I was back in one of my favorite places on Earth for a celebration of the life & work of Cape Ann poet, dancer, lover Vincent Ferrini, sponsored by the Gloucester Writers Center. The day included an afternoon panel discussion, “Holy Local,” at the Cape Ann Museum, & an evening event at Maritime Gloucester on Harbor Loop, first “Bites on the Dock” followed by “The Poet’s Cabaret.”

Holy Local:  Vincent Ferrini’s Literary Legacy

The panel was moderated by Dorothy Shubow Nelson, & the presenters ranged from formal papers to free-ranging anecdotes about Vincent’s life & work in this City in which he was so involved, with the presentations ranging from the tender, amusing personal to the dull scholarly. The panel members included Peter Anastas, whose recent book A Walker in the City: Elegy for Gloucester (Back Shore Press, 2013) collects Peter’s columns from the Gloucester Daily Times; David Rich, editor of Charles Olson: Letters Home 1949 – 1969 (Cape Ann Museum, 2010); Ammiel Alcalay, the General Editor of Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative, whose paper was read by Kate Tarlow Morgan, & who provided copies 2 broadsides of early works by Vincent; Kate, who danced later at the Gala with local choreographer Sarah Slifer Swift, has been working in the Vincent Ferrini archives in the Cape Ann Museum; also, James Cook, president of the Charles Olson Society & co-editor of the literary journal, Polis; Elizabeth McKim, an artist, & close friend of Vincent’s, on sound & movement & women; Ken Warren poet & editor; Peter Kidd unscripted, publisher of Igneus Press; Garrison Nelson with a few words on the relationships of his father Truman Nelson with Vincent; & Fred Whitehead with some fascinating photos from a conference in Kansas City in 1980, including a couple shots of Vincent with a young Joy Harjo.

A recording of the speakers can be found here at the Gloucester Writers Center.

As Vincent Ferrini said in another context (as quoted by Peter Kidd), “I got enough material here to blow the roof off this building!

Poet’s Cabaret: Vincent Ferrini Centenary Gala

It was a beautiful early Summer evening on the pier in Gloucester Harbor where Maritime Gloucester makes its home, a spectacular setting for a retirement lunch, a fund-raiser party, whatever, for a celebration of the salt air & fishes & boats & gulls & heroes & Poets of this Polis. & tonight for the life & work of poet Vincent Ferrini (1913 – 2007). First the food & drinks, the chance meetings, the conversations about the fish, the lobsters, the fisherman, the fishermans’ wives, about poetry, about who knew who when, about young writers (& older, but new, writers) tripping across the large footprints of Ferrini & of Charles Olson.

It was also a celebration of the publication of Incredible Dancer: Poems from Vincent Ferrini to his friends on Cape Ann (Gloucester Writers Center, 2013) edited by Gregory Gibson & Peter Anastas, a book of poems & photographs that also contains a DVD of the documentary film by Henry Ferrini, Poem in Action: a Portrait of Vincent Ferrini. I’m certain many academic critics would find Vincent’s work uneven, erratic, even slight — just notes, letters to friends, random jottings, as indeed they are. Must all “poetry” be “grand”? The film, the book, Ferrini’s work & especially this Gala tonight are a celebration of the poet’s commitment to the unity of art & life.

The program, hosted by Michael McNamara & M. Lynda Robinson, consisted of an eclectic mix of poems, dance, film, music & combinations of them all, filled with humor, all centered on Vincent’s words. We even learned to dance like Vincent did. Shep Abbott created a larger-than-life (wasn’t he anyway?) puppet in Vincent’s image & many of us ended up in a conga line dancing to Willie Loco Alexander‘s keyboard & chanting Vincent’s words, “Life is the poem, life is the poem …” 

I’ve posted more photos from these events on my flickr site.

The Gloucester Writers Center has a regular series of readings & events, many at Vincent’s old home at 126 East Main St., Gloucester.