Mass Poetry Festival Celebrates Spring

By Shelley A. Sackett


Spring has always been an inspiration for renewal and gaiety, especially among poets. From William Blake to Robert Louis Stevenson to New England’s own Robert Frost, scores have praised the magic and charm of the season over the centuries.


And since 2008, the Massachusetts Poetry Festival has offered the rare opportunity to hear the nation’s best poets read and discuss their work in intimate and engaging forums. From Friday, April 29 through Sunday, May 1, historic downtown Salem will become the epicenter of contemporary American poetry for the 8th annual festival, and Executive Director January O’Neil couldn’t be more excited.


“With so many events, everything is new each year. I’m thrilled that the Boston Typewriter Orchestra is joining us on Sunday,” O’Neil, who is an assistant professor of English at Salem State University, said. “There’s a lot of good energy here.”


Student Day of Poetry, which happens Friday morning before the general festival events begin, will host 250 students from across the Commonwealth for a morning of workshops and spoken word. “Money and time are always our biggest challenges. If we had more of each, how many more students could we invite?” O’Neil said.



Nearly 100 poetry readings and workshops take place at five venues in downtown Salem (Peabody Essex Museum, Old Town Hall, Museum Place Mall, First Universalist Church, Howling Wolf and Salem Five Community Room). The festival also features a small press and literary fair, panels, poetry slams, visual arts and open-air performances.


The full schedule is available at


O’Neil first became involved in 2008 and 2009, when Lowell hosted the festival. She participated both years as a reader with a group, but decided to volunteer and handle marketing when Salem became the venue in 2011. Since 2012, she has been executive director.


“It’s been amazing to watch this three-day weekend event evolve into a national poetry event. But it still feels very grassroots. We try to be as inclusive as possible, recognizing as many different poets, literary groups, and arts organizations as possible,” she said.


Panel topics range broadly, from the state of poetry, poetry and gender, book publishing and modernism in contemporary art, to the Common Threads Reading, where contemporary poets with Massachusetts ties discuss their literary connections. More than 150 local and nationally known poets engage with thousands of New Englanders each year.


Many presentations have an international and political focus. “The Bravest Women in the World: Afghan Women Speak out through Poetry” has both. Through the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, founded by American journalist Masha Hamilton, Afghan women who live under the oppressive Taliban rule are mentored and encouraged to tell their stories using online workshops. Following readings by two Afghan writers at the Friday afternoon event, the panel will discuss the role of poetry as a “human right.”


In addition to eight headline events, the eclectic schedule includes something for everyone. There are workshops on teaching, writing, editing, and publishing poetry. Some look at poetry as humor; others as mystery, song or science fiction.


“You don’t have to be a poet to have a good time. The Peabody Essex Museum has family-friendly, drop-in activities. From music and readings, to slam and visual arts, there’s lots of wicked good poetry happening in Salem this weekend!” O’Neil said.

Melt Ice Cream: More Flavors More Frequently


Christiana Kroondyk, owner of Melt, enjoys her personal favorite: Atomic Coffee.


Shelley A. Sackett


Even as a kid growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, ice cream stood out among its dessert peers for Christiana Kroondyk.


“I remember biking to the nearest shop with friends and eating it after a quick trip to the beach with my family,” said the owner and creator of Melt Ice Cream, an artisanal ice cream line that now has its own storefront home in the former Salem Screamery location. “Ice cream was always a special treat growing up.”


Her taste for ice cream never wavered over the years, but in 2009 her interest changed from eating it to making it. While vacationing with her family, they found a newly opened ice cream shop run by a couple that sold unique and delicious flavors, such as lavender mint basil and maple bacon — “before bacon was a ‘thing’.”


When Kroondyk got home, she quit her Human Resource Compensation Department job, bought a personal ice cream machine, and began trying out recipes and experimenting with unusual ingredients. “My focus with Melt is making all the ice cream myself. I use local ingredients where I can,” she said. Her original plan was to sell Melt as an artisanal ice cream line at farmers markets.


Instead, when The Salem Screamery was put up for sale last year, Kroondyk bought it, “definitely something I envisioned, but not as quickly as it happened.” For a year, she operated the shop as the previous owners had — selling ice cream from Bliss Dairy in Attleboro, MA — all the while experimenting with her distinctive flavors and thinking about how she wanted to make the store “hers”.


“I wanted to change the environment of the store. We updated the inside a lot over this past winter to make it warm, happy and inviting,” Kroondyk said. While she spends a lot of time at the store, this year she’s more behind the scenes making ice cream rather than behind the counter scooping it. Still, she loves saying “hi” to the regulars. “Meeting and getting to know the customers and the community is extremely important to me.”


Equally important is her commitment to unconventional and all natural ice cream flavors. “Coming up with funky flavors is most fun for me,” Kroondyk said, noting that she only uses real ingredients. “My mint chip ice cream is not green,” she pointed out proudly.


Her goal is “more flavors more frequently” and she features four or five “Rotating Flavors” that change every week or two. Right now, customers have the chance to taste 18 “flavors to melt for”. The rotating ones include vanilla chai, anise with candied fennel (a must for black licorice lovers), green tea, and banana with caramelized white chocolate. Of the 14 “standard” flavors, however, not all are all that standard: potato chip toffee and chamomile chardonnay top the list.


With all these exotic creations to choose from, what unusual flavor is Kroondyk’s favorite? Without a pause, the maestro of the non-traditional breaks into a wide, little girl smile, and reveals her taste buds’ old-fashioned, Grand Rapids roots: Atomic Coffee.


Melt Ice Cream is located at 60 Washington Street in Salem. Hours are Sunday through Thursday, from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Visit for more information.



“Artisan” is a term used to describe “food produced by non-industrialized methods, often handed down through generations but now in danger of being lost, according to the School of Artisan Food website. Tastes and processes are allowed to develop slowly and naturally, rather than curtailed for mass-production.”


House of Seven Gables Throws its Founder a 150th Birthday Party


New exhibit celebrates Emmerton’s life and legacy

By Shelley A. Sackett


If Caroline Osgood Emmerton, founder of The House of Seven Gables Settlement Association, were to wander into their new exhibit celebrating her 150th birthday, Special Projects Manager Julie Arrison-Bishop is certain she would be pleased.


“We selected colors that would have been popular in the early 20th century to highlight the images and text selected to tell her story. Using what we have in our archives, we think that we give a look into Miss Emmerton’s life in a way that she would have appreciated,” Arrison-Bishop said.


Throughout 2016, The House of the Seven Gables will be honoring Emmerton, one of Salem’s most prominent citizens, and her 150th birthday. “Our annual exhibit program is a way for the organization to consistently improve the quality of the visitor experience and to share the many little known stories we have,” she added.


“Caroline Emmerton: An Unbounded Vision,” kicked off the year of planned events on Friday, April 8. The small but splendid exhibit features artifacts from Emmerton’s life, photographs, and richly detailed, easily digested commentaries. Especially charming is a carte de visite, recently discovered among photographs and wallpaper from her Essex Street home, that is believed to portray the young Miss Emmerton and her younger sister, Annie.



Caroline Emmerton oversees a settlement class, c. 1920.

Caroline Emmerton oversees a girls’ needlework class at the Seven Gables Settlement.


It all started with John Turner, a Salem sea captain and merchant who built the house in 1636. Three generations of Turners occupied it until 1782, when Captain Samuel Ingersoll bought it. He died at sea, leaving the property to his daughter Susanna, a cousin of author Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose visits to the house are believed to have inspired the setting of his 1851 novel, “The House of the Seven Gables.”


Emmerton (1866-1942), a philanthropist and preservationist, purchased the “old Turner Mansion” in 1908 with money inherited from her grandfather, maritime trader Captain John Bertram, an immigrant from the United Kingdom. Her mission was to carry on her family’s tradition of endowing and supporting charitable good works.


In 1873, Bertram had donated $25,000 to build Salem Hospital at a time when there were fewer than 200 hospitals nationwide. His generosity eventually funded the Bertram Home for Aged Men, the Salem public library, the Seaman’s widow and Orphan Society, the Family Service Association, and the city’s Public Welfare Society.


Music books and thimble

Music books and a thimble from a settlement class.

Emmerton was also a product of her times. She lived during The Progressive Era, a period in American life marked by widespread support for social and political reform. The plight of newly arrived immigrants was one of the era’s social concerns.


With the goal of preserving the house for future generations, Emmerton worked with architect Joseph Everett Chandler to restore it to its original seven gables.


She was inspired by Jane Adam’s Hull House, which opened its doors in 1889 in the Near West Side of Chicago, Illinois, to recently arrived European immigrants. Emmerton wanted to assist immigrant families who were settling in Salem. She envisioned providing educational opportunities for visitors and then using the proceeds from the tours to fund her settlement programs.


Her programs served all ages and were meant to enrich the lives of Salem’s primarily Eastern European community, offering lessons in sewing, crafts, job skills and English. Over time, Emmerton continued to expand and reorganize the compound, eventually moving four colonial-era buildings to the site. To her, exposure to historic environments and stories was a perfect way for new immigrants to absorb democratic values and practices.


Caroline and her sister, Annie, Emmerton

A carte de visite believed to portray the young Caroline Emmerton and her younger sister, Annie.

To honor this legacy, The House of the Seven Gables has partnered with Salem Parks, Recreations and Community Services to offer enrichment programs on the historic museum campus throughout 2016.


Because Emmerton did not leave much behind in terms of private correspondence and photographs, shaping this exhibit was challenging. Arrison-Bishop and her committee of volunteers had to look beyond the personal items historians normally use to share a story.


“Our biographical look at Caroline Emmerton was a wonderful opportunity to work with a group of historians who were interested in telling not only the story of Caroline Emmerton, but also what influenced her. Emmerton was an early leader in the field of historic preservation, and she used her knowledge and means to save a number of Salem’s most influential buildings — some of which are on our National Historic Landmark Campus,” Arrison-Bishop said.


While there are many lessons to be learned from Emmerton’s work that shaped her community and provided educational opportunities to those who needed them most, Arrison-Bishop hopes exhibit goers will pay particular attention to the broader nuances of history.


“One of the threads that we found both in Miss Emmerton’s biography and the background of the Progressive Era was a series of language — much of it politically charged — that shows how history continues to repeat itself,” she said.


Everyone is encouraged to attend the April 23rd “Caroline’s Community: A Celebration for All”, with $1.50 tours, cake cutting, dance performances, music and Living History Labs. Emmerton historian and Lynn resident, Irene Alexrod, will perform biographical sketches of her life throughout the day. “We hope that the public sees how Miss Emmerton used her influence and means to support her community,” Arrison-Bishop said.


For a full list of commemorative events, lectures and activities, go to


RESCUES Manual for Commercial Fishing Industry Unveiled


Compilation of best practices for fishermen, families and communities

By Shelley A. Sackett




Over fifty people packed the standing room only Gloucester Coast Guard Station last Thursday for the unveiling of RESCUES, the long awaited first-ever comprehensive guidebook on dealing with a crisis in a fishing community.


“This is an exciting day, but it is also a sad day,” said Angela Sanfilippo, the President of both the Gloucester’s Wives Association and the Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership, who also served as master of ceremonies. As a fisherman’s daughter, wife and mother, she has first hand experience of the pain and trauma suffered by families and communities when a fisherman is lost at sea.


She told the story of the night of the 1992 “perfect storm” when she and many others slept at the Gloucester Coast Guard Station. “The captain said, ‘We need to start training fishermen in how to save themselves,’” she recalled. That planted the seed that would eventually grow into the RESCUES manual.

Mayor and Sanfilippo

Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken addresses the group as Angela Sanfilippo looks on.


The acronym stands for Responding to Emergencies at Sea and to Communities Under Extreme Stress.


“We all get numb to the dangers of the fishing industry, but there are widow’s walks and porches named for families who paced, hoping their men would come home,” said J.J. Bartlett, President of Fishing Partnership Support Services. He said that if public school teachers died at the same rate as fishermen on the job, over 400 teachers would die of work-related injuries each year.


“The idea is that, when a crisis occurs, folks in our fishing ports will be able to consult this manual and know right away how the Coast Guard and other authorities are responding, and where to turn for reliable help and support,” Barlett added.


Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken spoke of her own family tragedies over fishing accidents and their aftermath. “You can take the fisherman out of the ocean but you can’t take the ocean out of the fisherman,” she said. “We’re fortunate in Gloucester because we have a team in place to put this kind of book together so now you know where to go” for help, she added, noting that although there is no safety book that will prevent loss of life at sea, “this book can help.”


The Mayor praised the Coast Guard. “They risk their lives for the sake of the fishermen,” she said. Captain Robert Lepere, commanding officer of the Gloucester Coast Guard Station for the past three years, returned the compliment. “I’ve been in the Coast Guard for 20 years, and never have I seen a community pull together like this,” he said. Captain Claudia C. Geltzer, commanding officer of the Boston Coast Guard Station and Captain of the Port of Boston, praised RESCUES as a very important milestone. “This manual will make any fisherman who reads it better prepared at sea,” she said. “In the heat of a crisis, we all revert back to our training.”

Hall-Arber and Sanfilippo

Madeline Hall-Arber


Madeline Hall-Arber, an anthropologist at the Sea Grant College program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Ann Backus, of the Harvard University School of Public Health, were the principal investigators on the lengthy project that produced RESCUES. They interviewed fishing community leaders, Coast Guard personnel, fishing vessel safety trainers, clergy, social service agencies, fishermen and their families, business owners, insurance companies and attorneys. Kristina Pinto of the Fishing Partnership Support Services is the third co-author.


Hall-Arber described how she first became interested in undertaking the RESCUES project. “I met a fisherman who didn’t know how to swim. ‘Why prolong the agony?’” he asked. She remembered thinking it might be an interesting research project to find out what fishing industry standard best practices were before an accident, at sea and if disaster occurred. “People in the industry were astoundingly enthusiastic,” she said.


The RESCUES manual focuses on what interviewees shared as being critical to know before, during and after an incident. It contains a wealth of material, including contacts for services in Gloucester and New Bedford.


Its five main sections focus on essential information to help prepare individuals, groups and entire communities for a crisis affecting members of the commercial fishing industry, such as the sinking of a boat or the search for crew members lost overboard at sea.

I wanted people to be able to skim the manual, get useful information, and then go back,” Hall-Arber said.


For example, chapter 1, “Integrative Preparedness” (before leaving the dock) includes an easy-to-follow checklist of essential safety training and communication plans for the vessel owner, crew and families. “Emergency” explains what the Coast Guard does during an emergency and outlines communication chains of command. “The Aftermath” and “Longer-Term Outreach and Counseling” addresses situations after a loss is confirmed. Appendices incorporate maintenance checklists, Coast Guard contact information, community crisis support organizations and useful websites.


One of the surprising facts Hall-Arber learned was that many family members didn’t know which boat their loved one was on or what kind of fishing he might be doing that day. Backus, whose expertise is in occupational safety and health in the fishing industry, likewise discovered that vessel captains usually didn’t know about crewmembers’ medical histories or their contact information. She and Sanfilippo have since developed and distributed scores of refrigerator magnets for fishermen’s families to keep handy with information that the Coast Guard would need in an emergency. “Families should know where important documents are,” Backus said.


Paul Vitale, 43, a fisherman who has lived in Gloucester his whole life, thinks some of these common sense suggestions will be extremely helpful. “Lots of time people don’t know which boat they’ll be on. Not everyone owns their own boat,” he explained.


Fishermens wives Statue


Sanfilippo, who was instrumental in bringing to fruition the decades-long dream of Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association to create a Fishermen’s Wives Memorial, is equally determined to bring RESCUES beyond Boston, the South Shore and Cape Cod. “We will be bringing this up and down the entire coastline. Today we open that road,” she said to resounding applause.