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Brockton Library poetry series goes live on the lawn

Brockton High School student Jessia Tran Nguyen will read her work in the poetry reading at the city's East Branch library lawn on June 26.
Brockton High School student Jessia Tran Nguyen will read her work in the poetry reading at the city's East Branch library lawn on June 26.Brockton Public Library

The poetry reading series “Everyone Has A Voice” returned to Brockton Library last month after a lengthy hiatus caused by the pandemic. But instead of taking place inside the main library, which remains closed, the program has moved to the spacious lawn outside Brockton Library’s East Branch.

The monthly series will continue June 26 at 2 p.m. at the East Branch library lawn, located at 54 Kingman St.

Poetry series coordinator and co-host Philip Hasouris of Brockton said the series had been running since 2017 until it was suspended last year when libraries statewide were shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“Our series is unique in that our program not only consists of a diverse pool of established poets, from academic, performance poets, and spoken word to professors and the written word, we always look for a first-time feature,” Hasouris said.

Brockton’s program is also unusual in emphasizing participation by young people, including local high school students as readers. Each session also offers an open mic opportunity.

“Our student poets come from our local high schools and colleges,” Hasouris said. “Our youngest poet to be featured was 13 years old.”

On May 22 -- 15 months after the series’ last live reading -- more than 40 people gathered on the lawn to hear open mic readers of all ages begin the program, followed by three featured readers.

“One by one people stepped up to the mic reading from their books, papers, memories, each greeted with applause and approval from the audience,” Hasouris said.

Brockton Library director Paul Engle told participants to expect a great experience. “Expect a warm and welcoming space with warm and welcoming people,” he said. “Expect to be asked to read your poems. Expect to laugh, cry, and feel everything in between. Expect to be moved.”

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The reading featured spoken word poet Marlon Carey of Rhode Island, as well as two students: 15-year-old Lola Bennett of Brockton, who attends Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School, and Brockton High senior Messou Fofana, who writes about her experiences both in the West African country of Guinea and in America.

Carey has appeared frequently in poetry slam performances and was featured in a TEDxBoston livestream talk. Hasouris said Carey’s poems offered his audience “a life lesson as a community activistic, hip-hop poet, and creative writer.” Fofana read her poems in both English and French.

From its beginning, Hasouris said, the “Everyone Has a Voice” readings created an opportunity to display the city’s talent. “Brockton is a vibrant and diverse city, full of music, art, dance, and especially poetry,” he said. “I know we have some of the best writers and performers.”

The June 26 reading will feature two readers whose work reflects on their family backgrounds.

Christina Liu is a liberal studies faculty member at Boston Architectural College and a co-organizer of the Boston Poetry Marathon. She grew up in New York City’s Chinatown after her parents escaped from China during the Cultural Revolution.

A graduate in creative writing from Emerson College, Liu has had poems published in journals and anthologies. She reads frequently at Boston area venues and two years ago was a featured poet at Brockton Library’s “Voices of Diversity” program.

Jessica Tran Nguyen is a Brockton High School sophomore. Describing herself for the series, she writes, “I was born here in America but my ethnicity is Vietnamese.” Among her artistic interests, she states, are “framing pieces of figurative language and the wizardry of speaking to create something I like to call poetry!”

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The “Everyone Has A Voice” series is also planning a large poetry event for a November date to be called “Voices of Diversity,” Hasouris said.

Robert Knox can be contacted at rc.knox2@gmail.com.