Thursday, Oct. 15, the second annual Massachusetts Poetry Festival
kicked off with simultaneous readings at eight venues across the state,
including Martha's Vineyard. The festival, based in Lowell, continued
with a series of readings, workshops, and other poetry related events
through the weekend.
McCormack of West Tisbury performing one of his poems at the Island
meeting of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival last week at the Louisa
Gould Gallery. Photos by Susan Safford
poet Michael West discovered that there would be festival events in
satellite locations this year, he pushed to get the Vineyard included.
"I approached them and said you need a satellite event here since most
people on the Island can't get to one of the other scheduled readings,"
he said. Martha's Vineyard was added at the last minute to a list of
locations that included Boston, Salem, Worcester, Amherst, New Bedford,
and the Berkshires.
As similar groups gathered in those
communities around the state, a group of poets organized by Mr. West
and his wife, Linda Black, entertained a small audience on Thursday at
the Louisa Gould Gallery in Vineyard Haven.
Something a little different: Daniel Waters performed original songs in English and Portuguese.
two poets joined forces when they married a few years ago, creating
Island Voices, and hosting poetry readings at a number of venues,
including Outerland, Che's Lounge, and the West Tisbury Library. Island
Voices, Mr. West explains, is an effort to solidify the poetry scene by
bringing local poets together and broadcasting readings and other
events through their website, sepiessa.com.
Here on the
Vineyard, which boasts its own roster of talented poets, a crowd of
about 20 people who gathered at the Louisa Gould Gallery was treated to
work by some of the core members of the local poetry scene, all of them
doing their best to keep the art thriving on the Vineyard.
Black did a wonderful chanting reading of her poem "I Remember You," a
moving ode to a dead lover that came to her in a dream. Mr. West read
three poems including two tributes - a powerful work about his mother's
death and a charming portrait of the late Maynard Silva.
evening began with Justen Ahren, who teaches a poetry workshop as part
of the ACE MV program, and is co-founder with Fan Ogilvie of the
Martha's Vineyard Writers Residency. Mr. Ahren read a poem by Hayden
Carruth and then treated the audience to one of his own, written from
the perspective of a homeless woman he encountered in Memphis. The
poem, which is part of a series written in the woman's voice, creates a
wonderfully vivid vision of an imagined apocalypse.
Michael West (at the microphone) served as master of ceremonies at the gathering.
saying, "The metaphor for this country these days seems to be the
Icarus story," Fan Ogilvie, poet laureate of West Tisbury, read two
poems, one by Elizabeth Bishop and an equally powerful one of her own.
Both poems use the destructive force of the ocean as metaphor. Last
summer Ms. Ogilvie organized a popular poetry series at the
Featherstone Center of the Arts, where she teaches.
Marks, one of the last to read on Thursday night, presents live poetry
readings on MVTV, and is also one of 13 members of the Cleaveland House
Poets, a group which has been gathering for over 30 years and which
recently published their first book, "Wednesday's Poets."
indefatigable Mr. Marks served triple duty at the festival by
videotaping, reading, and playing the opening and closing music on two
of his hand-carved native American flutes. The haunting flute music set
a peaceful and meditative tone, in sharp contrast to Mr. Marks's poem,
"Hard Times," which he wrote specifically for the event. It depicts a
series of harrowing scenarios that helps put our current hard times
Dan Waters, who Mr. West introduced
as a "master of the witty quatrain and sonnet," departed from his usual
work by playing acoustic guitar and singing two original songs. He
prefaced his performance by explaining that he grew up in Brazil, where
poets write songs and poems with equal ease. The two songs, a sad song
and a bitter love ditty, were performed first in Portuguese and then in
Also reading were Richard Skidmore and
Nikoletta Nousiopoulos, a visitor from West Falmouth who read a series
of short poems based on the letters of the Greek alphabet. The formal
reading was followed by an open mic where three audience members lent
their work to the evening, including Gladys Swan, one of the
writers-in-residence at the Point Way Inn.
Gould, a painter, photographer, and owner of the Vineyard Haven gallery
bearing her name, hosted the event. A long-time supporter of the arts
on the Island, Ms. Gould says, "I open the doors to many nonprofits to
host their events in order to help sustain the cultural community."