A Volunteer Reminisces About the Festival: Jamie Faulkner

I have never thought of myself as a poet.  Sure as a teenager I scribbled words on napkins hoping someone would discover them—as they discovered Langston Hughes’.  I wrote songs about ex-boyfriends and love rhymes to the ones in my dreams.  But I knew I was no poet.  I knew I could write—but not poetry.  Poetry is deep and meaningful.  You need to go to your dark place to be a poet—I didn’t even HAVE a dark place.

At least that’s what I thought, before I went to the Mass Poetry Festival.  As a junior writing major in college, it was time for me to start an internship, and Mass Poetry fell into my lap.  I knew I wasn’t great at poetry, but why not try it?  The first three months of my internship consisted of email on top of email and phone calls to strangers who hung up on me after 45 seconds.  I convinced myself that I was working towards something bigger.  I loved the ideals of the organization—poetry in schools, poetry in elderly homes, poetry in Massachusetts, poetry everywhere!  Maybe if someone had taught me when I was younger, I might actually be a poet today.  Two weeks before the festival, it was time to kick into gear (the non-poet in me enjoys clichés).  Beth Moore sent me spreadsheets filled with names and places I had never heard of, never been to, but it was up to me to piece them all together into something that would make sense to 100 volunteers coming to help the cause.

Thursday night, I drove the long Massachusetts turnpike for two hours from my school to my house, and tried to fall asleep.  The next morning, I awoke bright and early to drive another hour to Salem, coffee in hand, ready for work.  When I finally arrived, I walked Essex Street half a dozen times and called Beth three times, till I finally found the people in orange.

After an hour I was one of them.  I knew all of their names and already had inside jokes.  I wore my orange with pride and walked Essex Street a dozen more times—without getting lost.  I met a new person in orange everywhere I went, and smiled at the ones I didn’t know.  We were the worker bees of the poetry hive.  I worked from 8am to 9pm, and finally set myself free to hear some poetry.  I arrived at Victoria Station and walked towards the crowded room with the microphone.  Before I could find a seat, J.D caught me: “We need chairs.  And buttons!”  Here I was thinking I was done for the night.  I helped them move the chairs and gave them my own pass to the poetry universe, then contemplated switching my t-shirt.  But as a proud member of the worker bees, I left it on and snuck into a corner and listened to the poets of my generation.  I understood them and I felt a part of them.  Maybe I couldn’t write like them, or speak like them—but I was one of them

And that was only day one!