An evening with MASSPoP

October 22, 2007

On a hot September night, ten poets gathered around the big table in the Inkberry office, beneath the giant inkberry painting, to talk about poetry in our region. The roundtable (er — square table?) was convened by Charles Coe of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, as part of the MassPoP (Massachusetts Poetry Outreach Project — learn more here.)

The purpose of the MassPoP is “to create resources to aid and support the Massachusetts poetry community.” Their first project is the creation of a statewide database of poets, presenters, and programs; their second project has been a series of focus groups around the state, each designed to gather information about who Massachusetts poets are, what we want and need, and what our priorities are.

We talked about our lives and work, what organizations we’re involved with, venues and reading series’es, and the state of poetry in our corner of the state. Around the table were poets who spanned the county (and beyond) — Great Barrington to North Adams (even to the hilltowns and Greenfield) and everything in between. A number of the faces there were familiar to me, but not all; a number of the folks there were longtime residents of the region, though at least one was brand-new.

For me, the most interesting part of the evening was when Charles asked us to read a list of possible MassPoP projects and rank our top five priorities. When we shared those priorities aloud, it became clear that for almost everyone in the room, poetry education topped the list: bringing poetry into the schools, introducing kids to the reading and writing of poetry, helping educators learn how to teach poetry. (For a few of us, the top priority was bringing poetry to people on the margins — in hospitals, prisons, substance abuse centers, shelters for battered women and so on.)

Good things will come out of the meeting, for sure. For one thing, MassPoP is poised to do some really good work. For another, it was sweet to see Inkberry be the meeting-place where lovers and writers of poetry from around the region could gather, share a meal and conversation, and leave fortified for the important work of making our poems come to life.