The Northampton Arts Council is a city board and a non-profit organization whose goal is to support and promote the arts in Northampton. Originally created as a Local Arts Lottery Council, it began its work by administering a grants program in which proceeds from a state lottery are distributed to local artists, arts groups, and public schools.

Poet Laureate

Poet Laureate of Northampton 2017-2019

Photo by Trish Crapo
The Northampton Arts Council is thrilled to announce the appointment of Amy Dryansky as Northampton’s poet laureate for the 2017 – 2019 term. As Northampton’s 8th laureate, Dryansky joins the illustrious ranks of poets Martin Espada, Janet Aalfs, Jack Gilbert, Lesléa Newman, Lenelle Moïse, Richard Michelson, and Patrick Donnelly.

Dryansky’s first book, How I Got Lost So Close to Home, won the New England/New York Award from Alice James Books. Her second book, Grass Whistle (Salmon Poetry, Ireland) received the 2014 Massachusetts Book Award for poetry. Dryansky’s poems have appeared in a variety of anthologies and journals, including Barrow Street, Harvard Review, New England Review, Memorious,  Orion and The Women’s Review of Books. She’s received honors and awards from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, MacDowell Colony, Vermont Studio Center and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Dryansky is also a former Associate of the Five College Women’s Studies Center, where she looked at the impact of motherhood on women poets.

Dryansky has a long history of working at and for arts and community organizations in the Valley, and is currently the assistant director of the Culture, Brain & Development Program at Hampshire College. During her tenure as poet laureate, she hopes to partner with local organizations like the Center for New Americans, the Literacy Project, Historic Northampton, David Ruggles Center and the Northampton Arts Council to highlight the diverse voices--past and present--that make up our vibrant Northampton community.

Dryansky lives in Conway, has two kids ages 15 and 18, and tries very hard to maintain a blog called Pokey Mama, about her attempts to navigate the territory of mother-writer. Her kids, despite their mother’s many accolades, remain unimpressed with the fact of her being a poet.

For more about Dryansky and her work, please visit:

Poet Laureate of Northampton 2015-2017


Patrick Donnelly is the seventh Poet Laureate (2015 – 2017) of Northampton, Massachusetts. Poets Martin Espada, Janet Aalfs, Jack Gilbert, Lesléa Newman, Lenelle Moïse, and Richard Michelson have previously held the position. Northampton is the county seat of Hampshire County, Massachusetts, with a population of about 29,000. The city has vibrant and diverse art, music, and literary communities, and is home to Smith College, where Donnelly is a lecturer.

A Josten Live! Fridays @ Five Event
At the Grave of Maria Callas: How Does an Aria Turn into a Poem?

Northampton poet laureate Patrick Donnelly will explore the roots of his poetry in his training as an opera singer, and especially in his 50-year admiration of the art of Maria Callas.

Donnelly will debut a new sequence of poems about Callas, and introduce historic recordings and videos of the singer that some have called the most important artist of the 20th century. As well, Donnelly will explore the attraction of gay men to opera and to Callas in particular, and seek to answer what it is about opera that is consoling and inspiring for queer people. This multi-media event will interest lovers of music, theater, poetry, design, and fashion, and especially opera, a synthesis of all the arts.

Friday February 17, 2017, 5:00 PM
Werner Josten Performing Arts Library
Mendenhall Center
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063
413-585-2930 / 2935
campus map:

Josten Live! is a patron-driven performance series that celebrates the creative lives of Josten Library users and the acoustic brilliance of its Mezzanine.

Patrick Donnelly

The Genius of Poetry must work out its own salvation in a man: It cannot be matured by law and precept, but by sensation and watchfulness in itself. —John Keats


On Saturday, April 9th at 3:00 PM, Patrick Donnelly, 20152017 poet laureate of Northampton, MA, will host POETS FOR LIFE: POETS RESPOND TO AIDS, a benefit reading in support of A Positive Place (formerly AIDS Care/Hampshire County), a non-profit organization providing a wide array of services for people with HIV in Hampshire and surrounding counties.

The event will be held at the Paradise Room, Conference Center, Smith College, 51 College Lane, Northampton, MA 01063. The Northampton Council for the Arts and the Poetry Center at Smith College are co-sponsors of the benefit.

Poet Laureate Patrick Donnelly says "In the 35 years since AIDS began, there has been not only a medical and social-service response to preventing and treating the disease, but there has also been a response from artists of all kinds, mourning the losses, and celebrating the victories. Specifically, American poets have created an entire literature of AIDS, leaving for the future an important record of this time."

POETS FOR LIFE will feature readings by award-winning poets EDUARDO C. CORRAL, PATRICK DONNELLY, MICHAEL KLEIN, and JOAN LARKIN, who will not only read from their own poetry about the epidemic, but from the work of other notable poets, living and dead.

Since 1991, A Positive Place, formerly AIDS CARE/Hampshire County, has been the sole provider of comprehensive, confidential case management and health-related support services, filling life-saving needs for people living with HIV/AIDS in the county. Anyone living with HIV or AIDS is eligible for services regardless of level of need, health status, or ability to pay. Services are free of charge to people living with HIV.

Northampton Poet Laureate’s “Choral Poem Project"
Patrick Donnelly, 2015 – 2017 Poet Laureate of Northampton, Massachusetts, is a long-time advocate for poetry, not only as an “on-the-page” experience, but as a spoken-out-loud, communal, theatrical art. With that in mind, in the fall of 2015 Donnelly called together a group of Northampton-area residents to perform an excerpt of Albert Goldbarth’s epic poem “Library.” The poem was performed live at Donnelly’s inaugural reading on November 1, 2015 at Smith College’s Neilson Browsing Room, and earlier that same day the group also made this film of the performance at Josten Performing Arts Library.                      

Patrick Donnelly’s books of poetry are The Charge (Ausable Press, 2003, since 2009 part of Copper Canyon Press) and Nocturnes of the Brothel of Ruin (Four Way Books, 2012), the latter book a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. He is director of the Poetry Seminar at The Frost Place (Robert Frost’s old homestead in Franconia, NH, now a center for poetry and the arts), and an associate editor of Poetry International. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Slate, Ploughshares, The Yale Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Massachusetts Review, and many other journals. Donnelly has taught at Smith College, Colby College, the Lesley University MFA Program, and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.

Patrick Donnelly, sharing some poems and thoughts about poetry with the students of Smith Vocational and Agricultural School, on the last day of National Poetry Month, 2015.
With his spouse Stephen D. Miller, Donnelly translates classical Japanese poetry and drama, including the Japanese poems in The Wind from Vulture Peak: The Buddhification of Japanese Waka in the Heian Period (Cornell East Asia Series, 2013). Donnelly and Miller’s translations have appeared in many literary and translation journals, including Circumference, Inquiring Mind, Kyoto Journal, Metamorphoses, and Poetry International. In 2013, Donnelly received a U.S./Japan Creative Artists Program award to fund a 3-month residency in Japan during 2014.

Donnelly is a 2008 recipient of an Artist Fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. His spiritual curiosity has led him, at different times, to study for the Roman Catholic priesthood and to live as a Buddhist and a Muslim, and his poems have interrogated narratives of same-sex love and desire and the AIDS epidemic with lyric strategies. Gregory Orr wrote about Donnelly’s first book: “…everything he writes is suffused with tenderness and intelligence, lucidity and courage.”

Donnelly’s projects as Poet Laureate will include:

  • Free workshops focusing on poetry as an oral art, fostering public speaking skills for creative writers and young people
  • The “Choral Poem Project,” for poets, community members, and young people, featuring performances of poetry by “choirs” of speakers
  • Events celebrating the vibrant community of literary translators in Northampton
  • “Poetry and HIV,” a benefit reading in support of A Positive Place (formerly AIDS Care Hampshire County), a Northampton AIDS-service organization

Patrick Donnelly is a long-time advocate for poetry, not only as an “on-the-page” experience, but as a spoken-out-loud, communal, theatrical art. With that in mind, in the fall of 2015 Donnelly called together a group of Northampton-area residents to perform an excerpt of Albert Goldbarth’s epic poem “Library.” The poem was performed live at Donnelly’s inaugural reading on November 1, 2015 at Smith College, and earlier that same day filmmaker Melissa McClung also made this film of the performance:

You can read more about Donnelly at his website:

If you would like to invite Patrick Donnelly to participate in any poetry- or literature-related event, please contact him at:

Press links:
“Patrick Donnelly named 7th Poet Laureate of Northampton”: MassLive article
“Patrick Donnelly appointed seventh poet laureate in Northampton”: The Recorder article

Lesléa Newman, Richard Michelson, Patrick Donnelly, and Martin Espada, 3/22/2015
Poet Laureate of Northampton 2012-2015

His children’s books have been listed among the Ten Best Books of the Year by The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and The New Yorker; and among the 12 Best Books of the Decade by He has been a Massachusetts Book Award Finalist (2x), a Harlem Book Fest Wheatley Award Finalist and a National Jewish Book Award Finalist (3X), as well as receiving a National Parenting Publication Gold Medal and an International Reading Association Teacher’s Choice Award.

In 2009 Michelson received both a Sydney Taylor Gold and Silver Medal from the Association of Jewish Librarians, the only author so honored in AJL’s 45 year history. (see a full list of awards here)

Michelson’s poetry for adults has been published in many anthologies, including The Norton Introduction to Poetry. Clemson University named Michelson their Calhoun Distinguished Reader in American Literature in 2008. The Jerusalem Post called his latest collection Battles & Lullabies, “a touching masterpiece.” Michelson is the current Poet Laureate of Northampton Massachusetts.

In addition to being an author, Michelson is a popular guest speaker. He has traveled throughout the world talking to children and teachers about his love of poetry, and social justice. Michelson represented the US at the Bratislava Biennial in Slovakia, and he is the founder and owner of R. Michelson Galleries. 

Activities that Richard has done as the Northampton Poet Laureate:

EAT LOCAL/READ LOCAL -Nourish the Body, Nourish the Soul—a Northampton “April is Poetry Month” Celebration

50 Northampton restaurants featured a poem by a local Northampton area poet in their window or on their menu.  You could not go out to eat in the city without encountering poetry.
Each restaurant provided a dinner for two to their “house poet.”

You can read local coverage here: 

NPR on WHMP- Northampton Poetry Radio (bi-monthly radio interview program)
I have interviewed National Poet Laureates like WS Merwin 

Robert Pinsky and Kay Ryan, prominent award winning poets such as Mark Doty and Eleanor Wilner—but also many interviews with our Northampton area presses Open Field, Levellers, Perugia, Shape and Nature. and more than a dozen local Poets

Hosted Transperformance 22: Food Groups as Emily Dickinson and John Keats

Selected local Readings
a. Brought my fellow Laureates to Boston for AWP and Mass Poetry Conference
b. Forbes Library Jewish Writers
c. Straw dog Writers Group Northampton
Highlighted local events
Tell It Slant- Emily Dickinson House
Introduced Open Field Reading
Introduced Shape and Nature Reading
Introduced 30 poems/30 days
Reviewed poetry by local poets in local publications.  
Poet Laureate of Northampton 2003-2005
Janet E. Aalfs

Janet E. Aalfs, poet laureate emeritus of Northampton, MA (2003-2005) and 7th degree black belt, is the founder & director of Lotus Peace Arts.
Integrative arts community educator and performer, founding member of Valley Women’s Martial Arts, a non-profit school in Easthampton, and the National Women's Martial Arts Federation, she has shared her work at conferences and events around the world for more than 35 years.
Aalfs has been a Dodge Festival poet, a presenter at Split This Rock, a feature performer at Power of Words/ Goddard College and Po'Jazz/ Hudson Valley Writers Center, an AWP poet, a Mass Poetry Festival performer/workshop facilitator, and a cultural exchange artist in Cape Town, South Africa.
In 2013, she received the UMass Center for Women & Community Leadership and Advocacy in the Arts Award, and was inducted into the Modern Arnis Hall of Fame in Philadelphia.  She was named one of 125 Alumni to Watch by UMass in  1988, and received the Woman of Distinction Award from the Girl Scouts of Western MA in 1996.  Aalfs has an MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence.
Her most recent collection of poems is Bird of a Thousand Eyes (Levellers). Other books include Reach (Perugia); Full Open (Orogeny); Of Angels and Survivors (Two Herons); Lubec Tides, a finalist in the 2007 Bright Hill Literary Center Chapbook Contest; Red and several self-published chapbooks. Her writing has appeared in numerous anthologies, journals, and online sites including A Fierce Brightness: 25 Years of Women's Poetry; Crossing Paths; Martial Arts Teachers on Teaching; Women in the Martial Arts; Contempory American Voices; VerseWrights; California State Poetry Quarterly; Monthly Review; Onion River Review; Comstock Review; The Mindfulness Bell; Passager; Sinister Wisdom; Common Lives/ Lesbian Lives; Feminists Who Changed America, 1963-1975. She won first prize in poetry contests of the Boston Herald and Peregrine Journal, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. The anthology, No, Achilles (Waterwood 2015), will include her poem, “Sonnet for the Stolen Girls.”

Readings/ Performances, Keynotes, and Workshops

Janet E. Aalfs
*Poet Laureate Inaugural Reading – 6/24/03
Flag Day Poetry for Peace Reading – 6/14/03
Northampton Community Music Center – 7/1/03
            workshop on tai chi, music and poetry performance
National Women's Martial Arts Federation, Ohio – 7/18/03
            “Special Training” martial arts and poetry performance
Hampshire County Jail Poetry Workshops – Aug-Dec 2003
Benefit Reading for Nicaraguan artists, Ashfield – 8/16/03
*Community Arts Meeting reading – 9/16/03
Hampshire Regional High School – Sept 2003-Mar 2004
            after school program for girls, weekly workshops
Smith Vocational High School Keynote – 9/25/03
Care Center Conference Keynote, Holyoke – 9/26/03
Everywoman's Center Staff Conference Keynote, UMass – 10/8/03
Valley Women's Martial Arts “Hats Off” Benefit Auction – 11/1/03
Jackson Street elementary school workshops Nov. 3 & 17, 2003
Pride & Joy reading – 11/5/03
Northwest District Attorney Domestic Violence Task Force Meeting – 11/20/03
Janet E. Aalfs
Everywoman's Center Survivors Support Group, Amherst – 12/8/03
First Night Northampton readings – 12/31/03
*Mayoral Inauguration reading – 1/5/04
Pride & Joy reading – 1/27/04
Ludlow Writing Workshop Graduation reading – 3/16/04
Sabes Literacy Conference Keynote, Holyoke Community College – 3/19/04
Northampton High School Poetry Slam – Mar 19, 22, 23, 2004
            performances, coaching, judging
Northampton Community Music Center Multi-Arts performance – 3/28/04
Meekins Library reading, Williamsburg – 3/31/04
Hampshire County Jail reading – 4/7/04
Hunger Benefit “Taste of the Nation” reading – 4/28/04
Springfield Library Poetry Contest reading – 4/25/04
Kendal Retirement Community Lyceum, Ithaca, NY – 5/6/04
International Language Institute workshop – 5/10/04
Ryan Road elementary school workshops 5/11/04
Boston Herald 1st place Poetry Contest Reading – 5/27/04
*Northampton's 350th Anniversary Celebration reading – 6/5/04
Common School workshop & performance – 7/23/04, 2/7/05
ARISE Tent City workshop – 7/27/04
*Arts Council Transperformance reading – 8/24/04
Springfield College Orientation performance – 9/5/04
*Smith College Convocation reading (350th anniversary poem) – 9/6/04
Amherst Books Reading, Old Crow Journal – 4/10/05
UMass dance & poetry workshop at VWMA – 4/29/05

*arts council/ city events

On the Occasion of the City’s 350th Anniversary, 2004


“What living and buried speech is always vibrating here,
what howls restrain’d by decorum.”           Walt Whitman

Crickets through my window, prisms
and a whining saw, sparrows
in a tangle of brambles.
            What moves, lives.
            What lives, sings.
Children on bikes circle
the block, voices spinning
Spanish and English like spokes
of the same wheel.

The street forks and the full moon
seen and unseen, pearl and coal,
perches in the cleft of an elm
where an old man used to stash
peanuts for the squirrels.
I trim the bittersweet remembering
he offered me his long-handled clippers.

On a breeze the tinge
of barbeque smoke, a saxophone
unwinds tendrils of the blues.
Around the corner the sun
warms a copper beech
then slips away. Someone
kneels in the garden.
Sparks still whisper in the grass.
Sally Maminash was not the last
shimmer of Algonquian here.

and the drum awakens
and the light arcs
and the bells chime

A crow flies west
over goldenrod and crimson-
tinted maples, sumac thick,
barbed wire coils of the jail glinting
near Hospital Hill. Over the Mill River,
over the flat roofs of brick factories
the loud bird soars.

In a clearing the statue
of Sojourner Truth, shadows
and light, branches, wings
swirl in a chorus
around her, heart true
as the print of a leaf,

and the lost voices rise

through sidewalk cracks and broken glass.
They are not finished
calling, echoes
like fish swimming under ice.
Though his fingers burn
cold, a boy picks up his flute
and plays a lullaby.
A prisoner writes a poem
            and her life opens
            and the gate slams.
Sun shouts in the darkest cell
            What sings, moves,
            What moves, lives.

At the courthouse citizens
bang on pots and pans, flash signs.
Candles flicker in the freezing wind.
Flags wave, opinions clash.

Listen to the ground.
A root splits stone. Love frees
the calm, the storm. I’m whole
again in her embrace.
Wake up, move, though the body aches.
Wake up, sing, though salt stings
the throat, the eyes. Hearts broken
beat tender, wild.

and the shofar sounds
and the choir swells
and the Koran’s chanted
and the gong calls forth
and the grove shimmers
and the Oxbow ripples
and the lone coyote
lifts its trill to the sky


As crocuses open
and the swans return, the long
tidal river floods its banks.
Connecticut. Named in a language
fragile, tenacious, memory fractured
as the land. We are fed
as its currents and fields
are fed, held as the hills
and mountains hold
the sky. Here I offer

my one voice
as I am blessed by the many,
dissonant, harmonious as a riot
of crows, distinct
and blurred, breath
by breath, bold, reticent,
aching to unfold.

Through streets and byways,
archways, courtyards, doors
flung wide to the wind,
thistle howls
redwings blaze
corn shivers
thunder quakes
calling me out
into the bluster and raw
scent of rain, starlings
and gulls wheeling toward the river,
lightning in their wings.

Janet E. Aalfs
Poet Laureate, 2003-2005
Northampton, MA

Note: “Ode to the Many Voices of Northampton” has been published under the title “What Lives, Sings” in Bird of a Thousand Eyes, Janet E. Aalfs (Levellers Press, 2010) and Paradise Found: A Walking and Biking Tour of Northampton, MA through Poetry and Art (Levellers Press).