Scenes from the Festival by JD Scrimgeour

J.D. Scrimgeour, our guest author, was a volunteer for the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. He is also the author of the poetry collection,The Last Miles, and Themes For English B: A Professor’s Education In  and Out of Class,. In 2010, under the name “Confluence,” he and musician Philip Swanson released a CD of poetry and music with MSR Classics, Ogunquit & Other Works. He teaches at Salem State University.


Saturday morning, I needed to set up an additional table for the bookfair at one end of the mall.  A woman that I did not know said, “I’ll help you.”  I knew a lot of the volunteers, but I didn’t recognize her.

“Great.  Thanks,” I said. We lifted the table and started walking, “Who are you?”

She laughed.  “I’m nobody.  Who are you?”

We weaved our way through people and tables.

“I’m nobody, too.” I said.

“How dreary to be somebody,” she said, then, together we both said,

“How public, like a frog.”

“To tell one’s name the livelong June” she said.

“To an admiring bog,” I said.  We put the table down, kicked out the legs, flipped it upright, introduced ourselves, and went our respective ways.

* * *

I’d run out to grab a bite to eat at the beginning of the Saturday headline reading.  When I was returning, I bumped into two friends, Colleen and Cindy, standing in the dark outside the Peabody-Essex museum at the bookseller’s table.

“What are you doing out here?” I asked.

“Wasn’t she amazing?” Colleen said.  “We wanted to get our books right away.” They were holding a copy of Nikky Finney’s Head Off & Split.

I groaned. “I missed her.”

“She was great,” said Cindy.

“She got a standing ovation,” Colleen said.


I had to eat, right?

* * *

Sunday, at the session North Shore Poets in the Round, I saw Dan Sklar read with four other North Shore poets, including a former student of mine, Shari Caplan.  I’d introduced Shari to Dan’s poems in one of my classes, and his work had really helped her open up her own. Only Dan Sklar writes poems like Dan Sklar, but Shari’s poems often have the same lightness of touch, the same irreverence and playfulness, and now here she was, reading poems of hers right alongside him.

* * *

After the Sunday headline reading—which I didn’t miss!—I ran into a key festival volunteer, Kirun, and we both gushed about the event.

“Sometimes I can’t believe someone like Frank Bidart is in the world, making these amazing things,” she said.

“Yeah,” I agreed, “Yeah.”