Massachusetts Poetry Festival and Salem (A Photo Diary with More Landscape than People)

IMG_0105 I made my way out to the eastern part of the state on Friday for the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, held in Salem every year in early May. I was born and raised in the eastern part of the state and brave Route 495 every few months to see family or get further north, but it’s truly a different world. Drivers on Route 128 on a late Friday afternoon don’t want to pass you so much as drive through your car. And that’s in the “slow” lane! My life is about as predictable and staid as an anchorite’s, so the Mass Poetry Fest (tiny in comparison to AWP) felt like a boatload of socializing to me. And I wasn’t the only one: poets were dropping like flies from overstimulation. The Panel Zero to One: First Books and What We Wish We’d Known, which I’m a proud member of and have taken part in twice, went off without a hitch on Saturday afternoon. We had a full house and some great questions. I saw the poet Gregory Pardlo give his first reading as a Pulitzer prize winning poet. Saw Cynthia Cruz, who I imagined would be kind of tough (poetry subject matter) but who was slight in stature and sweet-voiced.  I met up with my first poetry professor and a former classmate (it’s been 20 years!), had lunch with poets, spotted Rita Dove and Richard Blanco, met new poets and had dinner with poets, talked about poetry, spent too much at the book fair, felt a bit horrified at the way Salem’s tragic witch trial history has been trivialized and commercialized. It would be like Americans in 400 years creating the equivalent of a 911 amusement park. Sadly, it adds up to historical ignorance and amnesia. The Salem witch trial story is fascinating on both a historic and social level, and there are some interesting theories as to what caused a group of girls to accuse half the town of witchcraft, sending pious citizens to the gallows. But I’ll save that for another post. Finally, on my last day, I found the ocean, where it seems only people with dogs and children converge. The smell of sea air and the peace of the vast Atlantic could only have been improved upon if the temps were above 50. I had to come home to the western hills for that!

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