April is National Poetry month. Started in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets as a way to celebrate poetry and to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States, this time of year is a busy one for local poets.
For me, the poetry madness started on Thursday night, March 24 for a quick trip to Wellfleet to participate in a poetry reading with Marge Piercy. As an honorable mention in this year’s Joe Gouveia Outermost Poetry Contest, sponsored by WOMR radio, I was invited to be a guest reader at the Wellfleet Preservation Hall. Since I had never met or heard Marge Piercy read, this was a real honor. It was also fun because my fellow poet and Steeple Street member, Judy Askew, was first-prize winner and would be reading her poem “Talk about the Weather.”
After the winning poets read, Marge Piercy stepped up to the podium. I was struck by Marge’s warmth, earthiness and humor. She was clearly comfortable on stage and read from six or seven poems, including at least one from her new collection Made in Detroit. It was a magical evening and a good start to National Poetry Month.
On April 7, I traveled down Cape again to the Cultural Center of Cape Cod in South Yarmouth for Judy Askew’s book launch. She was chosen as the first person to win the Bass River Press book contest for her volume of poems On the Loose. A week before the launch, I published an article in the Barnstable Patriot on this event titled “Cape poet launches new collection with Cultural Center’s Bass River Press in South Yarmouth.” It was a gala affair with editor Angela Howes and Cultural Center associate director Lauren Wolk in attendance. After I bought my copy of Judy’s book, I sat with friends and waited for the reading to start. Judy read from her book – funny, moving poems. Afterward, there was an open mic and refreshments.
Two days later, I was co-leader for a discussion of “Common Threads,” an annual publication of seven to ten poems by poets with ties to Massachusetts. For the second year in a row, Alice Kociemba was the guest editor. This year’s theme was “Thresholds” and featured poems by Denise Levertov, Natasha Trethewey, Susan Donnelly, Alan Feldman and others. Rich Youmans helped lead the discussion as did Alice herself. We had a small group of about eight people (mostly poets) and it was a wonderful two hours discussing poems and the poetic experience.
The following weekend, after our regular Steeple Street Poetry meeting, our group met at Cotuit Library for a publicized poetry reading. The librarian (a youthful looking grandmother with her eight-week-old granddaughter) led us to a cozy back room. It was a packed house but an enthusiastic one! Each poet read for about five minutes and then we held an open mic. I opened the reading with two light-hearted poems: “Gretel’s Complaint” and “Hairball.” I think everyone enjoyed the diversity of poems and poets.
Spring on Cape Cod this year has been slow in coming with chilly temperatures and even a frost predicted for tonight, but poetry has kept this month interesting and exciting. I look forward to new poetry adventures this year.