. In language that is simultaneously sensuous, wise-cracking, explicit, and rollicking, Spears Jones describes a world rich in beauty and longing, with pain tempered always by joy.
Ariana Reines is an award-winning poet, playwright, and translator. Her most recent book of poetry is A Sand Book (Tin House, 2019), which was longlisted for the National Book Award. Her other books include Tiffany’s Poems (Song Cave, 2015); Ramayana (Song Cave, 2015); The Origin of the World (Semiotext(e), 2014); Beyond Relief (Belladonna*, 2013); Thursday (Spork Press, 2012); Mercury (Fence Books, 2011); Coeur de Lion (Fence Books, 2007); and The Cow (Fence Books, 2006). Her poems have been anthologized in Corrected Slogans (Triple Canopy, 2013); Miscellaneous Uncatalogued Materials (Triple Canopy, 2011); Against Expression (Northwestern University Press, 2011); and Gurlesque (Saturnalia, 2010). Reines has been described as “one of the crucial voices of her generation” by Michael Silverblatt on NPR’s Bookworm. In 2020, she won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. She’s been a MacDowell Fellow, has judged the National Poetry Series, and writes regularly for ArtForum.
Jennifer Martelli is the author of MyTarantella (Bordighera Press), awarded an Honorable Mention from the Italian-American Studies Association, selected as a 2019 “Must Read” by the Massachusetts Center for the Book, and named as a finalist for the Housatonic Book Award. Her chapbook, After Bird, was the winner of the Grey Book Press open reading, 2016. Her work has appeared in Thrush, Verse Daily, Iron HorseReview (winner, Photo Finish contest), The Sycamore Review, Cream City Review, The Bitter Oleander, and Poetry. Jennifer Martelli has twice received grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for her poetry. She is co-poetry editor for Mom Egg Review and co-curates the Italian-American Writers Series.
Jennifer Martelli facilitated the only MASS PF Workshop I missed this year, back in February. It was great to hear her read.
Ariana Reines talked about generational trauma and guilt, her mother’s mental illness, the conflict in Israel and immigration, the reality of being an immigrant. It was certainly not what I expected from the reading but it was obvious she needed to speak her truth at this moment in time. As she said – it is a matter of the heart and she wanted to speak from the heart.
Ariana Reines & Patricia Spears Jones shared powerful poetry!
The difficulty with writing about a festival a month after you went (and have since filled the past 30 days with more glorious poetry) is things tend to get forgotten or blend as one. This is a sign of how stand-out many of the MASS PF events were. I only have to look at the title of the session and the event comes flooding back to me.
So, here for your pleasure is the 2nd part of my MASS Poetry Festival write up. After all, it won’t happen again for a couple of years.
Saturday 15th May
Ecopoetry: Words in Balance
As the rainforest burns and wildfires rage, as climate change threatens our world, poets can bear witness, reflecting on the intricate interconnectedness of humanity, our planet, and nature. We are nature. EcoPoetry offers us a lifeline to hidden worlds and reminds us of our shared reliance on nature. This session explores the role of the poet as activist, as chronicler of destruction, as truth teller. In this reading, poets Fred Marchant, Jennifer Barber, Deborah Leipziger and Myronn Hardy share their ecopoems and reflect on the power of EcoPoetry to transform and heal our world and ourselves.
Fred Marchant has authored five books of poetry, the most recent of which, Said Not Said, was named an Honored Book by the Massachusetts Book Awards. He has edited Another World Instead: The Early Poetry of William Stafford, and, co-translated (with Nguyen Ba Chung) works by several contemporary Vietnamese poets.
Deborah Leipziger is a poet, author, and advisor on sustainability. Her chapbook, Flower Map, was published by Finishing Line Press. Born in Brazil, Ms. Leipziger is the author of several books on sustainability. Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, her poems have been published in literary magazines in four countries.
Jennifer Barber’s new collection, The Sliding Boat Our Bodies Made, is forthcoming from The Word Works in 2022. Her book Works on Paper was published by The Word Works in 2016, and her two previous collections, both from Kore Press, are Given Away, and Rigging the Wind.
Myronn Hardy is the author of five books of poems, most recently, Radioactive Starlings, published by Princeton University Press (2017). His poems have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Virginia Quarterly Review, the Baffler, Rhino, and elsewhere.
This was a generous event, introductory poems by other great poets and some wonderfully powerful poetry. The poets shared context for their poems and sometimes process. I could have listened to all four of them for hours! An incredible Q&A after the readings too. Great interaction with the audience.
My two main USA hangouts since Lockdown 2020 have been The Walt Whitman Birthplace and the Emily Dickinson Museum. Both organisations have offered amazingly creative online content. Emily Dickinson was my first poet. One I have loved the work of all my life. I started learning about her life as a teenager and have never let go. I can’t believe it took a Lockdown to get me searching online for the Museum. I have certainly made up for it since!
Walt Whitman didn’t hit my radar until I came back to writing in 2013, but swiftly found his place in my heart and bookshelf. There is something incredibly magic about words that last the centuries and are still relevant today.
I had booked on the Annual poetry walk before MASS PF released the programme – but it is great that it fell during the festival and was part of it.
“Called Back”: A Virtual Emily Dickinson Poetry Walk
Days before her death in 1886, Emily Dickinson wrote her final letter, “Little Cousins, / Called Back. / Emily”. On May 15, the 135th anniversary of the poet’s death, join the Emily Dickinson Museum for an engaging virtual poetry reading and “walk” through Amherst, the town she called “paradise.” At each stop, we will see historical and contemporary images of sites of meaning for Dickinson including her garden and conservatory at the Homestead, The Evergreens — home to the poet’s brother and sister-in-law; the town common; Amherst College; and more. Not a lecture, this program infuses place with poetry. At each stop contemporary poets share their Dickinson-inspired poems and volunteers read Dickinson’s own words aloud. The final stop is Dickinson’s grave in West Cemetery where we will share reflections and a light-hearted virtual toast!
Elizabeth Bolton has a PhD in Literacy Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. She writes articles, essays and poems about the connection between writing and mental health. She grew up in northern California and now lives in Niagara Falls, Ontario with her husband and two daughters.
Lori Desrosiers’ poetry books are The Philosopher’s Daughter, Sometimes I Hear the Clock Speak, and Keeping Planes in the Air, all from Salmon Poetry. Two chapbooks, Inner Sky and Typing with e.e. cummings, are from Glass Lyre Press. She edits Naugatuck River Review, a journal of narrative poetry and Wordpeace.co, an online journal dedicated to social justice.
Hannah Baker Saltmarsh is the author of the poetry collection, Hysterical Water, published by The University of Georgia Press in March 2021. She has written a book of poetry criticism, entitled Male Poets and the Agon of the Mother: Contexts in Confessional and Post-confessional Poetry (Univ. of South Carolina P., 2019). She is the mother of three children, and lives with her husband in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where she teaches and writes.
Kate Godin lives in Western Massachusetts, where she tends to the writing needs of a small liberal arts college, a tween and a teen, a vigorous anxiety. She is a graduate of Bates College and the New School for Social Research.
Bonnie Larson Staiger is a North Dakota Associate Poet Laureate, the recipient of the ‘Poetry of the Plains and Prairies Prize (NDSU Press, 2018) and the ‘Independent Press Award: Distinguished Favorite’ (2019) for her collection, Destiny Manifested. Her second book In Plains Sight, is forthcoming from NDSU Press in 2021.
Robin Long is a queer poet and writer from Austin. She is expanding her fiction thesis on Emily Dickinson. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, 2020 National Poetry Month Editor’s Pick, and a digital poetry performer with FEELS Zine.
Siri Palreddy is a first-year at Amherst College, hoping to study both English and Neuroscience. An avid reader, she first discovered Emily Dickinson in high school, and has loved her work ever since. Apart from poetry, Siri enjoys writing creative nonfiction and is compelled by stories that navigate one’s identity (or identities) and roots. When not reading or writing, you can find Siri spending her free time volunteering, laying in the sun, or rewatching her favorite comfort shows.
Peter Schmitt is the author of six books of poems. “Emily Dickinson and the Boston Red Sox” appears in his new collection, Goodbye, Apostrophe (Regal House). A graduate of Amherst and The Iowa Writers Workshop, he lives and teaches in his hometown of Miami, Florida.
Don Skoog is a freelance musician, writer, and teacher living in Oak Park, Illinois. He plays Classical percussion and Jazz drums, as well as Latin American, Arabic, and Persian instruments. He authors books and articles on exploring culture through music—the latest, in Arabic, for The University of Chicago’s Majala magazine—and has written four novels (not all of them published yet). The poem Amherst, is from Adventures in the RhythmVerse, his first chapbook.
Rebecca Starks is the author of the poetry collections Time Is Always Now, a finalist for the 2019 Able Muse Book Award, and Fetch, Muse (forthcoming from Able Muse Press), and is the recipient of Rattle’s 2018 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor. She lives in Richmond, Vermont.
Abigail Price is a 24 year old English poet, writer and Undergraduate student studying Criminology, Criminal Justice and Social Policy at the University of Wolverhampton in England. Most of Abigail’s work is inspired by her past and significantly, nature which aided her recovery from mental illness in her early teenage years. Abigail is an avid writer & reader and her dream is to influence social change through British politics alongside writing beautiful poetry to leave people a little bit better, than when her poems found them.
This tradition has been ongoing for 37 years it was initiated by a group of Amherst based Dickinson enthusiasts and was adopted by the Emily Dickinson museum. And today it continues to draw new and returning devotees each year we’re so thrilled that you’re here with us.
A deeply celebratory event, one you can watch on the website link above. On the virtual poetry walk we visited six locations significant to the life of the have Emily Dickinson. Ten contemporary poets and volunteers read the poetry as we had the full text shown on screen, along with archive resources and photographs. Lots of historical information cleverly weaved through the event. It was beautiful.
It was one of those events which fully absorbs you! The laying of daisies towards the end was extremely emotional especially because of the pandemic and all those lives we have lost. A toast and choral reading at the end made us all feel connected across the world too.
After the event we were able to sign the virtual Guest Book.
A beautiful poetry walk to take with you all at teatime in the UK. Lovely choral reading to toast Emily and finish the event. Felt very connected, glad you could be part of the MASS Poetry Festival. Very excited to hear more about the restoration too. Carpets from England. …For what are Stars but Asterisks To point a human Life? (FR 1673)
A magical experience.
My final MASS PF event of the day was the Headline reading. I am a massive fan of Naomi Shihab Nye’s writing and always enjoy watching her readings. They have been a big part of my 2020+ Lockdown.
Headline Reading with Porsha Olayiwola, Tyehimba Jess, and Naomi Shihab Nye
Sponsored by The Grolier Poetry Book Shop
Black, futurist, poet, dyke, hip-hop feminist, womanist: Porsha is a native of Chicago who now resides in Boston. Olayiwola is a writer, performer, educator, and curator who uses afro-futurism and surrealism to examine historical and current issues in the Black, woman, and queer diasporas. She is an Individual World Poetry Slam Champion and the artistic director at MassLEAP, a literary youth organization. Olayiwola is an MFA Candidate at Emerson College. Porsha Olayiwola is the author of i shimmer sometimes, too forthcoming with Button Poetry, and is the current poet laureate for the city of Boston.
Tyehimba Jess is the author of two books of poetry, Leadbelly and Olio. Olio won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, The Midland Society Author’s Award in Poetry, and received an Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. It was also nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN Jean Stein Book Award, and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Leadbelly was a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. The Library Journal and Black Issues Book Review both named it one of the “Best Poetry Books of 2005.”
Jess, a Cave Canem and NYU Alumni, received a 2004 Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and was a 2004–2005 Winter Fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. Jess is also a veteran of the 2000 and 2001 Green Mill Poetry Slam Team, and won a 2000–2001 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Poetry, the 2001 Chicago Sun-Times Poetry Award, and a 2006 Whiting Fellowship. He presented his poetry at the 2011 TedX Nashville Conference and won a 2016 Lannan Literary Award in Poetry. He received a Guggenheim fellowship in 2018. Jess is a Professor of English at College of Staten Island.
Jess’ fiction and poetry have appeared in many journals, as well as anthologies such as Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry, Beyond The Frontier: African American Poetry for the Twenty-First Century, Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art, Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam, Power Lines: Ten Years of Poetry from Chicago’s Guild Complex, and Slam: The Art of Performance Poetry.
Naomi Shihab Nye
Naomi Shihab Nye has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Witter Bynner Fellow (Library of Congress). She has received a Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, four Pushcart Prizes, the Robert Creeley Prize, and “The Betty Prize” from Poets House, for service to poetry, and numerous honors for her children’s literature, including two Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards. In 2011 Nye won the Golden Rose Award given by the New England Poetry Club, the oldest poetry reading series in the country. Her collection, 19 Varieties of Gazelle, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her work has been presented on National Public Radio on A Prairie Home Companion and The Writer’s Almanac. She has been featured on two PBS poetry specials including “The Language of Life with Bill Moyers” and also appeared on NOW with Bill Moyers. She has been affiliated with The Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin for 20 years and also poetry editor at The Texas Observer for 20 years. In 2019-2020 she was the editor for New York Times Magazine poems. She is Chancellor Emeritus for the Academy of American Poets, a laureate of the 2013 NSK Neustadt Award for Children’s Literature, and in 2017 the American Library Association presented Naomi Shihab Nye with the 2018 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award. In 2018 the Texas Institute of Letters awarded her the Lon Tinkle Award for Lifetime Achievement. She was named the 2019-2021 Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. In 2020 she was awarded the Ivan Sandrof Award for Lifetime Achievement by the National Book Critics Circle. Nye is professor of Creative Writing – Poetry at Texas State University.
It was a great introduction (for me) to both Porsha Olayiwola’s work and Tyehimba Jess. Olayiwola’s reading focused on social poetry, historical commentary and current issues facing black women. It was a totally enthralling and powerful set. She is a woman who harnesses poetic courage and uses it well.
Tyehimba Jess was fantastic – I could have listened to him for hours. So many hard hitting, grabbing lines.
‘What I know good starts with a brick and ends with a book
and bleeds in between,’
Jess bridges Slam and Academic poetry, I could hear the Blues influence in the rhythm of is work, the feel of it.
And as for Naomi Shihab Nye – wow. Generous and endearing as always. Quietly getting her point across. Passionate and dedicated to the work of poetry. The way she can approach such difficult subjects with complete gentleness is beyond me. She started with sharing her reasons for admiring MA poetic history, the poets who have come from this part of the world and she read a poem by a young Californian poet she knows, Emily Ligron. The MASS PF as a whole seemed to be very proactive in promoting unsung voices and the work of other famous, important poets from the area.
MASS Poetry Festival was amazing, I am so glad that I was able to attend the hybrid event, it is a Biennial event and the programme was huge, extensive & creative. They had over 50 events featuring over 100 poets. This was the first festival since the 10th Anniversary in 2018. Headline poets included: Victoria Chang, Jos Charles, Martín Espada, Tyehimba Jess, Patricia Spears Jones, Lang Leav, Khadijah Queen, Naomi Shihab Nye, Ariana Reines, Dara Wier & more.
It was a joy to spot some of the Worcester MA (A Tale of Two Cities Project) poets on the bill and often in the audience too. It was a busy weekend – because, (as with all festivals) there was a clash, I was attending events for what felt like the whole 48hrs – it wasn’t!
What I also liked was the website booking system which enabled you to keep track of your own festival schedule, very handy. Especially when not in real life with a paper copy in your pocket.
The time zones meant much of the programme was quite late for BST (UK) and I was working unexpectedly out in the real world too, so it was a juggling act to hang onto all the event bookings. Sadly I missed the finale but as Mr. G hadn’t seen me most of the weekend it seemed only fair. I felt jet lagged by about 6pm Sunday!
Headline Reading with Victoria Chang and Khadijah Queen
I was excited to see Victoria Chang reading after recently reading her poetry in April (NaPoWriMo) and getting obsessed with OBIT and how she handles the hardest subjects in the most beautiful poetry.
The reading was opened by the winners of MASS PF First Poem Contest: Samn Stockwell, Samantha DeFlitch, and Emily Joan Cooper.
Khadijah Queen was the other headline act on the Opening Reading – I absolutely loved this reading and was glad to catch Khadijah later in the festival too.
Khadijah Queen is the author of five books of poetry, most recently I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On (YesYes Books, 2017), a finalist for the National Poetry Series, which was praised in O Magazine, The New Yorker, Los Angeles Review, and elsewhere as “quietly devastating,” and “a portrait of defiance that turns the male gaze inside out.”
Victoria Chang’s new book of poetry, OBIT, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2020 and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, longlisted for a National Book Award, as well as longlisted for a PEN-Voeckler Award. OBIT was also named a TIME Magazine, Publishers Weekly, NPR, Boston Globe Best Book of the Year, and a New York Times Notable Book.
As well as a diverse range of events, there were other things happening – some in real life some online. Such as the online Ekphrastic Gallery – which of course I enjoyed. Work by twelve amazingly gifted student artists from Montserrat College of Art, paired with bespoke poems by the winners of our Ekphrastic Gallery contest. This gallery was created thanks to the amazing work of Montserrat Faculty Members Colleen Michaels and Dawn Paul.
And the Improbable Places Walking Tour – another highlight. An audio tour highlighting some of the most memorable stops on The Improbable Places Poetry Tour has been made for your listening pleasure. The Improbable Places Poetry Tour, a reading series organized by Colleen Michaels of Montserrat College of Art, has run for over a decade around Beverly, Salem, and the North Shore bringing poetry and the community together in unexpected places. Yes, even in a swimming pool. This audio tour version will feature stops around the Massachusetts North Shore and can be enjoyed either with a day trip or virtually.
My Friday schedule started with this powerful reading.
New Elegies: How do we turn grief into song?
Four poets read from new collections that wrestle with the bounds and opportunities of the American elegy. Readings with Sumita Chakraborty, Rebecca Morgan Frank (who I have being enjoying over 2020/21), Erin Carlyle & Jessica Guzman.
Followed by an enjoyable/relaxed workshop with Kelly DuMar: How Pictures Heal.
In the midst of our shifting daily realities, I believe this one experience remains a constant: We all take and treasure photographs of the people, places and things that bring meaning and beauty into our lives. – Kelly DuMar
The Thing With Feathers: Poetry of Witness to Serious Illness and Trauma
Contemporary poets discuss their own poems dealing with serious illness and what they reveal about hope, what Emily Dickinson called “the thing with feathers”.
I have been writing trauma and illness recently, so was interested in this reading and discussion. It was really hard to decide as some of the events I wanted to go to clashed – decisions had to be made.
Oliver de la Paz (I discovered Oliver’s work in the 1st Lockdown), Jennifer Franklin (who hosts many of the Hudson Valley Writers events I have attended and who I heard read at the Emily Dickinson Museum), Fred Marchant (who was also part of the EDM reading) and Justin Wymer.
I am glad I made the decision to attend this reading, a rich discussion between poets and some heartening poems. As the programme stated: Sometimes, however, the poet finds hope, even in a factually hopeless situation. What is it in us that persists in singing, regardless of how dire the facts?
The final event I attended on Friday was the Headline Reading.
The second headline reading of the Festival, featured Lang Leav (who I recently discovered and then enjoyed a workshop she facilitated on prose poetry) and Dara Wier, with an opening reading by National Youth Poet Laureate Meera Dasgupta.
Meera Dasgupta is the youngest United States Youth Poet Laureate appointed in the history of the country. She is also the first U.S. Youth Poet Laureate to have been appointed from New York (as well as the Northeastern region) and the first Asian-American Youth Poet Laureate of the United States.
Novelist and poet Lang Leav was born in a refugee camp when her family were fleeing the Khmer Rouge Regime. She spent her formative years in Sydney, Australia, in the predominantly migrant town of Cabramatta. Among her many achievements, Lang is the winner of a Qantas Spirit of Youth Award, Churchill Fellowship and Goodreads Reader’s Choice Award.
Dara Wier’s books include In the Still of the Night (Wave Books, 2017), You Good Thing (Wave Books, 2013), Selected Poems (Wave Books, 2009), Remnants of Hannah (Wave Books, 2006), Reverse Rapture (Verse Press, 2005; 2006 Poetry Center Book Award), Hat On a Pond (Verse Press, 2002), and Voyages in English (Carnegie Mellon, 2001).
So the Stay at Home! Lit Festival is over – but there was no festival slump!
Saboteur Awards Festival (10th – 15th May) The team have been working hard to adapt the awards to a digital platform for the 2nd year and have introduced the Saboteur Awards Festival -a Panel Discussion, Workshop, Reading Series ‘specifically to promote work that had been impacted by the pandemic and/or the various lockdowns throughout the UK’.
At the end of the festival this year’s winners will be announced and then you can look forward to the Spotlight Winners Series running throughout May and all the way into July. There is a lot on offer on the You Tube channel.
I was super excited when I discovered Rose Condo was one of the performers on offer. I felt extremely lucky to finally catch Rose Condo’s reimagined show The Empathy Experiment. Amazing how she managed to deconstruct the 2019 show to bend around the global experience of 2020+ and I think probably makes it even stronger.
“An example of why we so desperately need to campaign for the survival of the arts.”
I met Rose back in about 2015, when she Headlined Hit the Ode in Birmingham and I was first introduced to her little red dot. I knew I wasn’t going to see The Empathy Experiment in Edinburgh (Festival) – for one thing I was still hobbling around on a stick! But I had hoped to catch her last year, online at Bradford Festival, so I am glad that she is still performing this reimagining of The Empathy Experiment.
The Carcanet Reading was highly enjoyable and great fun with a range of poets. I enjoyed readings from Katherine Horrex, Joey Connolly, Mina Gorji and Victoria Kennefick. I know the work of some of these poets and had most recently enjoyed Victoria Kennefick at the Stay at Home! Lit Festival. All of them were utterly brilliant and are on the Birthday list!
You can purchase the books by clicking the links beneath the covers.
Horrex – whose poems found an enthusiastic readership via Carcanet’s New Poetries series – unpicks the illusion that order upholds society and reveals the true ramshackle complexion of things. Her debut collection reimagines the ‘growlery’ of Dickens’ Bleak House by looking at the concept of internal space in a twenty-first century which is both connected and disjointed.
‘Ach! I misspoke. What I mean to say is this …’ In Long Pass, Joey Connolly’s first collection, the poet – in love, in puzzlement, in frustration or in elegy – keeps catching himself out, starting again. He wants to speak truthfully. He wants to say things simply. But nothing is as simple as it seems at first. Nothing strikes the interlocutor quite as he intends. Ach! He goes back. Deflections, tangents: the long pass, the long unfolding sentence, the growing sequence, move away from what they intend to say in order at last, wittily, angrily, ironically, to swerve in and say it.
‘...This is a serious attempt to write philosophy as poetry, to render complex arguments about nominalism and epistemology in verse without losing sensuality’s boom boom.’ Will Harris, Poetry School
Among Mina Gorji’s poems in New Poetries V (2011) was one about Houdini entitled ‘The Art of Escape’ which returns here as the title poem. This colourful and vivid first collection continues the course of Mina Gorji’s meticulous explorations of ‘the strange and sometimes darker side of nature’ and the different forms and meanings of escape: dandelions crossing the ocean, the journey of a gall wasp from Aleppo to England, the transformation of an armadillo into music. These poems shift by degrees until new patterns and sounds emerge, transforming the familiar into unexpected configurations. Art of Escape is a wonderful casting off into the complex waters of adult life, in which change has become the constant.
Victoria Kennefick’s daring first book, Eat or We Both Starve, draws readers into seemingly recognisable set-pieces – the family home, the shared meal, the rituals of historical occasions, desire – but Kennefick forges this material into new shapes, making them viable again for exploring what it is to live with the past – and not to be consumed by it.
I was lucky enough to grab a workshop ticket for the weekend with Rose, which was a fantastic way to start the weekend (after a much needed – real life working week- lie in)! It was a great group, I knew a few of the people who came to the workshop. I wasn’t sure what to expect… but ‘Have a (Kind) Word with Yourself’ is never going to be a bad experience. It was joyous, there was a lot of laughter and writing too. No pressure and very relaxed. I don’t want to give details away as I know Rose plans to repeat the show and workshop. You should definitely book on when you see it!
The festival experience led up to the most exciting part — the announcement of the 2021 Saboteur Winners with some special new graphics especially for the 2021 Ceremony!
Check out Saboteur Awards Results, follow across social media and look out for bountiful readings on the You Tube channel as they Spotlight the winners from the end of May (26th) until July (4th).
Julian Bishop, Maggie Butt, Sarah Doyle and Cheryl Moskowitz are four well-published and prize-winning members of Poets for the Planet, who have come together to perform climate emergency poems and publish a pamphlet ‘Poems for the Planet’ (2020) with all profits to eco-charities.
Julian Bishop is a former television journalist living in North London. He was longlisted in this year’s National Poetry Competition and won the 2021 Poets and Players Competition. He’s also a former runner-up in the Ginkgo Prize for Eco Poetry.
Maggie Butt’s sixth poetry collection is everlove (The London Magazine Editions 2021) and a novel, The Prisoner’s Wife, under the name Maggie Brookes was published internationally in 2020.
Sarah Doyle is a poet and PhD researcher. She is widely placed and published, with a pamphlet of collage poems inspired by Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals – Something so wild and new in this feeling – published by V. Press in March 2021.
Cheryl Moskowitz is a poet, novelist and creative translator. Together with composer Alastair Gavin she runs the poetry and electronics performance series, All Saints Sessions, http://www.allsaintssessions.uk. Her recent pamphlet, Maternal Impression, is published by Against the Grain Poetry Press.
This was a great reading from a book which got swallowed a bit by the pandemic, like my pamphlet ‘Patience’, this collective of poets also saw the readings they had lined up for the promotion of this publication cancelled. This is an important book – as all books are- but the message here is even more believed from the year we have all just experienced.
Write a Book in 10 Easy Steps!
Blank page and no idea how to begin? This practical hour-long workshop is guaranteed to kickstart your inspiration. We will explore the nuts and bolts of what a satisfying story needs. If you want to write commercial fiction that readers will adore this workshop is perfect for you!
Cesca Major is a novelist and screenwriter. She writes books based on mysterious events and The Thin Place is based around the sinister happenings at Overtoun Bridge in Scotland – a place where dogs have been known to leap to their deaths. Cesca has presented shows for ITV West and Sky Channels in the past. She enjoys hosting or speaking on festival panels and films vlogs about the writing process. She runs writing retreats twice a year in the West Country and teaches creative writing courses for the Henley School of Art. She writes uplifting books under other names and currently has a TV series in development. Cesca lives in Berkshire with her husband, son and twin girls.
This was an incredible workshop to finish my festival experience and a true lesson in how much can be packed into a one hour session. Busily scribbled notes throughout and it was a delight to hear a truthful, honest account of a career writer. Lots of insight into the process of simplifying the big obstacles that stop people from completing projects.
Pulling off online festivals is no mean feat and you have, once again, been incredible.
Snippet reviews from some of my festival experience. Enjoy your bite of SAHLF 2021.
All the featured books can be purchased in the S@HLF Bookshop here.
Layers in Flash Fiction
A writing workshop on imagery and structure, with Anita Goveas and Farhana Khalique.
Farhana Khalique is a writer, voiceover artist and teacher from London. Her stories are forthcoming or have appeared in the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2021, Leicester Writes Short Story Prize Anthology 2020, Reflex Fiction and more. Farhana has been shortlisted for The Asian Writer Short Story Prize, and she has won a Word Factory Apprentice Award. She is also the editor of Desi Reads and a submissions editor at SmokeLong Quarterly.
This was an amazing workshop, I signed up with the thought of getting back into Flash Fiction writing and these two certainly spurred me on. This was an excellent workshop, they managed to squeeze so much into the hour. I didn’t really know what to expect. They made me think about writing in a fresh, new way.
Thank You for The Small Things: Poetry Workshop with Nadine Aisha Jassat
A workshop with award-winning writer Nadine Aisha Jassat on using poetry to help give thanks for the small things. This gentle workshop will feature prompts to reflect and write on, suitable for folks writing for the first time or those who write regularly, and will make use of some zoom features including the chat box.
This was another incredible workshop, one which warmed all our hearts and again, so much packed into the hour. I got some writing done and have useful ideas to run with in the future. This hour was a pleasure and a joy and I am SO GLAD I didn’t miss this!
Friday was exceptionally busy so I didn’t make it to the festival until the evening.
Solace in Sound – Three Bloodaxe Poets Explore the Landscape of Grief
Join a trio of Bloodaxe poets whose recent poetry collections span Scotland, Ireland, England and Estonia. Each shares a powerful sense of their formative landscapes; whether farmland, forest, mountains, estuaries, rivers or beyond. In poems that consider the impact of loss – of friends and friendships, parents, or a communal event of the most traumatic kind – these collections foster sympathy and strength. The poets will read from their own work, and also from each other’s, creating a unique conversation about memory and resonance in the landscape.
Jane Clarke is the author of two poetry collections, The River and When the Tree Falls (Bloodaxe Books 2015 & 2019), and an illustrated chapbook, All the Way Home, (Smith|Doorstop 2019). Four of her poems feature in Staying Human (Bloodaxe Books 2020) and one of the poems from When the Tree Falls was selected for The Forward Book of Poetry 2021. She grew up on a farm in Co. Roscommon and her work explores enduring connections to people, place and nature. She lives in Glenmalure, Co. Wicklow where she combines writing with teaching & mentoring creative writing.
Philip Gross, born in Cornwall, son of an Estonian wartime refugee, has lived in South Wales since 2004. He won the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2009, a Cholmondeley Award in 2017, and is a keen collaborator – with artist Valerie Coffin Price on A Fold In The River (Seren, 2015), with poet Lesley Saunders on A Part of the Main (Mulfran, 2018) and with scientists on Dark Sky Park (Otter-Barry, 2018). His latest collections are Between The Islands (Bloodaxe, 2020) and Troeon/Turnings (Seren, 2021) with Welsh language poet Cyril Jones. A new Bloodaxe collection, The Thirteenth Angel, is due in 2022.
Heidi Williamson grew up in Norfolk and spent many years living in Central Scotland. Her first collection, Electric Shadow, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize. The Print Museum won the 2016 East Anglian Book Award for Poetry. Return by Minor Road, published in 2020, revisits her time living in Dunblane at the time of the Primary School shooting and its aftermath. She is an Advisory Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund and also works for the Poetry Society, Poetry School, National Centre for Writing and The Writing Coach.
I did not want to miss this reading. I saw Heidi last year at the SAHLF and have been fortunate enough to attend several of Philip’s readings. This was an hour filled with incredible poetry. It’s always interesting to hear how themes from different bodies of work can chime together.
The FINAL weekend of the Festival post – COMING SOON!