“This is not what you read in High School,” said January O’Neil, the executive director of this weekend’s Massachusetts Poetry Festival, an annual invasion of downtown Salem by poets, artists, and hungry minds from all across America.
This year’s Massachusetts Poetry Festival, the fifth in the organization’s history, continues the growth in scale and recognition that has become a trend throughout the its past incarnations. The workshops, readings, films, and performances between May 3rd and May 5th number in the hundreds with a matching number of presenters descending on the city. Among these are recipients of countless awards, fellowships, and publications, including two Pulitzer prize winners: Tracy K. Smith and Sharon Olds, both of whom will be speaking at the Peabody Essex Museum alongside many other talented wordsmiths (Friday at 7:30 pm in the Atrium, and Saturday at 1:30 pm in the Bartlett gallery, respectively). Yet, in spite of the acclaim presenters have earned, the Mass. Poetry Festival is not about elitism. Instead, it is, as O’Neil says “about building a community around the arts”.
It’s easy to see then why Salem is such a perfect fit for the occasion. The city has developed a reputation as an artistic center in the north shore, due largely in part to the network of talented artists, businesses, museums, and hosting venues who have come together to expand the impact of art on the audience. The cooperation which all these separate groups display is both a crucial part of what makes events like the Mass. Poetry Festival successful and what makes Salem, itself, such an amazing city and community.
People coming together from their endlessly busy lives to simply sit and talk about things like art, culture, poetry, and purpose has long been the goal of the Peabody Essex Museum and so the PEM is happy to host many films, talks, readings, and classes for writers of all ages this weekend. The event is sure to be an amazing experience for those involved as the enormous community of bookworms and artists of all kinds step out from behind their desks and canvases to share their thoughts, beliefs, wit, and life stories with a group of their peers.
For those wanting specific information about particular performers, schedules, or locations, all the information you could ever need is available at masspoetry2013. Certain events are filled by pre-registration only, and some are filling up fast so we recommend setting up a profile and getting on the list as soon as possible.
Dave Kostos is a graduating senior at Salem State University and an intern at the Peabody Essex Museum. His work can be found in Crack the Spine magazine, North Shore Art*Throb magazine, and at this weekend’s Massachusetts Poetry Festival.