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Put a little poetry in your summer with these August events

Sam Cornish, Boston's first poet laureate, at Back Bay Station in 1987.Wendy Maeda/Globe staff/file

Staying around town this month? August brings several opportunities to enjoy live poetry readings in Boston and Cambridge.

Boston Poetry Marathon

Hosted by a group of volunteers and poets, Boston Poetry Marathon is returning to an in-person format for the first time since 2019. The roughly 120 participants at this three-day event have 7 minutes each to read a poem they’ve written — or several. The marathon is free and open to the public.

“We have people who are just starting out as poets, and [are] almost reluctant to even call themself a poet, who are going to be reading this weekend, but we also have Lloyd Schwartz, Stephanie Burt, Dorothea Lasky, who you might know from [the Substack newsletter and Twitter account] Astro Poets, and Charles Coe, just to name a few,” said Bridget Eileen, one of the marathon’s artistic directors.


Friday’s reading is being held virtually, while Saturday and Sunday’s readings will take place both in person at the Community Church of Boston and via livestream on YouTube and Facebook. There will be short breaks at the end of each hour, plus a two-hour break for dinner, before poets retire for the evening.

While the marathon is free and open to the public, volunteers will accept donations to two organizations advocating for reproductive justice in New England.

“We ended up picking the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund because that will help with direct access to abortion care for local people, and the Womxn Project, which does so much good stuff in Rhode Island for reproductive justice,” Eileen said. “Their mission is combining art and activism, so this goes along with their mission quite well.”

Aug. 5, 4-11 p.m., accessible online on youtube.com/c/BostonPoetryMarathon and facebook.com/bostonpoetrymarathon; Aug. 6-7, also offered in-person; doors open at 12:30 p.m., 565 Boylston St., Boston. Masks and proof of vaccination required. bostonpoetrymarathon.wordpress.com.


Summer Poetry Festival

The New England Poetry Club is hosting a series of free events and awards ceremonies this summer, including the inaugural Sam Cornish Poetry Award, which will be presented on Aug. 7 along with a reading from the two winners. The award was established to honor Boston’s first poet laureate, who served from 2008 to 2014, and in addition to a prolific career, was known for his mentorship of other poets.

“[The award] honors Sam Cornish’s powerful gifts and recognizes people who have, [through] their poetry and inspiration, and encouragement of other writers, made significant impacts on literary communities in New England and beyond,” said New England Poetry Club board member Danielle Legros Georges. Cornish’s public workshops were a defining tradition of his time as poet laureate, she said.

“[He would] invite people — some of whom did not consider themselves poets — to bring their work to the workshop, and he critiqued it with such great care.”

Cornish died in 2018. In keeping with his legacy, this year’s winners — Elizabeth McKim and Askia Touré — were recognized for their work to make poetry more accessible and inclusive, as well as for their original compositions. The awards ceremony will include a reading from each of them on the lawn of the Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site in Cambridge.

The final event of NEPC’s Summer Poetry Festival will be held Aug. 21 and will feature readings from poets Chen Chen and Natalie Shapero.


Sam Cornish Poetry Award: Aug. 7, 3-4 p.m. 105 Brattle St., Cambridge.

Chen Chen and Natalie Shapero: Aug. 21, 3-4 p.m. 105 Brattle St., Cambridge.; nepoetryclub.org

Maya Homan can be reached at maya.homan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @MayaHoman.