Saturday, January 22, 2011
It's Official: The Massachusetts Poetry Festival and Me
I just got confirmation that I'll be part of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival this coming Saturday, May 14th, in Salem, Mass. I don't know whether I'll get to read in this gorgeous space, but I hope so.
Massachusetts is where I am from - I was born in Boston, as were both my parents. Boston is where my grandparents settled after leaving the villages of Lithuania and Russia. My father grew up in Chelsea -- a city famous for its multiple bankruptcies, my mother's childhood was spent in Roxbury. Until I was 20 years old, Massachusetts was the only place I had lived.
To be honest, I have a love - hate relationship with my home state. I'm convinced that there's nowhere in the United States more conscious of class and race, of where you went to school or what your parents do (or did). Maybe that's changed since I left seventeen years ago. In other words, it was a hard place to grow-up if you were not a Boston Brahmin -- and I wasn't.
This November, I visited old friends in Cambridge and Somerville, where I lived before moving to the Northwest. I took the Red Line and wandered through the Commons and Public Gardens, walked to the Public Library and took in Newbury Street galleries. I fell in love with my city again.
But what makes me most excited about being invited to this festival (thank you, January!) is that Massachusetts is where I first began writing poems. I took classes in the living rooms of poets like Pamela Alexander and lived around the corner from the famous Grolier Poetry Bookshop. My first published poems were in The Massachusetts Review, Salamander, and The Christian Science Monitor. And yet, I feel certain that I never could have continued writing if I didn't move away from the influences of Plath and Sexton, Lowell and even Bishop. I needed a new landscape to claim as my own.
And yet, as Dorothy famously said, "there's no place like home." To be invited back home to read my poems and to teach a workshop, feels downright heavenly. I can't wait until spring.