On Saturday I attended her event. She read poetry and participated in the panel discussion Poetry and Our Times, alongside Martin Espada and Richard Hoffman. Conducted at the Whistler House Museum of Art, the hour-long panel (moderated by poet Michael Ansara) was engaging and enlightening. All three poets write with a keen social conscience and moral perspective.
Readings covered the disparate but acquainted topics of apocalyptic visions of George W., social injustice in the courts of Chelsea, the growing migrant class in America, and the idea of country as a metaphor for its condition. Discussions and audience questions touched upon the global financial crisis, America through the eyes of other nations, and the realization that Sarah Palin could conceivably be president of the United States within a year. Literature of ideas and conscience risks crossing into propaganda or didactic rants. But these poets proved that social cause can be rewarding and personally emotional without striking righteous false notes.
It was great to see a festival of any literary pedigree in Lowell. Lowell is home to a vibrant poetry scene and carries its literary history with a fanatical, domineering pride. Who doesn’t know that Lowell is the birthplace of Jack Kerouac? Lucy Larcom met John Greenleaf Whittier in Lowell while he was an editor at a local newspaper. Last summer Lowell hosted Kerouac’s legendary On the Road scroll in an award-winning exhibition. There are parks in Lowell named after Kerouac and Larcom.
On the Road scroll under glass at the Kerouac exhibit:
Brew’d Awakening, a Lowell coffee shop, champions local poets with a monthly open mic and poetry slam night and sells chapbooks by local poets. Lowell is also home to small presses and literary journals that emphasize poetry including Bootstrap Press, Shakespeare’s Monkey Revue , and Loom Press.
From all accounts (so far, mine), the Massachusetts Poetry Festival was a success. It was good to reconnect with a fellow writer while seeing Lowell continue to nurture its creative class. Pick up a copy of Ann Killough’s latest chapbook, Beloved Idea. She’ll inscribe it for you if you ask real nice-like.
Lowell Poetry Network
Concord Festival of Authors, running from Wednesday, October 15th through November 2nd. Many highlights of this event are held in Lowell.