Monday. Ugh. As we try to survive the worst day of the week, we are also challenged by Festival hangovers and post MassPoFest Blues. The cure? Well it will be a year until the next festival but we can certainly share all of the details, the people we’ve met and the poetry activities we did on the way. The best way do this is to recap the festival, day by day. Today’s post is about Friday night, the kickoff event.
A moment of not breathing as Ocean Vuong finished his first poem, “Telemachus”, a hauntingly, beautifully written, piece that was presented in soft spoken words with the right amount of weight in its conclusion. After “Aubade With Burning City” and “Seventh Circle on Earth” we needed time to process it all, sort through the heaviness that clutched at our chests. His father, and fathers in general, is an area Ocean often writes about, even when trying not to he admitted, but there were no complaints from us. He left the crowd silent and still, soaking in the powerful imagery of his work, hanging on every line. Every word. Every pause. In essence, he set a very high bar for the rest of the festival.
As if we were skeptical of the next presenter, who could not be as strong as Ocean on the stage, Sandra Beasley made her way, joking of her fear, telling the crowd she hoped she wouldn’t have to be after him and yet here we are. As Ocean seemed soft and calm, Sandra was warm and bubbly, her poetry humorous with heavy thought-provoking endings. Poetry turned prose author of Don’t Kill The Birthday Girl, Sandra explained how her own disability of being allergic to many foods (food sharing, she argued, is a cultural way people come together) was refocused into her writing and about the disabilities of writing. Luckily I, Editor Sara, was able to see her in another panel to explore this subject further. Friday night, Sandra read “Allergy Girl” and “The Sand Speaks”, among others, each poem ending with a fierce emotional punch. She ended her presentation by reading an unpublished new poem: “Bass Pro Shop” – a somewhat repetitive piece whose satisfying ending brought it full circle.
Lastly, Martha Collins read from her most recent book of poetry, Admit One, which focused on the history of scientific racism. The collection of poems featured on the turn of the Century World’s Fair in Indiana. She wove her family’s history into her poems but I (Editor Sara) had a hard time connecting the content with myself despite the current issues that could have been explored. Martha’s verbiage was on key and they were well written pieces.
LATE NIGHT EVENT
Following the headlining and kick off event came a live performance of Mortified, a podcast that has poets reading pieces seeping with teen angst. Performed at the Sea Level restaurant on the wharf, we chatted up the hostess that said it was the first time they had hosted such an event with the complete first floor rented out. Each table was covered in paper for writing and the microphone was set up in the corner. The subject of the night? Comedy, and there is nothing funnier than hearing poets read work from when they were angsty teenagers. Some of the line below are evident of that in the ‘almost pissed my pants laughing’ way.
Learn more about the Mortified sensation by listening to their PODCAST.
Oh, and this happened at Sea Level…
Read the next part here