13 October 2008
Poetry Festival Review
If you went to the Massachusetts Poetry Festival expecting to hear poor renditions of beat passages, you were only partially right. The three day long festival kicked off Friday night in the Lowell High School auditorium.
Friday night’s performance began with local poetry enthusiasts reciting passages of their choosing. With pieces ranging from Emerson to Frost, readers carefully selected their favorite poems to share with the audience. Although the generally elderly locals tended to stumble through poems, their love for the genre shown through. Inevitably, one reader performed a passage from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, which was disappointing for a few reasons. Not only was the reading forced and came off as rushed, but the man picked what is probably the most well known passage of the book (“The only people for me are the mad ones…”). Especially considering the festival’s location-Lowell, Kerouac’s hometown-the selection was an incredibly unoriginal and even clichéd one.
Rhina Espaillat was the first “featured” poet to speak. A native of the Dominican Republic, she clearly drew most of her inspiration from her experiences as an immigrant to the United States. Espaillet added a nice touch by reciting some of her work in Spanish as well as English. Although her poems were elegant and well constructed, the constant theme of cultural chasms quickly became tiresome. Espaillat seemed at ease on stage, however, and interacted well with the audience, which was very well received.
Regie Gibson came on second and all but stole the show. Despite his claim that “the only thing harder than writing [poetry] is getting people to sit still long enough to listen,” Gibson easily captured the audience’s attention with his soulful recitations of his original poetry. Using his booming voice to his advantage, Gibson incorporated highly thought out pacing and pauses to create a lively performance. Effectively mixing satire and profanity throughout his work, Gibson provoked laughter in nearly every member of the audience. His poems are inspired by a plethora of scenarios, from his family to his childhood to political and cultural situations, leading to a varied catalogue of work.
Nick Flynn’s persona in his book Another Bullshit Night in Suck City is wildly dissimilar from his on stage persona; an intense storyteller on paper, Flynn came off as bored throughout his monotone performance. Despite his apparent lack of enthusiasm, Flynn’s poems were interesting and creative; he chose unique points of view to convey his ideas with, such as through the eyes of bees and beekeepers. Some of his poems are gloomy and mysterious, fitting nicely with his detached personality. Flynn also admitted to borrowing liberally from musical artists and incorporating their lyrics one of his poem.
Although there were a few slight disappointments, all in all the event was well worth the $5 entrance fee.