Welcome to the website of the 2011 Massachusetts Poetry Festival, happening May 12, 13 & 14th in the beautiful and historic town of Salem! You can use this site to plan out your visit from start to finish, sign up for workshops, and share your plan with friends. Here you will also find useful information about how to get to the festival and where to eat and stay while you are here. Help us spread the word: download, print, and post this flyer to promote the Festival. Also, be sure to sign up for updates so we can keep you posted on late-breaking developments.

To begin, create your user profile. Feel free to use a nom de’ plume if you are shy.

Once you’ve been set up with a profile, you can go to the Schedule page and add events to your personal schedule. Do this by clicking on the green plus sign next to the event you want to attend. Your friends will be able to see what you’ll be attending and plan accordingly. Remember that some events require pre-registration, and seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis. If you add an event to your personal schedule, you are registered for it.

Now you’re ready to check out the schedule:

Thursday, May 12

Headline Events

Friday, May 13


Saturday, May 14

Main Stage

Full Schedule

Pre-Registered Events

Registering for Events

Take a look at the Events Requiring Pre-Registration. To register for one of these events, all you have to do is add it to your personal schedule. Be sure to sign up for all the events you wish to attend, even if they don’t require it. This way we’ll know if we need to move a smaller event to a larger space. And make sure you supply a valid email address when creating your user profile! This is how we will contact you with important information should any changes to the schedule arise.

Thursday,  May 12

The poetry festival kicks off at 7:30pm Thursday with a reading by Tom Sexton, author of 12 books of poetry, Poet Laureate of Alaska, and a graduate of Salem State University. To celebrate Tom Sexton is to celebrate the legacy of poetry that has sprung from Massachusetts Public Colleges and Universities in the last half century. 

Register here for the Thursday Headline Reading: Tom Sexton & Poetry from Public Colleges

What’s up for High School Students and Their Teachers

On Friday, during the day, Salem State University will host 650 high schools students and 40 teachers from schools across the Commonwealth.  The program includes headline performances by X.J.Kennedy, Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye, Jericho Brown, and Brian Turner. A wealth of workshops will be offered to students led by dozens of accomplished poets, and a special program of professional development  is planned for teachers.  In the middle of the day the acclaimed documentary Louder than a Bomb will be shown, with an introduction by Adam Gottlieb, one of the featured poets, and Anna West, co-founder of the Chicago slam poetry contest that is the focus of the film. If you are a teacher and would like to register your high school for this free student day of poetry, click here.

Friday May 13: Afternoon and Evening Events

Friday afternoon, beginning at 4:15pm, the poetry festival will host readings and talks at Gulu Gulu Café, the Peabody Essex Museum, The Gathering, and the Salem Athenaeum. Celebrate Elizabeth Bishop’s 100th birthday with a reading and discussion of her work by poet and Bishop scholar Lloyd Schwartz, or sip coffee at a reading of poets connected to the Boston Review, one of our greater gifts to the literary community. Between 4:15 and 6:30pm we’re offering eight amazing programs, and you’ll be able to pick two of them to go see. At 6:30pm, we’ll take a break for dinner at some of Salem’s best restaurants before gathering for our headline event—a reading by Brian Turner, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, & Jericho Brown—in the Atrium of the Peabody Essex Museum. The night closes out with an intercollegiate poetry slam, for an energetic late night close to our day.

Register here for the Friday Headline Reading: Brian Turner, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, & Jericho Brown

Saturday,  May 14

All day and night Saturday, we have over 60 incredible events planned all over Salem. There will be readings, workshops, talks, panels, musical performances, film screenings, a live letterpress and screen printing demonstration, and a small press and literary magazine fair for you to enjoy. Programs will take place at a variety of locations around Salem, but the festival will be centered around the main stage at Derby Square, where there will also be vendors selling good things to eat and drink. At the end of the day, close out the festival with our final headliner reading, featuring Mark Doty, Kim Richey, and Patricia Smith.

Register here for the Saturday Headline Reading: Mark Doty, Kim Richey, and Patricia Smith


The Festival Button: Admission to all festival events require a festival button. Buttons will go for a donation of $10 for adults, and $5 for seniors and students. Of course, we encourage those who can to make a larger donation to help us support poetry in Massachusetts and meet the costs of the festival.

You can get first in line for an official Festival Button by making a donation online now. All who donate online will be placed on a list and will be handed a button upon checking in at the festival.

Coming soon on our Admissions page, we’ll list the shops, restaurants, and books stores, in Salem and elsewhere, where you can donate and receive your Festival Button.


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Second in a series of what people thought about the festival Pushcart Prize winner Jill McDonough’s first book is Habeas Corpus; Where You Live came out in 2008. The recipient of fellowships from the NEA, the Library of Congress, and elsewhere, she teaches in prisons for Boston University and directs 24PearlStreet, the online writing program [...]

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