New Hampshire has long been home to poets and poetry. Did you know that five U.S. Poets Laureate have come from New Hampshire? Robert Frost (1958-59), Richard Eberhart (1959-61), Maxine Kumin (1981-82), Donald Hall (2006-07), and Charles Simic (2007-08). The poetry of another notable poet, John Greenleaf Whittier, was a strong voice in the abolishment of slavery in the 19th century. Poets have been inspired by our landscape, our seasons and our people. Poetry readings and recitations have served as cornerstones of community activity for generations.
If you want to be immersed in the inspiring field of poetry in New Hampshire, you have many options.
There are local poet laureate programs across the state including Portsmouth, Rochester, Newbury, Dover, Wilmot, and Derry. Many of these local poet laureates host community readings and workshops.
In over 40 high schools across the state, students participate in Poetry Out Loud. Our 2018 Champion is Alana Hoskins from Souhegan High School. Eleni Spilotes from Concord, NH and the Holderness School was named second place champion. Eleni will be representing NH at the nationals on April 23-25, 2018; you can watch it live from the National Endowment for the Arts website.
The Frost Place in Franconia is an educational center for poetry and the arts based at Robert Frost’s old homestead, which is owned by the town. They open for the season and begin programming Memorial Day weekend but you can visit the property and walk the trails where Robert Frost found inspiration anytime.
If you are looking for contemporary and socially relevant poetry you can attend SLAM Free or Die every Thursday in Manchester. If you volunteer to be a judge your cover charge is waived; be prepared to stay up past your bedtime and hear some of the best poetry performers in our state.
The Poetry Society of New Hampshire will begin the process to recommend a poet to be appointed as New Hampshire’s next Poet Laureate. Our current Poet Laureate, Alice Fogel, has held the position from August 2013-18. In September the Poetry Society of NH will hold their annual New Hampshire Poetry Festival. The event includes readings, panels, and workshops by poets from New Hampshire, across the country, and around the world.
In 2017 NH Youth Poet Laureate Laila Ruffin was named after a competitive selection process. Youth are encouraged to apply annually and be an ambassador for cultivating the love of poetry in young people.
The New Hampshire Writers’ Project has many weekly activities around the state including the Three-Minute Fiction Slam regional contests, and on April 14, 2018, 603:The Writers’ Conference in Manchester. They host a monthly Writers Night Out series for authors to connect with other literary enthusiasts. You can check out the literary event calendar here.
Many different creative activities in New Hampshire can be found weekly in the Hippo and local newspapers, generally on Thursdays.
Afternoon at MacDowell
By Jane Kenyon
On a windy summer day the well-dressed
trustees occupy the first row
under the yellow and white striped canopy.
Their drive for capital is over,
and for a while this refuge is secure.
Thin after your second surgery, you wear
the gray summer suit we bought eight
years ago for momentous occasions
in warm weather. My hands rest in my lap,
under the fine cotton shawl embroidered
with mirrors that we bargained for last fall
in Bombay, unaware of your sickness.
The legs of our chairs poke holes
in the lawn. The sun goes in and out
of the grand clouds, making the air alive
with golden light, and then, as if heaven's
spirits had fallen, everything's somber again.
After music and poetry we walk to the car.
I believe in the miracles of art, but what
prodigy will keep you safe beside me,
fumbling with the radio while you drive
to find late innings of a Red Sox game?
Photos (top to bottom):
- 2017-18 NH Poetry Out Loud Finalists. Photo by Cheryl Senter
- Ebony Stewart at Slam Free or Die. Courtesy photo
- 2018 NH POL Champion Alana Hoskins from Souhegan High School. Photo by Cheryl Senter
- Jane Kenyon