What would ee cummings hear out here today?

Poetry month is starting on Friday, and I almost forgot this year. WordxWord will open their annual 30-day challenge and hand out a new idea each morning to play with. I look forward to it usually — it has its own energy, when people share an impulse to turn their attention to immediate words. It’s creative play, like a game, like an image you can’t resist sharing.

It feels like an energy we’re seeing more around here too. We have a monthly writing group at the Bear and Bee now, and a monthly poetry open mic around the corner at Wild Soul River.

People are sharing stories in a way I haven’t felt in the Northern Berkshires in a long time — not since Inkberry held writing workshops and readings in a storefront in North Adams … The walls were stippled with paint like birds’ eggs, and Martin Espada once read poems from Alabanza on a warm night, his voice strong with loss and recognition and praise.

What kind of energy do I mean? I remember and walking around an old mill building, noticing details for a prompt, trying to write without pause in an old spiral notebook and letting the writing take off and spill over into the challenges of a hard summer — I was in a transition time, not long out of college, and I trusted the group enough to read those thoughts aloud.

I remember a fall night later on with a close group, talking about Neruda’s odes and how he could take anything and make it worth paying attention to — a fish in the market. Hand-knitted socks.

Reading a poem or writing one can feel like listening to music or playing it … or talking late with old friends you haven’t seen in years, and still you feel yourself relax when you walk into their kitchen. It can feel like kneeling in the woods along the lawn and easing up the earliest shoots of garlic mustard. It’s been months since I could play like this.

Behind the old stone bench, the earth is still cold but wet enough that I can free the roots if I give them time. If I catch these young plants early, then they won’t take as much from the soil, and the ephemeral wildflowers will have more of a chance.

It’s quiet out here, damp and cool. Songbirds are talking on the hill, and I’m not sure I know any of their spring songs, but it feels peaceful to listen. Out here the world is real and intent, and I feel part of it.

Writing events coming up soon …

Dusk falls on the reflecting pool at the Clark Art Institute on a midsummer eventing.
May 23 2024 @ 6:00 pm
David-Jeremiah, the artist of I Drive Thee, this year’s public spaces installation at the Clark, celebrates the launch of the exhibition publication.
The Hoosic River meets the Green River in Williamstown under a blue sky.
May 25 2024 @ 10:00 am
The Hoosic River Watershed Association celebrates Haiku on the Hoosic, inviting everyone in the community to a morning of live music and readings inspired by the river.
Tracy K. Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, librettist, 22nd Poet Laureate of the United States and is a Professor of English and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, will speak at Tanglewood. Press photo courtesy of the artist
Jul 20 2024 @ 5:00 pm
Tracy K. Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, librettist, 22nd Poet Laureate of the United States and is a Professor of English and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, draws connections between literature, poetry, libretti and music.

By the Way Berkshires is a digital magazine exploring creative life and community — art and performance, food and the outdoors — and I’m writing it for you, with local voices, because I’ve gotten to know this rich part of the world as a writer and journalist, and I want to share it with you.

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