SSU Provides Staff, Space and Money for the Mass Poetry Festival


According to Jude Nixon, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Salem State University is happy to be a primary sponsor of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. “We see the festival as a way to participate in a statewide arts program and to be involved in an event with national relevance.”  

The festival is planned for May 13 and 14.

Space for the high events

The university is providing support for the festival in many ways, including providing space for Friday’s high school event. With around 400 students expected, the university will be the setting for dozens of workshops and readings during the daylong event. Dean Nixon believes these young people will have a chance to see and explore the campus. “We want them to know we are committed to the arts at SSU.”

SSU is also providing personnel to work in planning the festival. Two adjunct faculty members, January O’Neil and Jennifer Jean, have had their responsibilities expanded to help with any number of situations, from raising funds for the festival to helping find venues for activities. Faculty members J.D Scrimgeour and Vanessa Ramons are charged with helping with internal relations, and Kathleen McDonald is helping with such tasks as creating press releases. “We are providing staff, space, and money,” says Dean Nixon.

Nixon’s time is also a part of what the university is giving to the festival. Nixon sees himself as the Energizer Bunny. “I’m here to create excitement within the faculty, to carve out partnerships with the arts and sciences programs, and to embed the festival in the community.”

One of the ways Nixon has helped embed the festival in the community is to provide ties to the Peabody Essex Museum, which is a venue for Saturday activities. “Jay Finney, who is with the museum, is on the SSU board.” Another city official with SSU ties is Salem mayor, Kimberly Driscoll, who is a SSU alum.

Over the years of hosting other events, Nixon has found that attendees find Salem attractive. “They are surprised by the beauty of the city, by its culture, its restaurants and its history. The city is so much more than a city of witches.”

The cultural elements of the city are attractive to Nixon, and poetry fits in with his professional pursuits. He is a Victorian scholar, with a special interest in Gerard Manley Hopkins, and is an editor of the Victorian Science and Literature series, to be published by the British publishers Pickering and Chatto in the coming year. “I’m personally thrilled and delighted with this opportunity. We haven’t done a full scale arts event like the poetry festival before. I’m excited by the possibility.”

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