Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Poets in Lowell

This past weekend Lowell, Massachusetts hosted the first Massachusetts Poetry Festival. When I received a flyer about the event in the mail, I was happy to see fellow Grub Street writer Ann Killough scheduled to appear. Ann and I have taken a few of Ms. X’s classes together where I found her writing incisive, inventive, and profoundly lyrical. She was an enthusiastic participant in the critique discussions and generous and honest in her written comments.

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.

More Information

Lowell Poetry Network

Concord Festival of Authors, running from Wednesday, October 15th through November 2nd. Many highlights of this event are held in Lowell.


Liz (made in lowell) said...

This is a great review of the panel discussion! I found it fascinating, and a balm to know of so many sincere people speaking truth.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to join my fellow Cape Codders at the Lowell Poetry Fest. At least 12 local poets journeyed north (including the leader of our Guyer Barn Poets, Sheila Whitehouse). As you say, it's great to see an event with such literary merit come to Lowell. Cheers, Robin

Cynthia Sherrick Mitchell said...

Sounds like it was an interesting, inspired evening with all the talented poets.
Thanks for the link to the Concord Festival of Authors - arranged by one of my favorite people and someone I still consider family - Rob Mitchell.
Hope you have fun attending the events. :)

Lynne said...

Though I'm not affiliated with the Poetry Fest per se, I'm glad you had a good time in Lowell. I'm a tad infested with the Lowell pride thing myself, even though I've only lived here five years. :) It was a pretty perfect weekend for the festival.

I missed the discussion you describe, there were just too many great workshops and events to get to all of them. I'm not much of a writer myself (except my blog), but I miss it terribly at times. For me, the festival was a chance to reconnect with poetry, and meet writers in the literary circles in MA in which, until now, I haven't taken part. For that reason alone, the weekend was worth it for me. (And then some.)

Hope you decide to come back next year! By the way, I love your writing here. Great stuff.

Dell Smith said...

Thanks Liz. It helped to attend with someone of a similar mindset. Thanks for taking the photo.
Robin. Hopefully next year you can participate in the festival.
Cynthia. This year's Concord festival of authors looks bigger than ever.
Hi Lynne. Thanks for reading, and the kind words. I hope they hold the poetry festival in Lowell again next year. Where is this blog of which you speak...?