Poetry Events in Boston for National Poetry Month (and Beyond)

Here's a guide to essential slams, jams, open mics, and performances happening in April and all year round.

Poetry events for National Poetry Month 2015

Microphone photo via Wikimedia Commons

April may be National Poetry Month, but Massachusetts gets into the spirit all year long—and has been leading the way for centuries.

Emily Dickinson, Robert Lowell, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Sylvia Plath are among the many poetry giants who’ve called the Bay State home. It’s no wonder. After all, our cities are old, our winters are brutal, and our intellectual curiosity is rivaled only by the Puritan PTSD that lingers in our collective memory. Living in New England tends to breed quick wit and deep introspection, so it’s only natural that poetry should be so fundamentally embedded in our state’s cultural bedrock.

But this is not a legacy confined to museums or textbooks. You can find living, breathing poetry all over the city, all the time—you just have to know where to look. Here’s the chapbook version of a poet’s guide to Boston—from Poetry Month festivities to essential slam venues.


15th Annual Boston National Poetry Month Festival

In the same year that the New England Poetry Club celebrates its centennial—it was founded in 1915 by Robert Frost, Amy Lowell, and Conrad Aiken—the Boston National Poetry Month Festival turns 15, and it’s commemorating the milestone by expanding from two days to four.

“One interesting thing about this festival is how diverse it’s become,” says Kirk Etherton, who co-organizes the festival along with founder Harris Gardner and Berklee professor (and Etherton’s wife) Lucy Holstedt. “It’s a world-class thing for free, which is pretty amazing.”

The fest kicks off on Thursday night with their second annual concert of poetry and music, which includes a live version of Robert Pinsky’s “The Green Piano” and spoken word performances from Berklee College of Music students in Armsted Christian‘s Flo’Ology Experience program.

“It’s amazingly original and powerful,” Etherton says. “It’s essentially the students taking a difficult experience that they’ve been through, and turning it into poetry that they perform with musical accompaniment.”

Other highlights: A slam competition on Friday, all-day readings by 50 emerging and established poets at the BPL on Saturday, and an appearance from the newly crowned Boston poet laureate Danielle Legros George on Sunday.

Details at bostonnationalpoetry.wix.com/poetry.


Blacksmith House Poetry Series

Though the “spreading chestnut tree” has been axed, the house of the village blacksmith immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famed poem is still standing, and it’s been hosting a regular poetry series since 1973.

$3, select Mondays at 8 p.m., Blacksmith House, 56 Brattle St., Cambridge (unless otherwise noted), 617-547-6789, ccae.org/blacksmithpoetry.

Boston Poetry Slam

Long recognized for its venerable open mic series, the Cantab hosts the flagship weekly show of Boston Poetry Slam.

$3-$5, Wednesdays at 8 p.m., Cantab Lounge, 738 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, 617-354-2685, cantab-lounge.com.

Lizard Lounge Poetry Jam and Slam

Every Sunday, a featured poet graces the Lizard Lounge for a special Poetry Jam performance, while the backing band the Jeff Robinson Trio “lays down the musical foundation.” A slam follows.

$7, Sundays at 7:30 p.m., Lizard Lounge, 1667 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, 617-547-0759, lizardloungeclub.com.

Richard Cambridge’s Poetry Theatre

Almost 40 years in the running, this monthly series helmed by Richard Cambridge features a guest poet for each installment.

$10 suggested donation, every third Friday at 8 p.m., Arts at the Armory, 191 Highland Ave., #1A, Somerville, 617-718-2191, artsatthearmory.org.

Stone Soup Poetry

What could have been another sad, sad story of art getting crushed under the jackboot of capitalism turned out to have a happy ending: Longtime poetry refuge Out of the Blue gallery has a new home in an unbeatable location, and its long-running open mic series came along with it.

$5 suggested donation, Mondays, 8-10 p.m., Out of the Blue Too Art Gallery & More, 541 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, 617-354-5287, outoftheblueartgallery.com.