February and March 2020 Poetry Readings in Boston and Environs

Poetry to Warm a Mind of Winter: Photograph of a Cardinal on a Branch. Photo credit: James H via Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0.

I don’t know about you, but I’m aching for spring already. Here are poetry readings that will bring us in March, which is almost spring in New England. Thanks as always to Daniel Bouchard for publishing these listings. Follow him on Twitter. I’ve also discovered Lori Desrosier’s site, which posts poetry news in Western Mass. And a series in Shelburne Falls not listed below called Collected Poets.

Of special note below:

  • Tamiko Beyer at home.stead in Dorcester
  • Carla Schwartz at the Old Manse and home.stead
  • Martha Collins at Arts at the Armory Somerville and the Brookline Public Library
  • Jericho Brown at Smith
  • Joan Houlihan in Hopkinton
  • Zara Raab in Newburyport
  • Daniel Bouchard’s MIT Reading Series

Sunday, February 2, 1 – 3 pm
Tzynya Pinchback and John Bonanni
Poetry: The Art Of Words
Plymouth Public Library/Otto Fehlow Room
132 South St
Plymouth, MA

Sunday, February 2, 2 – 4 pm
Rachel Kann (featured reader)
and open mic
Jewish Poetry Festival
Temple Sinai in Brookline
50 Sewall Avenue
Brookline, MA

Thursday, February 6, 7 pm
Barbara Thomas
Andala Cafe
286 Franklin St.
Cambridge, MA

Friday, February 7, 7:30 pm
Tamiko Beyer
Unearthed Song & Poetry
Home.stead Bakery and Cafe
1448 Dorchester Ave.
Fields Corner
Dorchester, MA

Friday, February 7, 7 pm
Joey Gould, Carol Hobbs, and Open Mic
Poetry at the Y
West Suburban YMCA
276 Church St.
Newton, MA

Friday, February 7, 7 pm
Bradley Trumpfheller
Brookline Booksmith
Harvard Street, Coolidge Corner
Brookline, MA

Friday February 7, 7 pm
Cynthia Bargar, Adnan Onart, and Carla Schwartz
Old Manse Poetry in the Parlor Series, New England Poetry Club
269 Monument St.
Concord, MA

Saturday, February 8, 10:30 am
Howard Kogan and Mark Lipman
Wake up and Smell the Poetry
77 Main St.
Hopkinton, MA

Saturday, February 8, 4 pm
Ariana Reines and José Angel Araguz
The Liminal Reading Series
The MIT Press Bookstore
301 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA

Sunday, February 9, 3 pm
Joan Kimball, Eve Linn, and Jason Tandon
Concord Poetry at the Library Series
Sponsored by the Friends of the Library
Concord Free Public Library
129 Main Street
Concord, MA

Sunday, February 9, 3 – 5 pm
Eileen Cleary, Edison Dupree, and Gloria Monaghan
New Poetry and Open Mic
New England Poetry Club
Arts at the Armory Café
Somerville, MA

Thursday, February 13, 5:30 pm
Tracie Morris
McCormack Family Theater
70 Brown St.
Providence, RI
(free and open to public)

Saturday, February 15, 4-6pm
Raquel Balboni Book Launch, with Ben Mazer
Outpost 186
186 Hampshire Street
Inman Square
Cambridge, MA

Sunday, February 16, 2 – 4 pm
TBA and Tanya (Tingyu) Liu
Brookline Poetry Series
Hunneman Hall, Brookline Village Library
361 Washington St.
Brookline, MA

Friday, February 17, 7 pm
Patricia Cleary Miller
Grolier Poetry Bookshop
Plympton Street
Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA

Tuesday, February 18, 7:30 pm
Kathleen Graber
Campus Center Carroll Room
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Thursday, February 20, 7 pm
Martha Collins and Susan Eisenberg
Cervena Barva Press
The Armory, Basement Room B8
191 Highland Ave
Somerville, MA

Monday, February 24, 8 pm
Jason Tandon and Judith Baumel
Blacksmith House Poetry
Spiegel Auditorium
56 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA
$3

Tuesday, February 25, 7 pm
Joan Naviyuk Kane
Stata Center, Room 32-155
(corner of Main and Vassar)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, MA

Thursday, February 27, 7 – 9 pm
Vivienne Shalom, Maureen McElroy, and Queen Hodge
Rozzie Reads Poetry and Open Mic
Roslindale House
120 Poplar Street
Roslindale, MA

Sunday, February 23, 4 pm
Darcie Dennigan and Elaine Kahn
The Liminal Reading Series
The MIT Press Bookstore
301 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA

Sunday, March 1, 1 – 3 pm
Jim Brosnan and Terry Johnson
Poetry: The Art Of Words
Plymouth Public Library/Otto Fehlow Room
132 South St
Plymouth, MA

Monday, March 2, 8 pm
John Murillo and Jacob Strautmann
Blacksmith House Poetry
Spiegel Auditorium
56 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA
$3

Friday, March 6, 7:30 pm
Carla Schwartz
Unearthed Song & Poetry
Home.stead Bakery and Cafe
1448 Dorchester Ave.
Fields Corner
Dorchester, MA

Sunday, March 8, 3 -5 pm
Stephen Delbos, Jason Tandon, and Joyce Wilson
New Poetry and Open Mic
New England Poetry Club
Arts at the Armory Café
Somerville, MA

Sunday, March 8, 3 pm
DeWitt Henry and Sara London
Concord Poetry, the Library Series
Sponsored by the Friends of the Library
Concord Free Public Library
129 Main Street
Concord, MA

Tuesday, March 10, 7:30 pm
Jericho Brown
Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Thursday, March 12, 7 pm
Raquel Balboni, David Blair and Katherine Hollander
Grolier Poetry Bookshop
Plympton Street
Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA

Saturday, March 14, 10:30 am
Joan Houlihan, Terence Hegarty, and Deb Goss
Wake up and Smell the Poetry
77 Main St.
Hopkinton, MA

Saturday, March 14, 3 pm
Zara Raab and Jodie Reyes
Powow River Poets Reading Series
Newburyport Public Library
92 State Street
Newburyport, MA

Saturday, March 14, 4 pm
A celebration of Stephen Jonas’s Arcana
with editors Dave Rich, Joseph Torra, and others
The Liminal Reading Series
The MIT Press Bookstore
301 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA

Sunday, March 15, 2 – 4 pm
Martha Collins and Joan Naviyuk Kane
Brookline Poetry Series
Hunneman Hall, Brookline Village Library
361 Washington St.
Brookline, MA

Monday, March 16, 7pm
Charles North
Stata Center, 32 Vassar Street
Room 32-141, MIT
Cambridge, MA

Monday, March 16, 8 pm
Katherine Hollander and Angela Voras-Hills
Blacksmith House Poetry
Spiegel Auditorium
56 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA
$3

Monday, March 23, 8 pm
Christian Wiman
Blacksmith House Poetry
Spiegel Auditorium
56 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA
$3

Wednesday, March 25, 7 pm
Luke Salisbury, Denise Provost, and Zvi Sesling
A Hastings Room Reading Series event
First Church Cambridge
11 Garden Street, Harter Room
Cambridge

Thursday, March 26, 7 – 9 pm
David Miller and Kate McCann
Rozzie Reads Poetry and Open Mic
Roslindale House
120 Poplar Street
Roslindale, MA

Monday, March 30, 8 pm
David Barber and Katherine Coles
Blacksmith House Poetry
Spiegel Auditorium
56 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA
$3

Tuesday, March 31, 7:30 pm
Sara London and Nathan McClain
Campus Center Carroll Room
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Dispatches from an MFA: Semester Two, Third Packet

Photo credit: Nilufer Nilufer Gadgieva Flickr, CC 2.0

This is part of a series called Dispatches from an MFA, which details my experiences in the low-residency MFA program at Lesley University. In the second semester, I studied with poet Kevin Prufer. We spent the semester looking at narrative versus lyric poetry. This is the cover letter to the third packet.

Dear Kevin:

As you pointed out, the critical work in my last packet was a little thin. I hope I’ve redeemed myself with this one. It’s always possible to do more with grad school work, but I feel confident that I’ve given sufficient time and attention to James Wright’s and D.A. Powell’s work. I read your essay on Powell, and am glad that I did so after finishing my own paper. It can be difficult for me to approach a text with any kind of original thinking after reading another’s interpretation. I think you managed to say with more perspective and eloquence some of the things I was trying to say in my own paper. I especially appreciated the parallels the death-dancing German painting and Powell’s exuberant music. I hadn’t really paid attention to Powell’s exploration of spiritual redemption in Cocktails – especially in the Bibliography section – but can see it clearly in hindsight.

Continue reading “Dispatches from an MFA: Semester Two, Third Packet”

Ross Gay’s Wild and Sensual Poems

Ross Gay’s poetry is lush with sensual pleasure. He uses strong imagery, musical language, and an unusual approach to poetic line to achieve this lushness. He eschews punctuation in many of his poems, relying almost entirely on white space and line breaks to achieve his phrasing. I’ve tried doing some similar with my own work, but Gay commits himself entirely to this technique, forcing it to do the work of commas, periods, capitalization, dashes. In “to the fig tree on 9th and christian,” —the first in his latest collection, catalog of unabashed gratitude— his short lines stutter down the page, slowing the eye at points both expected and unexpected. With no punctuation and no capital letters, he relies on the reader to suss out where one sentence ends and the next begins. This elision works both in concert with and counterpoint to his line breaks. The opening lines rush forth with enjambment through three separate thoughts:

… probably
rehearsing some
stupid thing I
said or did
some crime or
other the city they
say is a lonely
place until yes
the sound of sweeping
and a woman
yes with a
broom…

Continue reading “Ross Gay’s Wild and Sensual Poems”

Rachel Zucker’s Unclear Narrative

This is part of a series called Dispatches from an MFA, which details my experiences in the low-residency MFA program at Lesley University. In the second semester, I studied with poet Kevin Prufer. We spent the semester looking at narrative versus lyric poetry.

————-

I’ve been approaching this semester with an alternating focus on the lyrical and narrative modes of poetry. But how exactly does one differentiate between the two? And is it even a valid dichotomy? As with the prose-poetry divide, the more one tries to define it, the more slippery it becomes. In an essay published in 2006, Tony Hoagland writes about “a widespread mistrust of narrative forms and, in fact, a pervasive sense of the inadequacy or exhaustion of all modes other than the associative.” He also acknowledges the difficulty of defining the term: “Under the label of ‘narrative,’ all kinds of poetry currently get lumped misleadingly together: not just story but discursion, argument, even descriptive lyrics. They might better be called the ‘Poetries of Continuity.’”

Published in 2004, Rachel Zucker’s The Last Clear Narrative certainly demonstrates the zeitgeist Hoagland describes. At first pass, the title seems like a joke on the reader. Zucker’s language is disruptive, fragmented. It uses not only syntax but white space and idiosyncratic punctuation – all to skillful effect, but hardly the definition of what most people would call a clear narrative.

Continue reading “Rachel Zucker’s Unclear Narrative”

December 2019 and January 2020 Poetry Readings in Boston and Environs

Shop local this holiday season and buy your loved ones books of poetry from the many poets reading in an around Boston this year. There’s a real wealth of them this month and next. Thanks as always to Daniel Bouchard for compiling the bulk of these listings.

Of special note:

    • Fellow Lesley alum Eileen Cleary in Newton this Friday, Dec 6
    • Martha Collins, Frannie Lindsay, and Fred Marchant at the Old Manse in Concord that same evening
    • Jenn Martelli at Arts at the Armory Sunday, Dec 8
    • Ilya Kaminsky at the Blacksmith House in Cambridge Monday, Dec 9
    • Danielle Legros Georges and friends at Grolier Thursday, Dec 12
    • Solidarity Salon in Cambridge Saturday, Dec 14
    • Beloved Lesley professor Kevin Prufer at Grolier on Tuesday, Jan 7
    • Lisa deSiro and Eileen Cleary in Cambridge Wednesday, Jan 15
    • Cape Cod Poetry Review in Wellfleet Thursday, Jan 23

Continue reading “December 2019 and January 2020 Poetry Readings in Boston and Environs”

Adrian Matejka’s The Big Smoke: A Meta-Narrative

Historically, narrative poetry meant epics like the Odyssey or Beowulf – or, in later centuries, poems such as Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” The narrative mode stood in contrast to the lyric mode: short, musical poems evoking an internal emotional state. But at some point in the 20th century, the scope of narrative poetry began to narrow from the public to the private sphere.[i] As Dante Di Stefano puts it, “In much high Modernist, and in most romantic poetry, the sources of inspiration for a poem (the psychic wound, the secret trauma, whatever guilt or shame or bliss drove a poet to write) remained at least partially hidden: [with confessionalism], the source became the poem.” The line between poet and speaker blurred. And with it, the line between external narrative and internal lyric blurred as well.

In a 2006 essay for Poetry Magazine called “Fear of Narrative and the Skittery Poem of Our Moment,” Tony Hoagland considers the current disdain for what Di Stefano calls lyric narrative poetry.  “It seems likely,” he writes, “that narrative poetry in America has been tainted by … the inadvertent sentimentality and narcissism of many [badly executed confessional] poems. Our vision of narrative possibilities has been narrowed by so many first person autobiographical stories, then drowned in a flood of pathos poems.” He also posits a second explanation: “many persons think that ours is simply not a narrative age; that contemporary experience is too multitracked, too visual, too manifold and simultaneous to be confined to the linearity of narrative, no matter how well done.”

Aaron Smith also challenges the current aesthetic, asking, “[Why] do I feel pressure from peers to remove the narrative ‘I’ from poems?” he asks. “Why can’t ‘I’ be imagined on the page? Is the reader afraid to be gay for a little while (to be black for a little while, to be a woman)?”

With The Big Smoke, his third and strongest book, Adrian Matejka neatly sidesteps the question of the autobiographical “I”. The subject of his book is not Matejka himself, but Jack Johnson, a black man and heavyweight boxing champion who defied the laws and customs of the Jim Crow era. Matejka builds the narrative of Jack Johnson’s life with a series of poems that have both lyric and narrative qualities. In the fragmented, multitracked spirit of the age, the poems speak not only with the voice of Jack Johnson, but also his shadow-boxing self, the white women who love him, and the racist newspapers who cover him. These voices work together so skillfully that I zipped through the entire book in little more than an hour. Johnson speaks easily and plainly of the brutality of the time. In the opening “Battle Royale,” he considers the roots of prize-fighting in America: Continue reading “Adrian Matejka’s The Big Smoke: A Meta-Narrative”

Dispatches from an MFA: Semester Two, Second Packet

This is part of a series called Dispatches from an MFA, which details my experiences in the low-residency MFA program at Lesley University. In the second semester, I studied with poet Kevin Prufer. We spent the semester looking at narrative versus lyric poetry. This is the cover letter to the second packet.

Dear Kevin:

For some reason, finishing this packet was very difficult. I’ve been suffering under the specter of self-doubt – both with the craft annotations and with the original work. I hope you don’t mind that the Zucker annotation runs a bit over. She uses a lot of white space, and word placement and white space are integral to the meaning of her poems. So quoting her meant that I had less space than usual for the actual annotation. I feel like I was able to delve into the text of Zucker’s work, but am less sure about the annotation on Matejka’s book. I found myself fascinated with the conversation about “lyric narrative” poetry in the essays I cite in the Matejka annotation, and I’m afraid it took over the paper a bit. But these meta-issues were important for me to consider: the legacy of Confessionalism, the narrative “I,” and the current literary trends toward language-focused work and away from narrative. One of the thing that I liked best about Dante Di Stefano’s piece was the way that he put into context the arc of poetry in the 20th century, from Imagism to High Modernism to Confessionalism, and beyond.[1] When I studied poetry as an undergrad, the latter half of those shifts were still underway. I didn’t have the perspective to consider them from Di Stefano’s point of view. Continue reading “Dispatches from an MFA: Semester Two, Second Packet”

Small Press Love in Massachusetts

Erica Charis-Molling at Mass Poetry has published a wonderful series of interviews with local small presses that publish poetry. Small presses are the lifeblood of the poetry world, and poets who publish with them often receive more support and creative control than with nationally known publishing houses. Also, buying local is good for so many reasons. Follow the links below to read about these vibrant, innovative organizations.

Perugia Press
Editor and Director Rebecca Hart Olander

Human Error Publishing
Founder Paul Richmond

Aforementioned
Co-founder Randolph Pfaff

Rose Metal Press
Co-founders Abigail Beckel (Publisher) and Kathleen Rooney (Editor)

Ibbetson Street Press
Director Doug Holder

Central Square Press
Editor Enzo Silon Surin

Grid Books
Editor Elizabeth Murphy

Broadsided Press
Editor Elizabeth Bradfield

Cervena Barva Press
Founder and Editor Gloria Mindock

October, November, and December 2019 Poetry Readings in Boston and Environs

Poetry and all that jazz

From the height of leaf season all the way to the winter holiday of your choice, we’ve got you covered with poetry readings in and around Boston. Thanks to Daniel Bouchard for compiling these listings.

Thursday, October 24, 4:30 pm
Faculty Poetry Reading
Heineman Ecumenical Center
Framingham State University
Worcester, MA

Thursday, October 24, 5:30 pm
Adrianna Kalopoulou
Brown University
McCormack Family Theater
70 Brown St.
Providence, RI
free and open to the public

Thursday, October 24, 7:30-9:30 pm
Nadia Colburn
reading and book launch
The Lilypad, Inman square
1353 Cambridge St.
Cambridge, MA

Continue reading “October, November, and December 2019 Poetry Readings in Boston and Environs”

UPDATED: September and October 2019 Poetry Readings in Boston and Environs

Signs of autumn: the first orange leaf on the sidewalk, the first apple off the tree, the post-Labor-Day traffic jam. And the return of Daniel Bouchard’s poetry listings. See below for a multitude of free or close-to-free events. Of special note: Charles Coe and Sandee Story at the Old Manse tomorrow night; Terrance Hayes at Smith College Sept 24; Martha Collins at Old Cambridge Baptist Church Sept 22; and Danielle Legros Georges at the Frugal Bookstore in Dudley Square Sept 21. Also on the Boston side of the Charles, the return of Rozzie Reads, featuring Mignon Ariel King and William Orem Sept 26.

Friday, September 6
Charles Coe, Danielle Fontaine, and Sandee Storey
Old Manse in Concord
Concord, MA

Friday, September 6, 7 pm
Cervena Barva Press Poetry Translation Roundtable Series
Arts at the Armory
191 Highland Avenue
Somerville, MA

Sunday, September 8, 1 – 3 pm
Alix Anne Shaw and Lawrence Kassenich
Poetry: The Art Of Words
Plymouth Public Library/Otto Fehlow Room
132 South St
Plymouth, MA

Thursday, September 12, 7 pm
Bert Stern & Frannie Lindsay
Cervena Barva Press Reading Series
Arts at the Armory
191 Highland Avenue
Somerville, MA
$5

Saturday, September 14, 3 pm
Angela Alaimo O’Donnell & Rhina P. Espaillat
Powow River Poets Reading Series
Newburyport Public Library
92 State Street
Newburyport, MA
Continue reading “UPDATED: September and October 2019 Poetry Readings in Boston and Environs”