This April, National Poetry Month will be celebrated in a two-day poetry marathon at the Copley Square branch of the Boston Public Library and at Northeastern University. While many annually attend a local bookstore’s hour-long reading or a nearby university’s guest reading in homage to the cruelest month, the size and diversity of the Fourth Annual Boston National Poetry Month Festival sets it in a category all its own.
Affectionately referring to the event as the Poetry Marathon, co-sponsors Tapestry of Voices and Kaji Aso Studio have brought together 56 major and emerging poets reading for twenty minutes each over two days. The expected overall attendance for this free event: 500-600.
When asked how he determined the line-up for this year’s marathon, Harris Gardner, founding director of Tapestry of Voices, said, “First and foremost the quality of their poetry, a presence to their style.” He likes to retain as many of last year’s readers as possible, but new voices are constantly showing themselves. But, he says, “I will not world-premiere anyone at [the Marathon].” Certainly, the number of activities Tapestry of Voices offers speaks to the number of readers Gardner hears month-to-month.
Tapestry of Voices bills itself as a group “dedicated to weaving poetry into the social fabric.” Gardner organizes and emcees several poetry events every year, including regular monthly meetings at the Borders Books in Boston’s Downtown Crossing called “Borders Presents a Tapestry of Voices.” He is the host of the Mad Poets’ Cafe at the Warwick Museum of Art in Rhode Island and host of the Poetry-in-the-Chapel Series at Boston’s Historic Forest Hills Cemetery. In addition, he is seen in one capacity or another in several other venues for the spoken word in the Greater Boston area.
But the main goal of the Boston National Poetry Month Festival, Gardner says, “is to bring diverse and valid forms [of poetry] to a very broad audience.” Having “auditioned” nearly every poet that will participate this April, Gardner rattles off the number of styles and postures available in the Boston poetry scene. From the jazz-informed rhythms of some, to Hip-hop to Academic Poets (whom he defines as any poet who is also a professor) to Poetry Slam performers, the city has it all. Though, he is quick to add, the quality of poetry is held above that of its performance; the performance poets scheduled to read have proved themselves first in their verse.
At the end of our interview, Harris Gardner, a hurried and serious man, lowered his voice. “We must learn to appreciate the importance of the spoken and written word or the barbarians will be at the walls.”
The event will be held from 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday, April 3rd and from noon until 5 pm on Sunday, April 4th.