Letter from the Laureate: Update
early May, I became the tenth poet laureate of Portsmouth. Although
I do not go around with an laurel wreath on my head, I feel so
honored. This first year I have learned how meaningful working with
a committee can be. I want to thank the PPLP Board members for
teaching me and helping me fulfill this role well.
Poems for Peace - a poetry
program for schools
As my Poems for
Peace vision unfolded, we started with a letter to school
districts associated with all the communities from which our
poet laureate program draws nominations. We thought: if the
community is eligible for the laureateship, perhaps they might
want to take advantage of our Poems for Peace
classroom=based program. They did.
I have spoken with classes from fourth grade through
high school seniors. I have addressed groups ranging in size
from 12 to 75. Some classes are limited to 45 minutes; some I
have the luxury of over an hour.
African Burying Ground as
I use the African Burying Ground as a prompt and an
example not only of excellence in community response, but also
of the positive changes possible in our society. The discussion
takes us into difficult territory, but important and thoughtful
questions and examples are raised. I have been very impressed by
both the students and their teachers.
In the program I read them the poem by Jerome Meadows,
which I call the I Stand For poem. I also sometimes read
poems from the book of slavery poems called I Lay My Stitches
The Classroom Process
let students know I have no expectations for poetic form.
Instead, I explain, I am interested in their thoughts, in what
they have to say. I write with them. Usually the teachers do,
too. We keep a quiet writing space for anywhere from ten to
fifteen minutes, then share. No one is required to share, but
most do. No one is required to pass in their poems to me; some
do. Along the way I have learned a few ways to encourage shy
students. I always wish I had more time with them.
The program has been well-received at each school and
class I've visited. I also offer students what I call follow-up
options. I explained about our Youth Hoot in January and was
able to build some interest in it.
National Poetry Month at
Ceres Bakery Gallery April 1st
Now I am
encouraging participation with either poetry or art, or both, in
the National Poetry Month show at Ceres Bakery's gallery,
beginning with a Youth Poetry Reading April 1, at 5:30.
I hope to hear from teachers throughout the month of
March to build participation. I've created a flyer for this
event, and have circulated it to the teachers with whom I have
been in touch. I hope this event is as successful as the Martin
Luther King Day event at the South Church was in January.
We had a young reader from the Moharimet School as a
The results of this project might not be evident instantly; I
view them as seeds planted to flower in the future.
After School Poets
|After School Poets on
their way into Portsmouth Library
with After School Poets working on poetry and art in the
My 'pet project' is
the After School Poets program, which has been running
for several months at Portsmouth Public Library. I have several
young poets getting their start at writing verse, whose mothers
are essential to the process going smoothly. Not only will some
of them be participating in April, but a some of this group's
work will be on display at the Library in May.
Youth and Eldercare
To an extent, I'll feel my work will be complete when I
am able to go visit at least one eldercare facility with a
couple of young poets to share poetry with these members of our
community. I hope to organize this for summer or perhaps fall of
By the way, the African Burying Ground adds an
interesting element to our already fascinating artistic
community. It draws visitors who care immensely about Black
History. This includes, of course, the artist from Savannah,
Jerome Meadows. The PPLP helped to support his efforts to
produce Blank Page last October.
I just heard he may be
coming back to do another Blank Page at the first anniversary of
the African Burying Ground in late May. Stay tuned.
Thank you for this
ongoing opportunity. And for your support.
images from the Ceremony and Celebration
Learn about our
previous Laureates here.