Next week would have marked Gloucester poet laureate Vincent Ferrini’s 100th birthday, and though he’s been gone for six years now, the waterfront at Harbor Loop will come alive Saturday evening with a celebration in his honor.
Ferrini, who died Christmas Eve 2007 at age 94, was known by many as the last surviving proletarian poet; and he is still remembered for his passion for life. Saturday night’s celebration of the centennial of his birth, dubbed “A Poet’s Cabaret,” comes the day after the summer solstice at Maritime Gloucester.
Ferrini’s legacy goes beyond poetry. He was a man of letters in their every conceivable form, from prose to drama to the thousands of letters he wrote to friends, acquaintances and even strangers over his lifetime.
Although he lived a humble and simple life in a 600-square-foot dwelling in East Gloucester — now the home of the Gloucester Writer’s Center, which is celebrating its third anniversary as well — his imprint on Cape Ann was huge.
A slight man of 130 pounds standing at 5-foot-8, he had a global influence on both the casual reader as well as educators.
Alan Golding, an English professor, is known for saying that “Vincent was the conscience of Gloucester and the eye of the nation.”
The son of a shoe factory worker in Lynn, he was born Vinanzio Ugo Ferrini on June 24, 1913, to John and Rena Ferrini, immigrants from Abruzzi, Italy. Like so many Americans, they, too, sought a better life for their children, but instead faced the hardships of the Great Depression and its aftermath.
Saturday’s cabaret in homage to Ferrini includes poems, dance, multimedia entertainment and music. The performance extravaganza includes appearances by Willie Loco Alexander, Sarah Slifer, Kate Tarlow Morgan, Heidi Pulkkinen, Carl Thomsen and Gordon Baird.
Lila Olson, who is Charles Olson’s grandchild, and Isaac Ferrini, who is Vincent’s grand nephew, also will perform. Lila will sing/rap a poem that Vincent wrote called “Goomba Zoomba,” and she will be accompanied on drums by Isaac Ferrini. Following the cabaret, there will be dancing on the dock by the light of the harbor moon.