All posts filed under: Articles, Ideas & Discoveries

featuring recent research, events, and discoveries at the Woodberry Poetry Room

Boston Renaissance


“Ones all speaking together….”—Alice Notley In an effort to foster community at this time, the Woodberry Poetry Room is launching an informal poetry exchange that will randomly pair poets from the Greater Boston area to create collaborative works. This is the first event in our “Boston Renaissance” series, which will also include a collaborative Zoom forum about the literary history—and future—of Boston. Stay tuned! How to Participate: Please send us an email at, with your name and preferred contact information & “Boston Renaissance” in the subject header. Registration Deadline: June 1, 2020. How Do We Define “Boston-Area”: We don’t…. ! As you can tell from our Boston Originals series, we include poets from as far afield as Providence and Amherst under this moniker (as well as MFA and grad students who reside here for several years). Perhaps you might say: poets for whom the Boston area is either a dwelling-place or serves as a literary forum and cultural/educational nexus in their lives. What to Expect: The first 100 Boston-area poets to respond will be …

Handing reaching toward Dickinson book

THE LAYING ON OF HANDS: On “Physical Distancing” as an Ethics of the Archive

In these intangible, at times untenable days—the duration of which keeps extending its parenthesis—days in which we’re instructed not to touch, or greet within six feet, in which we’re made increasingly cognizant of what Amichai called “the circumference of the bomb,” or at the very least the consequential perimeter of our being, days of the necessarily distant and of griefs behind glass, days of the digital (though digital has its very root in “hands”), I’ve begun to reflect on what I, as a curator, have most longed to touch, materials I’m privileged to work among but must necessarily refrain from—a kind of “discipline of vicinity.” It’s a strange favor the fingers do by being far, the noli me tangere of an archivist’s career.   But, somewhere in the molecules of Massachusetts what I haven’t handled persists because I—and others—have cared enough not to touch it. ______ Over the past few weeks, removed from the physical archives, I’ve had a chance to reflect on the fact that I have never in my entire time at Houghton …

YOU ARE UNSUBSCRIBED: Some Activisms of Carol & Robert Bly

I’ve long been interested in individual actions—and minimalist instances of resistance—that testify against a seemingly insurmountable power. It’s no wonder, I suppose, that this interest has been revived of late. As a poet, I have been especially fascinated by the role of refusal: particularly, actions on the part of writers—those whose very material is the language—to use “No” (and silence itself) as a dexterous instrument. In an article in the Boston Review, I explored several writers’ renunciation of writing as a “not-saying” that “becomes language,” describing how for some poets the removal of themselves for a time from certain modes of production and/or from participation in the so-called publishing industry is not simply a negative (or subtractive) act but an action that offers a positive and proactive means to articulate their convictions. Even in this small gesture we are reminded, as Paul Celan writes, of “Man as the being who can say ‘No.’” Over the course of the past century, poets and writers as varied as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Amitav Ghosh, Robert Lowell, Sharon Olds, Alice Oswald, …

“ARCHIVE OF THE MOUTH”: Tracing Baez, Plath, Sun Ra, Sexton, Et Al Back to a Single Pivotal Recording Studio

This was supposed to be a story about one of the nation’s first “library of voices” and its phonographic instigator Frederick C. Packard, Jr. And, in many ways it remains so. But, as poet Lyn Hejinian has observed, people are collecting-experiences, and if one genuinely follows a single human being one inevitably happens on someone else who forms the fulcrum of a very different set of phenomena and occurrences.

In this story that person is a quiet, self-taught Boston audio engineer Stephen B. Fassett (1914-1980), and this article is a preliminary attempt to honor his generative, facilitating and unsung role in the early careers of countless mid-century poets, jazz & blues musicians, and folk music revivalists as they converged on the burgeoning epicenter of 1950s and 60s Cambridge/Boston.

HEAR YE: Announcing the 2017-2018 WPR Creative Fellowship & Grants

I begin to go hear. –Charles Olson The Woodberry Poetry Room is pleased to announce that Kate Colby (of Providence, Rhode Island) is the recipient of the 2017-2018 WPR Creative Fellowship ($3,500) for her project “Mist on the Mirror: Writing in Olson’s Breath.” The annual WPR Creative Fellowship invites poets, writers, multimedia artists, and scholars of contemporary poetry to propose creative projects that would benefit from the resources available at the Poetry Room and to generate new work that further actualizes the WPR’s collections and contributes to the culture at large. Previous recipients of the fellowship have included Eileen Myles, Fanny Howe and (most recently) Erín Moure. Due to the unprecedented number of applicants and remarkable quality of the proposals, the committee will also be awarding two WPR Creative Grants ($1,000). The 2017-2018 grantees are Lillian-Yvonne Bertram (of Lowell, Massachusetts) and Christine Finn (of London, England). Finn’s grant is jointly funded by the Heaney Suite at Adams House. Past recipients of the WPR Creative Grant have included Dan Beachy-Quick and Lindsay Turner. The WPR Creative Fellowships and Grants are …

THE LOST SPEAKERS: When Poetry, Technology & Public-Speaking Converged

As we enter a new era of civic discourse—one governed by 140-character-limits, “air quotes,” and alt facts—and as we encounter an administration intent on destroying the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, it is helpful to reflect on a time that faced similar social and economical struggles (accompanied by rapid technological advances) and met them with a combination of artistic, scientific, and imaginative might.