The art of poetry

Major poets of today and yesterday are featured at Featherstone.

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A couple of the heavy hitters in the poetry world will be on-Island this month. The Featherstone Center for the Arts will be hosting two of the best-known contemporary poets — Billy Collins and Robert Pinsky — in upcoming separate events.

The readings are part of the Pathways/Featherstone/Noepe Festival of Poetry, a 10-year-old collaborative initiative among the three local nonprofit arts organizations.

“I think we have poets coming this year who will appeal to a broad range of people,” says Featherstone executive director Ann Smith. “We’re trying to make poetry accessible.”

Billy Collins, who makes an appearance at Featherstone every other year, is the former poet laureate of the United States. The New York Times has called Collins “the most popular poet in America,” and his books have made bestseller lists. Even those who say “I don’t get poetry” appreciate Collins’ witty, conversational, often humorous style.

Collins has appeared on Garrison Keillor’s radio show, “A Prairie Home Companion,” numerous times.

Robert Pinsky, who previously served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library

of Congress and has published 19 books, will be reading his poems to the accompaniment of acclaimed jazz musician Stan Strickland on sax. Pinsky is a former saxophonist himself, and has been greatly influenced by the rhythms and tension of jazz in his writing. Both musicality and theatricality are hallmarks of his work. Pinsky has received commissions to write both play adaptations and librettos.

In 2011, Strickland and Pinsky performed outdoors at Featherstone. “It was the most magical night,” recalls Ms. Smith. “The fog rolled in. It was just incredible. We’ve been waiting to have them back.”

Local poets will also take part in the Festival of Poetry series. This past Tuesday, Justen Ahren, Boston poet Richard Hoffman, and world-renowned poet and activist Rose Styron kicked off the summer festival season.

On Tuesday, August 22, three local poets, Arnie Reisman, Fan Ogilvie, and Jennifer Turner Smith, will pay tribute to three giants on the landscape of American verse, Langston Hughes, Dorothy Parker, and Carl Sandburg, in an evening of readings in honor of the 50-year anniversary of the deaths of the three legends of poetry.

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins will read at Featherstone on August 15. — Courtesy Pennstate

The Robert Pinsky/Stan Strickland music and poetry event will, once again, take place outdoors on the Featherstone grounds. The reading by Billy Collins will be the kickoff event for Featherstone’s new Art Barn, which will open officially with a reception on Friday, August 11, for a show called “BIG,” featuring large works of art.

“The new space will allow us to do more year-round performances and other events,” says

Robert Pinsky’s poetry will be accompanied by musician Stan Strickland at Featherstone on August 9. — Jared C. Benedict

Ms. Smith. “We’ve been really dependant on our outdoor space. Now we have a venue where we can host all kinds of interesting things throughout the year and do more partnerships with other organizations.”

“An Evening of Poetry and Jazz with Robert Pinsky and Stan Strickland,” Wednesday, August 9, at 7 pm. Tickets are $20 and are available at the door. A reading by Billy Collins, Tuesday, August 15, at 7 pm; $20 admission, tickets available at the door. A memoriam for the 50th anniversary of the deaths of Langston Hughes, Dorothy Parker, and Carl Sandburg, Tuesday, August 22, at 5 pm, with readings by Arnie Reisman, Fan Ogilvie, and Jennifer Smith Turner; tickets are $10 and available at the door.