May 022018

Launched as a recognition event 10 years ago to “pay tribute to the poets and writers of the past while experiencing the creative energy of today’s literary artists,” the Massachusetts Poetry Festival has since become the nation’s largest such annual event. It showcases nearly 100 poetry readings & workshops, a small press and literary fair, panels, poetry slams, visual arts, and open-air performances.

This weekend, May 4-6, Salem once again plays host to more than 150 poets who will engage with thousands of New Englanders. Will you be among them?

Check out the full Massachusetts Poetry Festival schedule:

Panel topics range from the state of poetry, poetry and gender, book publishing, and modernism in contemporary art, to the Common Threads Reading, where contemporary poets with Massachusetts ties discuss their literary connections.

Speaking of poets, the 2018 Headliners include: Sonia Sanchez · Kaveh Akbar · Duy Doan · Jeffrey Harrison · Dorianne Laux · Erika Meitner · Carl Phillips · Nicole Sealey · Sean Thomas Dougherty · Rhina P. Espaillat


One of the reasons the Massachusetts Poetry Festival takes place in Salem is that we have so many venues that lend themselves to help promote the words and spirit of poetry.

  • Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex Street
  • Hawthorne Hotel, 18 Washington Square
  • Old Town Hall (Festival Headquarters), 32 Derby Square
  • Museum Place Mall, 1 E India Square Mall
  • New Liberty Charter School, Rooms 1-4 (on second floor)
  • The Bridge at 211 (former First Universalist Society of Salem), 211 Bridge St
  • Salem Waterfront Hotel & Suites, 225 Derby St

Mass Poetry was founded in 2008, after Mass Humanities and the Mass Cultural Council backed an effort to investigate the “state of poetry” in Massachusetts. Mass Poetry’s founder, Michael Ansara, and former Congressman Chet Atkins felt that while the Commonwealth had as many talented poets as any state, there was little recognition or support for poets, and a huge disconnect between the larger public and the wealth of poetic talent.

The goals of Mass Poetry have been to support poets and poetry in Massachusetts, to build new audiences for poetry, and to make poetry more accessible for those who need it most—often those who have the least access to it.

Come to Salem this weekend, May 4-6, to see, hear & experience for yourself the power of words in the hands of literary craftsmen and craftswomen at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival.

Apr 302015

Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility. — William Wordsworth

Keep those words in mind as you read, hear, sample, immerse and explore the words of participants to the 7th annual Massachusetts Poetry Festival,  which takes place this weekend, May 1-3, in various venues of downtown Salem.

The Massachusetts Poetry Festival showcases nearly 100 poetry readings and workshops, a small press and literary fair, panels, poetry slams, visual arts, and open-air performances. Panel topics range broadly from the state of poetry, poetry and gender, book publishing, and modernism in contemporary art, to the Common Threads Reading, where contemporary poets with Massachusetts ties discuss their literary connections. More than 150 local and nationally known poets engage with thousands of New Englanders each year.

This year is no different, as among the scheduled are : Rita Dove, Richard Blanco, Stephen Burt, Denise Duhamel, Nick Flynn, Regie Gibson, Jorie Graham, Richard Hoffman, Adrian Matejka, Marge Piercy, and Rachel Wiley.

For a full schedule click here.

Over 1500 friends of poetry attended last year’s festival. As Robert Pinsky, a three time U.S. poet laureate and a College of Arts & Sciences professor of English has stated, poems should be spoken, not just read. The medium is the reader’s voice

Come here to hear the voices.

For more information, go to

And as a little extra… The Top Ten “Reasons” to Attend the 2015 Massachusetts Poetry Festival:

10. Richard Blanco and Rita Dove have read to America–now they’ll read to you.

9. There are many festivals, but Mass Poetry stanza lone.

8. A poetry carnival! Step right up, readers and writers!

7. Mass Poetry: Cute as a (festival) button!

6. If it’s not like something else, then what’s metaphor?

5. Poetry Smack Down: Cape Ann vs Cape Cod Poets

4. Giant Scrabble! Mad Libs! Poems about dirt!

3. If you really dig poetry, you’ll like The Golden Shovel.

2. After this winter, you deserve a little beauty.

And the #1 reason to attend the 2015 Massachusetts Poetry Festival…

Because “This is what it sounds like when Dove rhymes.”

Apr 292014

Mass PoetryLetters become words, words become phrases, and phrases become ideas. Then gifted writers craft it all into messages for poems. Those writers, words and poems will be honored later this week as the annual Massachusetts Poetry Festival will be held from May 2 – 4 in downtown Salem.

Participating poets include Kim Addonizio, Lucie Brock-Broido, Rafael Campo, Oliver de la Paz, Carol Ann Duffy, Cornelius Eady, Rhina Espaillat, Forrest Gander, David Ferry, Li-Young Lee, Philip Levine, Marge Piercy, Susan Rich, Vivian Shipley, and C. D. Wright.

But more than just poems though, the Festival also offers workshops, panels, readings, music, visual arts presentations, and a book fair featuring small presses and literary magazines.

As stated on the Mass Poetry website: “It’s a perfect time to celebrate poetry, meet up with old friends that share your love of words, and make new friends.”

To find out more about the Festival go to their website.

May 012013

A new month is upon us and Salem residents know that means first and foremost, First Friday (on May 3rd) when merchants keep their businesses open until 8pm (some even later) to accommodate extra walk-in traffic. But this special weekend also features a Hats Off to Education gala fundraiser and the 2013 Mass Poetry Festival. Can you find the time to squeeze it all in?

First Friday (held on the first Friday of every month) is part of our efforts at Salem MainStreets to help promote not just the shopping potential of our Downtown District but to spotlight the merchants behind the counters. First Friday gives them a chance to be creative in presentation, theme, and goodies to give out.

oystersFor example, Finz restaurant is offering $1 oyster from 5-7pm, while Vic’s Boathouse has $1 shrimp cocktail from 6-8pm and Pamplemouse has a special wine tasting event.

And you, the shopping public are the benefactors.

Also on May 3rd will be Hats Off to Education, a fundraiser for the Salem Education Foundation, whose goal is to provide funding for projects that further students’ educational experiences in science, mathematics, the arts and humanities. This “hat-themed” ticketed event features a live auction, $5,000 reverse raffle, great food and live music, and the new Wall of Wine (WOW!). The event begins at 7:30pm at the Hawthorne Hotel.

Tickets may be purchased: online at or at the door on the evening of the event.

There is also an Online Auction running now through May 5th with over 200 items including sporting and theater tickets, gift certificates to local restaurants and shops, weekend getaways and more.  To participate in the Online Auction, go to

For Friday night, here are just a few of the items up for bid.

  • Salem Lobstering Expedition & Dinner for four, Donated by Melea & Mike Nalli
  • Autographed Patriots Football, Donated by the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation
  • Unique Date Night: Perfume and Corset Evening followed by Dinner at Red Lulus, Donated by J’Adore & Red LuLu’s
  • Salem Sunset Cruise for Six, Donated by Cindy and Peter Theriault

The Massachusetts Poetry Festival is a three-day event (May 3-5) attracting  a variety of local and regional poets, hosting poetry readings, interactive workshops, panel discussions, music, film, visual arts, and performances to various venues in Salem.

For full description of the activities (and there are many),  participants, and most importantly registration to attend, go to their website. This is important.  By signing up for all the events you wish to attend, even if not required, provides the Festival organizers with data to decide if they need to move a smaller event to a larger space.

The festival in the past attracted more than 1,500 poets and followers. So a word to the wise should be sufficient.

Apr 192012

Spend your weekend downtown Salem April 20 – 22 at the Mass Poetry Festival.  The poetry festival kicks off Friday with programs for Families and Children; then moves into adult programing in the later afternoon. In the evening enjoy a headline reading with Robert Pinsky, Maggie Dietz and Major Jackson. The night closes out with an intercollegiate poetry slam at Victoria Station.

Saturday begins with workshops and more programs for children and families.  Throughout the day there will be activities for families in the Peabody Essex Museum. Across the street in the Museum Place Mall, the small press fair will run from noon to 5:00 pm. Montserrat College of Art will be silkscreening and giving away Mass Poetry festival book bags. At 1:30 pm there will be a reading of the 2012 Common Threads poets. More than 60 readings, workshops, panels and performances will sprawl throughout downtown Salem all afternoon. In the evening there will an amazing performance of song and poetry by powerful story tellers. The evening will end with a late night Poetry Slam organized by famed slam master of the Boston Poetry Slam Simone Beaubian!

Sunday also includes a full line up of events. Visit the official Mass Poetry website for full details. Festival buttons only cost $10. Link to full festival calendar here.