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 a film of the performance at Josten Performing Arts Library.

For years Donnelly has adapted certain poems for performance by “choirs” of speakers—spoken performances, rather than sung—with assigned solo parts for individual speakers, as well as parts that the whole group performs together.

Donnelly says, “The group rehearses until the performance is precise and vibrant, and the effect of hearing a poem spoken this way always makes a wonderful impression, and is great fun for the performers.” The performers included faculty and students from Smith College and local poets, as well as others from the community, and at the live performance the group was awarded a standing ovation.

Donnelly has dedicated The Choral Poem Project film “to the people of Northampton, Massachusetts, to libraries everywhere, and the people who work in them, and to the limitless doors that reading can open.”