Common Threads, uncommon poems
MassPoetry.org’s Common Threads initiative is pushing Massachusetts residents to put a little poetry in their lives. It is distributing nine poems, available on the group’s website and at Harvard Book Store, with a goal of getting 10,000 people to read and discuss them this month. The poems by writers with deep ties to Massachusetts tackle love, death, racism, baseball, and other subjects. The oldest poem is “The Author to Her Book” by Anne Bradstreet, a work from the 1600s that poet Lloyd Schwartz said “might be the first great poem written by an American.” Also in the gang of nine are Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Emily Dickinson, and Robert Lowell as well as contemporary poets Joyce Peseroff, Boston’s Sam Cornish, Frank Bidart, David Ferry, and Gail Mazur.
Common Threads organizers are encouraging poetry lovers to host informal readings and discussions. In addition, public gatherings have been scheduled. As part of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Salem, Schwartz will lead a reading and discussion with the five contemporary poets from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Peabody Essex Museum. Attendees must have a festival button, available for a donation of $10; seniors and students pay $5. Members of the Concord Poetry Center will lead Common Threads discussion groups at 2 p.m. April 28 and 29 at Emerson Umbrella in Concord. Registration is required. Visit www.concordpoetry.org for details.
In one of several videos posted on the Common Threads 2012 page at MassPoetry.org, Peseroff, who teaches at the University of Massachusetts, said she likes to read poetry aloud, alert to sounds and images and the special knowledge being passed from poet to reader. “Everyone knows something nobody else knows,” she said, “and usually each poem reveals what that thing is.”
The US Postal Service is celebrating National Poetry Month. On Saturday it will issue a set of Forever stamps featuring 10 of the most admired 20th-century American poets: Elizabeth Bishop, Joseph Brodsky, Gwendolyn Brooks, E. E. Cummings, Robert Hayden, Denise Levertov, Sylvia Plath, Theodore Roethke, Wallace Stevens, and William Carlos Williams. On the back of each stamp are a few lines from the poet’s work.
Music will be in the air at the Newburyport Literary Festival on April 28. Among the speakers at 40 talks and performances will be Boston broadcasting legend Ron Della Chiesa; singer-songwriter Christine Lavin; Tim Riley, whose latest book is a biography of John Lennon; Dan Stone, editor of Radio Silence, a new magazine of literature and rock ’n’ roll; and poet Robert Pinksy, who will be joined onstage by jazz musicians. The full schedule is at www.newbury
• “Harvest the Wind: America’s Journey to Jobs, Energy Independence, and Climate Sensibility” by Philip Warburg (Beacon)
• “Good Self, Bad Self: Transforming Your Worst Qualities into Your Biggest Assets” by Judy Smith (Free Press)
• “Conversations at the American Film Institute with the Great Movie Makers: The Next Generation”by George Stevens Jr. (Knopf)
Pick of the week
Patricia Lyon-Surrey of Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vt., recommends “The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson (Random House): “This haunting novel takes us inside the cruel and repressive North Korea with Pak Jun Do, a tunnel soldier trained in the art of zero-light combat. He is in love with the country’s legendary actress Sun Moon. Her picture is tattooed on his chest even though he has never met her or even seen one of her movies. The writing is poetic, the twists are engrossing, and the story is unforgettable.”
Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter @JanLGardner.