Mass Poetry Festival: Sara’s Saturday Extraordinary Experience!

Concluding the Plath event I attended with Editor Joe, the next reading on the list was with the talented and wonderful Ada Limon and Gregory Pardlo, the headlining event at Morse Auditorium at PEM. Being honored to

Gregory Pardlo
Gregory Pardlo

see Pardlo last year as well, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for Digest, he read a few poems I remembered such as “Double Dutch”, “Written By Himself” and one of my favorite narrative poems “Problemo 4” which I included here because it’s a great poem that connects on every level of conversing with a parent as a teenager.  It’s always refreshing not just to revisit writers you enjoy but to hear the life in their work and both Pardlo and Ada do this well. For Ada, it’s evident in her poetry as well as poems she hesitated to read; the content too deep and personal. That is art in itself. Ada read “How To Triumph As A Girl” among others, but I especially enjoyed that one.

Full with inspiration and gleam of the reading, I skipped the next one because my stomach was running on empty. Now eating at a festival can be both a relief and pain, depending on what you choose so I had to think quick. Unlike my meat loving self (had a burger at the Mortified event and paid the price!), I decided to go completely vegetarian (and maybe vegan?) at Live Alive, a place I had sworn I’d never go back to (long story).

‘The Green Goddess’

With a full stomach and an open mind, I met Editor Joe at the poetry circus and had my Happily Psychic reading. It was very unique where I would be given a deck of  small cards with words on each one. Breaking the deck into small ones. I would choose which pile to pull from. From that pile, three cards were put aside as a psychic (or psychoanalyst professor with a hilarious back story that involves unicorns) discarded the rest. From there, the first was what I seek: comfort., the second what I want: be (or to be) and the third was my fear and what could solve my issue. Thinking of a particular issue in my life, I sought to keep one of the cards that could help me through it, the third card: kindness. It was an uplifting moment, getting that positive re-enforcement about the issue I was dealing with to be relieved by a single set of cards.


Next was ordering a poem with GennaRose Nethercott.

She completely blew me away with the poem she made for me upon request and could meet on my level on feeling stuck when trying to travel. Seriously, check is girl out. She’s awesome!


As I hurried back to PEM for the next event, feeling the creativity flowing like sweet caramel coffee from the Gulu Gulu cafe, I took an espresso shot of Edward Hirsch in his reading from the book Gabriel. It was moving, humorous and sad to hear the life of his son who passed but still living in between every line of the poems. Writing about grief is no easy task but the way Edward represents Gabriel feels free and authentic, maybe not always in the greatest light but it’s real. I attended an event last year about writNEW4444ing of those who were no longer with us and what constantly came up was how a person is represented in the work, all too often immortalizing them by only showing the good, a normal reaction. It’s about finding the words. After tragedy, Hirsch explained, he couldn’t fathom to have the few poems or anecdotes about his son in a book of other poems that had nothing to do with him. I guess it wouldn’t do his son justice. Seventy-five pages later and we have Gabriel, an elegy in its truest form. It was moving to hear Hirsch speak and later explain the difficulty of writing the poems, the support he lost when he decided to publish, how emotions sometimes need to cease because you have to think of the mechanics of writing and the relief it brought in writing.


The last event of the day was the State of Poetry with an all star team:

  • Gregory Pardlo (Digest, Totem)
  • Ada Limon (Bright Dead Things, Sharks in the Rivers)
  • Sandra Beasley (Don’t Kill The Birthday Girl)
  • Richard Blanco (The Prince of Los Cocuyos)
  • Jennifer Jean (The Fool)

13138956_713949915414399_4038697718633852526_nThe diverse group opened up their writing styles and, most importantly, how poetry has changed and what it means today. An important subject matter that arose was that of ownership of subject matters such as racism and disabilities. It was an extremely insightful discussion and most memorable was when Blanco discussed his own readings and how he’d be signing his latest book and a customer would tell him ‘I have a Cuban friend I am buying this for,’ instead of just giving it to anyone or enjoying it himself. This still baffles me as poetry, no matter the subject, should be enjoyed and should connect with you, even if it’s a different experience. Actually, it should connect with you especially because it’s different.


Click here to read Sandy’s experience.


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