Attendees Review the Festival: Part One

The Massachusetts Poetry Festival this weekend was a rousing success. People flooded the streets of beautiful Salem, talking and laughing Festival collagewith complete strangers, sharing with each other the common bond of loving language andparticipating in a sudden cheerful intimacy unimaginable in the ordinary world.  We asked a few of them to give us their thoughts. In this edition, read what Evelyn McKay, Claire Keyes, Globiana, and Kristina England have to say. And be on the lookout for the comments by other attendees.


Evelyn McKay loved poets giving oral expression to their work

Evelyn McKay

Evelyn McKay

Without doubt I connected most with the poems performed by Carol Ann Duffy and Li-Young Lee. If I’d silently read some of the poems I listened to at the festival, I would not have become engaged. It was the poets’ interpretations that allowed me to approach and appreciate their poems. From the readings I attended this weekend, I have learned that poetry can be profound and funny and pleasurable and layered. Up to now, I have not had much interest in reading poetry. But I will be looking for more poetry to read, starting with  more of Carol Ann Duffy’s Mrs. Midas and Li-Young Lee’s conversation with his lover.

Evelyn McKay has lived in Salem for five years and loves PEM and its many festivals being right here in town. New to poetry, a friend’s involvement with Mass Poetry kindled her interest to attend some poetry readings this weekend.


Claire Keyes favored “Jim Crow” and a renewed look at the PEM

Claire Keyes

Claire Keyes

This Sunday morning, I was delighted to go to the panel of poets on “Jim Crow Casts His Shadow,” because my friend, Florence Ladd, was one of the panelists.   She has recently published a novel, The Spirit of Josephine, featuring Josephine Baker, and it’s now on my desk, enticing me.  All the panelists were erudite and powerful, especially Sam Cornish, about whom I’ve read (Boston Poet Laureate) but never seen or heard.   This man is dynamite: what a voice, what a presence.    Good choice, Boston.

I went from the panel to the reading by C. D. Wright and Forrest Gander, a wife/husband poetry duo, in the East India Marine Hall.   I’ve been in this hall many times and take its beauties for granted.    Not Forrest Gander.   He was inspired, he told us, by the two ships’ figureheads (American Indian, 18th century colonist) to read his translations of a few Latin American poems—one going back to the 16th century.   Gander’s excitement about being in this iconic PEM hall translated directly to his reading.   It was magical.

Claire Keyes is the author of two poetry collections: The Question of Rapture and the chapbook, Rising and Falling.  Her poems and reviews have appeared most recently in Literary Bohemian, Sugar Mule, Oberon, Crab Orchard Review and Blackbird. She lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts and is Professor Emerita at Salem State University.  


Globiana engaged her four-year-old self

This Massachusetts Poetry Festival virgin arrived in Salem with butt-wiggling anticipation usually observed in four-year-olds.  Three days later, my butt is dragging, and the rest of me is buzzing.
I offer some observations to consider, gleaned from about 2,257 festival panels and workshops you might have missed:
— Poets tinker.  It’s fun.
— It’s worth the effort to write about what scares you.
— Garcia Villa thinks poetry is an angel with a gun in its hand.
— It is not contradictory for a poem to end with both inevitability and surprise.
I come away from the festival grateful that the spoken work is carried on air, on the poet’s breath.  There were times, listening to poets, that, had that not been true, I might have forgotten to breathe at all.
Globiana describes herself this way:  [she] has been creating superficial, sentimental, sophomoric poetry for around two decades.  Currently, she is wrestling with a prequel to Beowulf, an endeavor for which she has no excuse.  Other personas have included psychology professor and mommy.
At the festival: Kristina England,, Emily Ferrara, and Jina Ortiz.

At the festival: Kristina England,, Emily Ferrara, and Jina Ortiz.

Kristina England felt a community passion

I asked Kristina the following questions:

What did you like best about Salem? Salem is alive with history.  Although, the past may be dark and regrettable, the city does not shy away from it, but embraces it with grace and honesty.

What did you like best about the festival?  The overall community.  Coming from a large poetry community in Worcester, I always count my blessings for having such a generous, knowledgeable, diverse group of people around me.  To meet people from all over the state and the country with the same passion was an honor.

What made the biggest impression on you? As a presenter for The Crafty Poet panel on Saturday, I got to see first hand how much work the behind-the-scenes volunteers were putting into the festival.  Their dedication helped things run smoothly and, when there were bumps in the road, which is likely to happen with any large event, they were quick to take action.

Kristina England resides in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Her writing is published at Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Gargoyle, New Verse News, Poetry24, and other magazines.  Her first chapbook of short stories is due out this Spring.   


  1. What a great weekend. This year I came to listen, listen, listen. No teaching, no facilitation; I get plenty of that each week throughout the year. I needed sustenance and to be nurtured as poet and student myself and I received that in buckets. I also always write when at the Festival. This year, I have drafted four new poems, last year three. Five of these will be included in the manuscript, Psychometry, that I am deeply immersed in, hoping to complete this year. Thank you, all, for a marvelous and nourishing experience.

    Georgia A. Popoff
    Syracuse, NY

  2. Jump in! Add your own review.

  3. [audio src="" /]

    I have a direct link to a MP3 audio file to our panel Poets in the Asylum, that dealt with the Poets of McLean Hospital. Kathleen Spivack speaks of her experiences with Lowell and Bob Clawson talks about his experiences with Anne Sexton hope you enjoy!