“What did I bring to the dance?” Mass Poetry Festival Reactions

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I spent the past weekend in a whirlwind of poetry and art during the Mass Poetry Festival.  It’s my fourth year attending the festival, and the third I’ve been in charge of running family friendly activities that stand at the intersection of the visual and verbal arts.  Each year it’s been an interesting challenge to balance my role as a museum educator with my interests as a writer, but I always end the weekend inspired.  This year was no different.

As with any good conference, I ended up with days’ worth of things to think about out of a few packed hours, so my next few posts will be reactions to some of the sessions I attended, but I thought I’d start by sharing some favorite moments from select readings I heard.

Carol Ann Duffy at Mass Poetry Fest 2014

Carol Ann Duffy at Mass Poetry Fest 2014

Friday’s headline reading, with Carol Ann Duffy, Phillip Levine, and Heather Treseler was amazing.  There was a packed house in PEM’s Atrium, with lots of great energy, and the readings were fantastic.  I’ve been an admirer of Carol Ann Duffy since first reading some of her work when she was named the British Poet Laureate, so I expected to enjoy her pieces, but Phillip Levine was a pleasant surprise–I’ve never thought that his poems had a lot to say to me, but there were a few he read that won me over, as did his manner and humor from the podium.  I’ve linked to two of my favorite poems I heard that night below:

Phillip Levine’s “Gospel”  (Source of the lovely quote used in the post title above!)

Carol Ann Duffy’s “Mrs. Midas” (Brought the whole atrium to a sort of rueful laughter)

Phillip Levine at Mass Poetry Fest 2014

Phillip Levine at Mass Poetry Fest 2014

And though I unfortunately didn’t get to hear the entire session as I was about to be running a haiku story time of my own, I really enjoyed the “Celtic Songs” selections read and sung by Jim and Maggi Dalton.  They invited audience participation (always an interesting risk!), and had I had a little more time, I would have read this one:

Seamus Heaney’s translation of “Pangur Ban

The part of the session I heard was heavy on the Robbie Burns–never a bad choice when one is talking about Celtic poetry and song, and I was amazed and impressed by the sheer volume of instruments the two of them were able to play.  Made me want to pick up my flute again!

Jim and Maggi Dalton perform a selection of Celtic music and poetry at Mass Poetry Fest 2014

Jim and Maggi Dalton perform a selection of Celtic music and poetry at Mass Poetry Fest 2014

Still to come: thoughts on ‘poetry of place,’ the connections between poets and water, art installation as breathing space, demystifying the book making process, and what makes for a frustrating or successful workshop experience in this kind of setting!

Update: Festival reactions 2 is here: Mental and Emotional Geography

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