The Significance of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival

While it is common for poetry festivals and events across the country to focus on the artistic or melodic aspect of this written form, it is also important to take the time to not only understand, but to appreciate its power to change. Change someone’s perspective on an issue he/she had not thought about too much previously, or perhaps shedding light on a feeling that many people fail to experience in the routine of their day to day lives.

One festival in particular has shaped a new way people gather and come together to experience of the striking insight of poetry. In late April, the Massachusetts Poetry Festival showcased poets and different works of art which emphasized world issues and problems that have gone widely unheard of.

This festival, which lasted for two days in Salem, was a plethora of poetic communications, learning, and most of all social engagement. Specifically, on Friday educators had the option to participate in a workshop focused on teaching poetry, its history, and various writing forms in high school classrooms.

Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, moderator and poet Danielle Jones-Pruett says that the entire festival — in fact, all poetry — is a form of activism.

maya angelou

Maya Angelou 

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

– “Still I Rise”, Maya Angelou

Festival Executive Director January Gill O’Neil, is a firm believer that poetry readings are an opportunity for listeners to not only realize they’re not alone, but also relate to others to better understand how feelings can be both shared experiences and personal simultaneously.

As the festival is the catalyst for this shared, personal experience, O’Neill hopes that participants, readers, and poets can benefit and engage in a similar interaction in another sphere of their lives. In other words, this moving experience can transcend the festival setting. “Revolutions start small,” she says.

Unlike other festivals, many attendants believe that this event was special due to its robust, healthy intellectual atmosphere. Thus, Jones-Pruett emphasizes that diversity propels change both within and outside the poetry community. “Rather than nodding our heads we have our ideas challenged,” she says.

Tobi Dress-Germain, one of the festival moderators, delves deeper into the notion that the process of creative writing is still unrestricted. In this sense, this liberating mentality allows for a free flow of ideas across a spectrum of minds. She feels that “writing is one of the few times when we, as human beings, are truly free.”

According to Gill O’Neil, when you’re writing poetry, your objective is not necessarily to change the world immediately or at all. For many, as society becomes more open and accepting, so does poetry as an introspective art form. This is the best time to go see poetry,” she says. “It’s edgy, it’s raw, it goes there.”

Exploring Soulful Poetry with Major Jackson

Born and raised in his native Philadelphia, Major Jackson uses the steady, soulful beats of All-American, wholesome jazz music to allow for infinite poetic inspiration in his verses. When he reads his work, he uses a tone of distant insight and close, almost intimate warmth to entice, captivate and entrance the reader into his spell that can last for minutes at a time.

Jackson also uses his musical tastes from when he was a teen, to his later, more adult years in a perfect combination of street like hip hop flow and the heartfelt sadness of jazz to explore the human experience. When discussing what specific public spaces, artists or memories from his home city inspire his work, he recalls the years of his life wandering throughout the streets of his Philadelphia.

In those streets, he was able to explore the most internal, poetic aspect of himself, which allowed him to call on the love of his city.

As a professor of the university of Vermont, Major Jackson assures everyone that philadelphiaPhiladelphia will always be the creative foundation which initiated his poetic artistry, even in this point in his career. Her firmly believes that poetry, should denote and possess a musical, almost rhythmic quality in which the language, musical inspiration and performance become interconnected as a collective movement for every party involved.

Living by the wise words, once stated by Sharon Olds, a Pulitzer prize winner, Major Jackson makes it his primary mission in his creative field to always “write the poem you would never show anyone.” Drawing on a wide range of deep, often times conflicting personal experience, this poet firmly believes that the power of an insightful poem can therefore create a type of “rife raft” for individuals across cultures, backgrounds or experiences to find solace in a common struggle.

As for inspiring, new wide eyed poets on the scene, Major Jackson has a few words to guide these writers through their journey. Jackson advises these poets to a encompass a vast array of styles, beliefs and convictions, vastly different from what you may believe. This, in turn, will not only expand your worldview, but also allow for a healthy, internal debate within your own mind, producing some of your most profound work.

Interestingly enough, Major Jackson also makes a point to to look within yourself in order to not only imitate your influence, but instead write in a way that allows for a collective, almost symbiotic relationship. “Write organically, through your influences,” he states. “Then there will be the writing organically from the evolved craft of poetry’s essence.”

A firm believer in the power, use and widespread use of language, it is no surprise that Major Jackson has been incredibly successful, holding positions such as the current poetry editor of the Harvard review. His most recent work titled “Roll Deep & Poems,” which underlines issues such as human intimacy in platonic and romantic relationships, along with the multitude of implications and convictions within the sphere of online dating.

An interesting vocal form that guides Jackson throughout the creative process is to read his poetic words aloud as he writes them on paper. The poet states that by reading the language out loud, this actually allows him to find new, more innovative ways to create music through new tones in his words, experimenting with syllabic intonation and writing these somewhat pre-form poems.


Equality in Art

Art has long been considered a place of free and open communication. A place for those who feel oppressed, misused or underrepresented to come and share their voice, Art is supposed to be free of cultural bias. However, a recent discussion held at Penn for female artists found a shocking inequality in the level of exposure between male and female artists. Instead of tackling this worldwide discrepancy, though, this panel focused on a problem that can very much be solved.

Designed to promote Philadelphia’s female artists, the panel discussed practices, inspirations and the role of being an artist. A career of nebulous boundaries and uncertain returns, becoming an artist is easy and only asks you to express yourself, but making a living from your particular viewpoint requires more savvy than most anticipate. With tips on entering the industry, how to find inspiration for their work and how to self-promote in the art world, this panel of artists did all they could to inform the future of their industry.

While women represent 51 percentRick Maack of visual artists according to a survey held in 2014, they remain woefully underrepresented in the art cities of the world. The National Museum of Women in the Arts announced a shocking statistic when they examined artists represented in New York and Los Angeles. Of the 4,000 artists on the list, only 32.3 percent were women. Additionally, women hold 24 percent of museum director or curator positions.

Though their experiences in the industry differ, many artists feel that their pursuit of art blinds them to the inequalities plaguing their field. This kind of work-related blindness is what allowed the industry to become so skewed, and women the world over are standing up and having their voices heard. The creation, proliferation and celebration of Art is meant to be sacred, and I for one hope balance is found and order is restored.

The Chicago Art Expo

For years, Expo Chicago has brought art and artists from all over the world together in a grand celebration of their achievement. Drawing thousands of onlookers, Chicago’s dedication to the arts never goes without appreciation, and this year looks to be no different. With pieces from over 100 art galleries in 47 cities all around the globe, this Rick MaackSunday will be the fourth year The International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art has breezed through the Windy City.

The offerings of this year’s Expo are as varied as they are beautiful. From collections scattered across the globe, you’d have to visit nearly 20 countries, and the world’s most preeminent art dealers to touch the frame of this collection. Hailing from Rome, San Francisco, Madrid, Amsterdam, Berlin and Paris, this collection is ripped straight from some of the greatest art capitals of the world.

All manner of art is welcome at this year’s Expo, as everything from paintings to massive installations will be on display. Amalia Pica’s “If These Walls Could Talk” will stand in the same space as work from the Nicodim Gallery of Los Angeles and the Otto Zoo of Milan. Beyond the Expo’s offerings, museums and art houses across the city will be celebrating Expo Art Week. Millennium Park will host a free concert of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as the Museum of Contemporary Photography screens Roy Andersson’s “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence.”

For four years, the Expo has drawn tourists from all around the world to an already travesofa.2011.susan_.taylor.glasgowl-worthy location. A weekend of fine-dining, performance and spectacle await any who are able to make the journey. If Chicago’s storied history and rich cultural diversity isn’t enough to draw you in, then perhaps the world’s finest collection of art from around the globe will spur you to make the journey.