Tom Clark, otherwise known as Tommy Twilite, is a poet residing in Florence, Massachusetts. And for as long as he can remember, he’s been a poet and musician. “I have always been writing stuff,” Tommy chuckles. “There’s a milk crate somewhere with stuff I wrote 40 years ago!”
Tommy’s inspiration came decades ago, in sixth grade. “I remember, at the local Florence Grammar School, my English teacher was Jean Curran,” Tommy recalls. “She was tough, and I couldn’t do anything to make her happy.” But, when Ms. Curran did a section on poetry, Tommy turned in some poems, and she enjoyed them. That was the initial spark that drove him to do what he loves. “I still see her around town and ask how she’s doing,” Tommy says.
Tommy also became interested in music and did punk rock in the 1980s, when he earned his nickname “Tommy Twilite.” “I used to wear a lot of strange suits,” Tommy says, “and had a string of colored lights on them. During a gig, one of my friends said that I was Tommy Twilite!”
In late 2004, Tommy ran into a friend at a poetry reading at Lilly Library. “Carl Russo was a big, burly guy with a deep voice,” Tommy says, “so he was one of the last people I thought to see at a poetry reading.”
Carl and Tommy formed a poetry group, and they rented a space at the Florence Community Center. At first, six or eight people attended the group meetings. Tommy heard that Lilly Library was expanding and creating a community room; Carl’s wife was a library trustee, so once the renovations were done, the group moved their meetings to the library and everything took off from there.
Even though they met only once a month, about 20 people started showing up for each meeting. This gave birth to the Florence Poet’s Society. Within the next couple of years the first edition of Silkworm, the group’s literary journal, was published.
The first edition started with the idea of a poetry contest. “We would charge for poetry submissions, and make a prize for the ones that we chose,” Tommy states, “and the money from the submissions would be used to publish the book.”
The plan didn’t work quite that way, however. The contest was discontinued, but the book was published, and sales proceeds were used to publish the following year’s edition. Carl and Tommy went on this way until the fifth edition, when they began developing themes for the editions.
Silkworm 5 carried the theme of love. Silkworm 6 is about sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. Tragically, Carl passed away unexpectedly before Silkworm 6 was released.
Subsequent editions have been published by a committee.
Tommy says the journal’s name, Silkworm, pays homage to Florence’s silk industry. “The early industrious owners wanted to create a utopia and for all the employees and businesses to work cooperatively,” he explains.
The Florence Poet’s Society is also responsible for the Florence Poetry Festival. The last Florence Poetry Festival was held in 2012 and since has been absorbed by the Greenfield Annual Word Festival (GAWF), which is produced by Paul Richmond. GAWF 2015 is Oct. 20-25 at several venues in Greenfield. The Florence Poet’s Society will be at several of the GAWF events, including a group reading on Oct. 24 from 7-8:30 p.m.
Tommy says he is compelled to write poetry. “I can’t help myself. If you’re a writer, you keep doing it. Poetry is not something that you hope to find any financial success with. It’s a type of writing you do because you’re a poet. I urge everyone who is interested in poetry to write poetry. Find a group with like-minded people with perspective on your own work and you will find that your work will develop.”
The book release for Silkworm 8 was held at Lilly Library on Oct. 8, hosted by Tommy. Copies cost $15 and are available at Collective Copies in Florence and through the Florence Poet’s Society web page at www.florencepoets.com. They will also be available at the readings. Or, you can email Tommy at email@example.com.
The next meeting of the group will be Thursday, Nov. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at Lilly Library in Florence. Feel free to attend and get inspired!