Articles, Ideas & Discoveries
Leave a comment


Boston Renaissance

“Ones all speaking together….”
—Alice Notley

In an effort to foster community at a time of social-distancing, 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 and the crowd-sourced creation of a series of literary maps (or, so we hope)!

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 randomly paired—using an automated team generator—with a poetry “pen-pal.” We will send you an email by June 16, 2020, which will provide you with the name & preferred contact info of your correspondent.

Beyond that, the process is entirely in your hands (and keyboards)!

While we encourage each pair to create a collaborative poem (or two) together, via email, mail, or an online platform, you are under no obligation to do so. You may decide to simply share your own poems or help each other make final decisions about a manuscript. Collaborative poems can be a wonderful opportunity to commune with other mindsets, aesthetics, cultures, rhythms, and histories, and the process can provide the chance to experiment with new modes and momentums.

Please note: If for any reason we do not receive enough applications, we will notify all registrants.

Resources: We will aim to provide some links to examples of historic and contemporary literary collaborations on this Blog in the weeks to come. We also welcome you to add links to your favorite poetic collaborations in the Comments section below.

Code of Conduct: The Woodberry Poetry Room is committed to providing a welcoming environment for all participants—both in our in-person and online programs. We expect participants to treat each other with respect in all interactions.

Writing—by its very nature—includes the sharing of what can be challenging and unfamiliar material and insights. But we ask that while taking literary risks and venturing in potentially new directions, you be cognizant of your words’ impact and help to ensure a safe, harassment-free environment at all times.

In a period of great stress in everyone’s lives, this exchange is intended to be generative, supportive, exploratory, and pleasurable. If for any reason you need to stop the exchange, please know that you are under no obligation to continue the collaboration beyond your first email/letter.

Outcomes: We hope you’ll use this collaboration as an opportunity to be in the moment and not concern yourselves with outcomes.

But if you do end up creating a poem that you’re proud of (or even a few lines that you’re excited about), please feel free to share them with us and/or post them on social media—if possible with the hashtags #WPRHarvard and #BostonRenaissance.

Once the library re-opens, we also invite you to peruse our collection of 100 lit magazines and journals to consider submitting your poems for publication. We also hope to hold a celebration of the project during a forthcoming Boston Originals reading at the Poetry Room—-but we will need to see when such gatherings will be possible again.

For footage of our popular Boston Originals series and oral histories of such Boston-area poets as Stephen Jonas, Gerrit Lansing, and John Wieners, please visit our YouTube Channel, We also welcome you to explore our Listening Booth of recordings by such Boston-area poets as Frank Bidart, Louise Glück, Jorie Graham, Fanny Howe, Robert Lowell, Charles Olson, Robert Pinsky, Anne Sexton, and Franz Wright.

Filed under: Articles, Ideas & Discoveries


Christina Davis is the curator of the Woodberry Poetry Room, Harvard University. She is the author of two poetry collections, AN ETHIC and FORTH A RAVEN, a recent collaborative sound-art installation, DISCORD, MA, and the manuscript-in-progress, SMALL EVERS.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *