Boston Area Poetry Readings for May and Beyond

Light lights in air blossoms red
Like nothing on earth
Now the chains
Drag graves to lie in
This is May Day! May!
The poor’s armies are veining the earth!
Louis Zukofsky

Here’s the latest listing of poetry readings in Boston and eastern Massachusetts, just in time for Beltane and May Day. The Mass Poetry Festival is also taking place this weekend in Salem. It’s a weekend smorgasborg of readings, workshops, events, and exhibits that takes over the downtown Salem area, all for the cost of a movie. And parking is plentiful and cheap. Schedule and information here: 

I also recommend the readings taking place on both sides of the river Monday, May 5 at Newtonville Books and the Blacksmith House in Harvard Square.

Thanks as always to my friend at MIT Press for compiling this list. Leave a comment if you would like instructions on how to be added to his mailing list.

Thursday, May 1, 2:30 pm
Arthur Sze
McCormack Family Theater
70 Brown St.

Thursday, May 1, 4:30 pm
Jessica Bozek, Christina Davis, Jill McDonough, Anna Ross and Rodney Wittwer
The Bookstore @ The New England Institute of Art
10 Brookline Place West

Thursday, May 1, 7 pm
Yermiyahu Ahron Taub
Calamus Bookstore
92 South Street #B

Thursday, May 1, 7 pm
Susan Rich, Ann Easter Smith, and Rhina Espiallat
The Tannery Series
Jabberwocky Books
50 Water Street
Newburyport, MA

Thursday, May 1, 7 pm
Carrie Etter and Jennifer Militello
Grolier Poetry Book Shop
6 Plympton Street

May 2-4
2014 Massachusetts Poetry Festival
This event has many superb poets and the schedule is too lengthy for this email. Please find it online by using a search-engine “Massachusetts Poetry Festival” for detailed schedule

Friday, May 2, 11 am
Yermiyahu Ahron Taub
Reading and discussion with a seniors group
Sponsored by the Greater Boston area Jewish Community Center
Center Communities of Brookline, Hebrew Senior Life
1550 Beacon Street
Open to public

Friday, May 2,7:30 pm
Yermiyahu Ahron Taub
Reading at Temple Sinai
50 Sewall Avenue
Open to public

Friday, May 2, 8 pm
D. Foy, Robin Stratton, and Christopher Reilley
Dire Literary Series
Out of the Blue Art Gallery
106 Prospect St.

Sunday, May 4, 12:45 pm
Faye George and Dimitris Lyacos
Poetry: The Art of Words/Mike Amado Memorial Series
The Plymouth Center for the Arts
11 North St

Monday, May 5, 5:30 pm
Jill Walker Rettberg
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
East wing of Building 14
Room 14E-310

Monday, May 5, 7 pm
Linda Lamenza, Margie Flanders, and Margot Wizansky
Newtonville Books
10 Langley Road

Monday, May 5, 8 pm
James Arthur and Tung-Hui Hu
Blacksmith House Poetry Series
56 Brattle Street

Tuesday, May 6, 7 pm
Renaltta Arluk
An evening of words, prose, and melodies featuring local poets sharing their personal stories about climate change and mourning mother Earth. Inspired by Inuit spoken word artist Taqralik Patridge, whose words are at the heart of SILA.
Central Square Theater
450 Massachusetts Ave
Free and Open to the Public

Tuesday, May 6, 6:30 pm
Seán Ó Coistealbha & Tomás O’Leary
Cambridge Public Library
449 Broadway
(garage entrance is from Broadway, between playground and high school)

Tuesday, May 6, 7:30 pm
Lisa Starr and John Holgerson
For the Love of Words
Unity Church
13 Main Street
North Easton, MA

Thursday, May 8, 7 pm
Don Wellman and Tam Lin Neville
Cervena Barva Press Studio
At The Arts for the Armory
191 Highland Avenue

Thursday, May 8, 7 pm
Mary Bonina
Flint Memorial Library
147 Park St.
North Reading

Friday, May 9, 7 pm
Frannie Lindsay, Barbara Crooker and Amy Hoffman
Chapter and Verse
Loring Greenough House
12 South Street
Jamaica Plain

Sunday, May 11, 3 pm
Cecily Parks
followed by Mothers’ Day Tea
Poetry at the Library Series
Concord Free Public Library
129 Main St.
Concord, MA

Monday, May 12, 8 pm
Peter Campion and Tomás Morin
Blacksmith House Poetry Series
56 Brattle Street

TuesdayMay 13, 7 – 9 pm
DAY ONE: readings, remarks, and riffs in honor of Professor Emeritus Fred Marchant and to support The Suffolk University Poetry Project
C. Walsh Theatre
Suffolk University
55 Temple Street

Wednesday, May 14, 6:30 pm
Louise Callaghan and Mairide Woods
Cambridge Public Library
449 Broadway
(garage entrance is from Broadway, between playground and high school)

Wednesday, May 14, 7 pm
Jan Schreiber & Wayne Clifford
Powow River Poets Reading Series
Jabberwocky Books
50 Water Street (in the Tannery Mall)
Newburyport, MA

Thursday, May 15, 7 – 9 pm
Ken Lee and Debora Pfeiffer
Rozzie Reads
Roslindale House
120 Poplar St.

Saturday, May 17, 10:30 am
Elizabeth Doran, Carla Schwartz and Tara Greenblatt
Wake up and Smell the Poetry
77 Main Street
Hopkinton, MA

Saturday, May 17, 3:45 pm
Mary Bonina
Tony Brown and the Duende Project
Brockton Arts
Fuller Craft Museum
45 Oak Street
Brockton, MA

Saturday, May 17, 6 pm
Peter Shippy, Rosebud Ben-Oni, and others
Mr. Hip Presents: Reading Series at the UFORGE Gallery
767 Centre Street
Jamaica Plain

SundayMay 18, 2 to 4 pm (note earlier start time)
James Arthur, Audrey Henderson, and Sheile Whitehouse
Calliope Poetry Readings at West Falmouth Library
575 West Falmouth Highway
Falmouth, MA
Donation: $5. Refreshments provided

Tuesday, May 20, 7 pm
Marguerite Guzman Bouvard, Preston Hood, Lamont B. Steptoe
Grolier Poetry Book Shop
6 Plympton Street

Thursday, May 22, 7 – 8:30 pm
Haiku Reading by members of the Alewife Brook Haiku Group
Community Room, Robbins Library
700 Massachusetts Avenue

Monday, June 2, 7 pm
Margaux Novak, Robin Pelzman, and Lani Scozzari
Newtonville Books
10 Langley Road

Sunday, June 8, 12:45 pm
Jacquline Maloney and Molly Lynn Watt
Poetry: The Art of Words/Mike Amado Memorial Series
The Plymouth Center for the Arts
11 North St

Thursday, June 19, 7 pm
Hanna Andrews, Eryn Green, Stefania Heim
Small Animal Project
Lorem Ipsum Books (note new location)
1299 Cambridge St

Saturday, June 21, 10:30 am
Teresa Mei Chuc, Elijah Imlay and Ergo Canto
Wake up and Smell the Poetry
77 Main Street
Hopkinton, MA


Cranky List / Gratitude List

Things that make me cranky:

  • waking up feeling worse than when I went to bed
  • trading one set of medication side effects for another
  • feeling my body getting heavier and older
  • expecting to be able to exercise the way I used to when I was 25 and at the peak of training
  • days when the only thing I seem fit to do is putter around the house and take in a matinee
  • Boston’s schizophrenic spring weather
  • focusing on my own needs and the ways they’re not being met
  • getting away from support systems that help me feel connected
  • pollyanna-ish spiritual literature that tells me to just focus on the positive! and everything will be fine!
  • focusing on the things that make me cranky, especially when they’re things I can’t control

Things that make me happy:

  • posting cranky status updates on Facebook (and the one or two people who say they can identify)
  • comparing the treatments available today to what people used to endure 50-60 years ago
  • considering advances in genetic research that may make it easier for doctors to pinpoint which kinds of medication will be most effective for individuals with my illness
  • friends and mentors who can say the sorts of things that snap me out of negative thinking and help me focus on what will work
  • reconnecting with support systems that remind me I am part of beloved community
  • focusing on how I can be of service instead of on what I can get — or what I think I SHOULD be getting
  • remembering that work is a wonderful opportunity to be of service
  • making moderate progress while conserving energy — sometimes this is better than exhausting myself by FIXING ALL THE THINGS
  • identifying small, achievable tasks toward a larger goal — and checking them off a task list
  • putting stickers next to completed items on my task lists
  • remembering that all things pass — even the line in the Post Office on a Saturday afternoon
  • moderate exercise
  • intense exercise (in moderation)
  • dancing at weddings
  • professional massages
  • hot tubs and steam rooms
  • inexpensive (and free) self-care, like a spa day at home
  • vanilla-scented bubble bath
  • taking myself on an artist date
  • reading 101 artist date ideas
  • the unwinding feeling that comes with relaxation — in all kinds of ways, expected and unexpected. Sometimes in meditation, sometimes when I’m laying in a big bed all by myself, sometimes when I’m in a field of grass in warm weather, sometimes when I’m sitting with a cup of tea and looking at the trees as the sky fades from blue to darker blue.
  • the first time in 2014 that I smell rain on unfrozen soil

Spring and All, in the Aftermath

When I was 13 and knew everything, when I was jaded as only the very young can be jaded, I loved T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I loved its ennui. I loved the flowing, imaginative, and so very, very bored voice of the speaker, fiddling with peaches and coffee spoons, scattering couplets about for charm.

Now that I am 39 and know very little, I kind of want to punch T.S. Eliot in the face. But tonight, on a night in late April when horrific things have happened in the city where I live, when very little seems to make sense in the world — and yet, when I know I am simply experiencing for the first time what many other people live with every day — I find solace in the bare modernism of one of Eliot’s contemporaries.

William Carlos Williams was a country doctor in a small New Jersey town. He hung out with the avant-garde in New York City, back when it was still possible to drive 20 miles outside of New York City and be in a small town. I don’t know a tremendous amount about his personal life, and perhaps that is for the best. After all, I admired Eliot’s work for years without learning about his anti-semitism. All poets are flawed in some way; in the modern age, it’s usually the flaws that drive us to such an unrewarding medium of self-expression.

Tonight M and I walked the spiral path to the top of a hill in the Arboretum. Boston springtimes are very uncertain; I never stop bracing for another round of sleet until Memorial Day is over. But this week, while the city reeled from the force of two homemade bombs that exploded in a crowd of civilians, the trees began to unfurl their blossoms.

Springtime flowers in this city are tough. With some vegetable intelligence, some faith I cannot comprehend,

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind–

Williams speaks in an unflinching way of cold and modern realities — realities that another poet might try to soften with rhyme and metaphors. And without the window dressing, he manages to drill down to the beauty of the thing itself.

Spring and All

By the road to the contagious hospital
under the scourge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast–a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees

All along the road the reddish,
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines–

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches–

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind–

Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined–
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf

But now the stark dignity of
entrance–Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted, they
grip down and begin to awaken

— William Carlos Williams, Spring and All, William Carlos Williams: Selected Poems, ed. Charles Tomlinson. New York: New Directions, 1985. Page 39.

A Few Notes About April, National Poetry Month, and Related Topics

A few notes about April, National Poetry Month, and related or tangential topics:

  1. April is the cruelest month because it is neither one thing nor another. Especially in Boston, it is neither the callused braw of midwinter, nor the soft (and — thanks to climate change — rainy) flower-fest of spring. In February we laugh at freezing weather, we don our extra layers and our vaselined lips as a matter of course. In April, lulled into a sense of false security, we open our petals into the sunny breezes, decide to take out the summer dresses and the short-sleeved shirts. And then freeze and shiver in temperatures that felt warm to us in February.
  2. T.S. Eliot is a fussy little busybody who thought that shirtsleeves were sordid.
  3. This April, I want the fields to lay fallow. I walk the wavering line between abandonment and overpruning of my poetic garden.
  4. The sap rises up and I write, write, write, accumulating pages and pages of white, letter-sized writing pad, the blue lines running undercurrent beneath my  handwriting, sometimes scrawl and sometimes legible.
  5. The sap rises up and I want to run through the bogs screaming, expounding. The sap rises up and I rise with it, and then I return to the couch, or the breakfast table, looking at the birds who congregate at the feeder outside, along with the squirrels.
  6. How much longer can I keep both the squirrels and the woodpeckers — two downy, two red-bellied, none red-headed, in spite of the red head of the red-bellied woodpecker — in suet?
  7. The worst thing to do with the seedling is disturb it. Let it lay there, half in and half out of the ground. But when they start to crowd thick and green (because you never obey the seed-packet’s instructions, always spacing them too far or too close), then you must pluck and choose, which one will stay and which will go. Otherwise, they all die out, competing for the same scant patch of dirt and sun and rain.
  8. The squirrels and the chipmunks — and your own damn cats — will likely devour many of the flowers, even in their bloom. Look at the crocus, who finally bloomed only to become scattered-pink the next day, scattered and tragic petals among their white-and-green-striped arrow-leaves.
  9. Plant them anyway.
  10. Trust the wisdom of the numbered list.
  11. Stay in touch, whether casual, constant, or connubial, with those who understand the importance of a turn of phrase, the difference between Joe Green and Guiseppe Verde.
  12. Take it moment by moment.
  13. Remember to be of service — in both the meaningful work and the work that pays the bills.

Empty Pond, Full Sky

what does it mean to be empty
and what does it mean to be full?

empty air
over the still glass
surface of the pond

empty belly

geese make
full-throated calls,

on a monday after the clocks change–
magic hour of daylight
missing hour of sleep

banks empty
still winter-brown

the fluttering sound
of a goose
drinking from the pond
she glides across

empty water, swirling,
then still
after her passing

the park full
of people stunned
at the way winter falls away

the playground full
of children shouting
in foreign tongues

pen drops from my hand
over the empty boulder
into the clear water
rests on the empty bottom

my womb, empty again

this moment
full of silence

this mind
full of the moment

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