Calliope Celebrates Adelaide Cummings’ Birthday with “A Poet Laureate Reading”

Adelaide Cummings

Adelaide Cummings. Photo by Sarah Elizabeth Murphy

Calliope will celebrate Falmouth Poet Laureate Adelaide Cummings’ 99th birthday with “A Poet Laureate Reading,” on Sunday, June 9, 3 to 5 PM at the West Falmouth Library. The reading will feature Martha’s Vineyard’s poets laureate, Justen Ahren, Steve Ewing, Lee McCormick, and Fan Ogilvie, as well as Adelaide Cummings.

Audience members are welcome to bring a poem written by a US Poet Laureate to share at the Open Mic. Open Mic sign-up is at 2:45 PM.

Last spring, the Falmouth Board of Selectmen appointed Adelaide Cummings to be Falmouth’s first Poet Laureate. There are no specific duties required by the position, other than to promote poetry, but Alice Kociemba, director of Calliope, said, “She is a natural community builder. She can really use [her new post] to unite Falmouth in a delightful way.”

Cummings, whose actual birthday is June 6, grew up in Memphis. She studied English at Radcliffe, where she began her career as a prolific writer. After graduation, she moved to New York and went to work on Life Magazine, beginning with the very first issue, covering such stories as the birth of the Dionne Quintuplets and the crash of the Hindenburg. She was editor-in-chief of Child Life Magazine, crisscrossed the world as a travel writer, wrote political satire, and authored four books, two books of nonfiction and two young adult novels. She balanced her career with being a wife and mother to her three children.

She began writing light verse for her children when they were young and, at the age of 89, took up poetry in earnest, continuing to write mostly humorous verse about common experiences. To date, she has published six volumes of poetry, won a national poetry award from Barnes and Noble, and is currently working on her memoirs.

Cummings writes poetry because one can express great truths simply in poetry. And because, “This is just joyous fun.”

Justen Ahren, West Tisbury’s poet laureate from 2011 to 2012, is the founding director of the Noepe Center for Literary Arts and the Martha’s Vineyard Writers Residency. His first poetry collection, “Strange Catechism,” will be published this summer. Ahren teaches poetry and writing workshops on the Vineyard and in Labro, Italy. He holds an MFA from Emerson College.

Steve Ewing is the poet laureate of Edgartown. Though he does not consider himself a poet, he has been writing poetry since grade school and has studied poetry in New York with Collette Inez and Kevin Pilkington. Ewing is a dock builder and has owned his own marine construction company since 1978, building most of the piers on the island.

In 2012, the Martha’s Vineyard Poetry Society appointed Lee H. McCormack the first poet laureate of Martha’s Vineyard. He has long been active in promoting poetry on the island. He was a founding member of the Savage Poets in the 1980s and is currently a member of the Cleaveland House Poets of West Tisbury. As poet laureate, he has organized a series of workshops with poetry groups, libraries, schools, cultural institutions, and councils on aging, as well as the Featherstone Center for the Arts’ evening, “Fall Poetry and Music.” McCormack is also a master builder and carpenter, luthier, and sculptor.

Fan Ogilvie became West Tisbury’s second poet laureate in 2009. She has organized poetry readings, inaugurated a contest for high school students, and developed the Featherstone-Pathways Summer Festival of Poetry. She is the author of “YOU—Selected Poems,” and “Knot: A Life,” as well as two chapbooks. Before moving full-time to Martha’s Vineyard, Ogilvie established the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Poetry Board in Washington DC. She has taught and developed poetry workshops there and in New Haven, New York, and Martha’s Vineyard.

A reception, with refreshments and an opportunity to meet the poets laureate, follows the readings.

West Falmouth Library is at 575 West Falmouth Highway (Route 28A) in West Falmouth.

For more information on Calliope’s readings, workshops, and other events, visit or contact Alice Kociemba, director, at or 508-566-1090.


What: Celebration of Adelaide Cummings’ 99th Birthday

When: Sunday, June 9, 3 to 5 PM, 2:45 PM to sign up for Open Mic

Where: West Falmouth Library, 575 West Falmouth Highway (Route 28A), West Falmouth

Admission: Free and Open to the Public

Alice Kociemba

Alice Kociemba

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