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The Portsmouth Poet Laureate Program
is dedicated to building community through poetry by appointing and supporting an outstanding local poet as Poet Laureate for the city, sponsoring events that feature area poets and authors from outside the New Hampshire Seacoast, and encouraging a love of poetry among people of all ages.

The Portsmouth Poet Laureate Program presents a variety of events throughout the year: readings, celebrations, publications. These events are announced in the Portsmouth Herald and our eNews letter. Click below to sign up for it. And check us out on Facebook!

    Sign up for PPLP eNews

May Poetry Hoot:

Neil English and

Christian Barter
Wednesday May 4th

Christian Barter is a poet living and working in Bar Harbor, Maine. His first book The Singers I Prefer was a Lenore Marshall Prize finalist; his second book is just out from BkMk Press in 2013. His poetry has appeared in Ploughshares, Georgia Review, The American Scholar, Epoch and other magazines and has been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily and The Writer's Almanac.
   Christian has held the Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University and been a fellow at Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony. An editor for The Beloit Poetry Journal and sometime teacher at College of the Atlantic, his primary occupation is working on a trail crew, planning and overseeing construction and rehabilitation of hiking trails on Mount Desert Island.


Neil English is variously a historic building preser-vationist, a husband, joiner, father of two, timber framer, grandfather of two, humorist, lay preacher, father-in-law, dry stone mason, Justice of the Peace and Model T truck driving poet.

   He recites his brand of poetry in performance settings throughout New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts.

   His work has been published in several anthologies. He has collaborated with former Portsmouth Poet Laureate Maren Tirabassi and New Hampshire humorist Rebecca Rule to create a spoken word Christmas CD entitled Sticky Mittens and Angel Feet, which was adapted for the stage by Gamaliel Theatre Production Company and toured as a four person show entitled Travelers.

KatieTowler on Virginia Prescott's
"Word of Mouth" NHPR podcast

After her book launch at 3S Artspace author Katie Towler has been doing readings and signings around the region. One of her stops was with Virginia Prescott's "Word of Mouth" radio program.
   We are huge fans of Katie's memoir. If you missed the 3S launch event (and if you didn't) here's an opportunity to hear Katie discuss her work in a fine interview by Virginia Prescott.
   The podcast includes a brief audio excerpt (which we didn't no existed) of Robert reading his Prescott Park posted poem.
   The podcast is 14 minutes. Worth it. ~Ed.

Poet Laureate Event at Ceres Bakery was April 1


Ceres Bakery: gallery area


   A wonderful youth poetry program took place April 1st, organized by Poet Laureate Kate Leigh. Parents and community members took pictures. The young poets were terrific.  Ceres was packed. We'll be posting a gallery here in the near future.  Check back.

See our YouTube video

on how the PPLP

came to be



One of the closing efforts on PPLP's behalf by Ninth Poet Laureate Kimberly Cloutier Green was to organize a panel discussion on the history and origins of the PPLP. With Nancy Moore Hill's passing this became a clear and important need on our part:  to capture our own history.

   The discussion was recorded at PPMtv's Portsmouth studio, edited by Bill Humphreys, and  is now on YouTube! It features four women who were there at the get-go.

   The program is historic. It is the definitive discussion of how Nancy Moore Hill and compantriots dreamed up the PPLP and made it (us!) happen.

   We hope to find a local venue, like the Library (?) for a dedicated showing of the film, but if you don't want to wait you can view it now.


Letter from the Laureate: Update from Kate


In 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 Prompt
     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 Down.

The Classroom Process
     I 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 participant.
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
After School Poets on their way into Portsmouth Library
Kate with After School Poets working on poetry and art in the Library

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 this year.

In conclusion...
     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.

Breaking News!
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.
~Kate Leigh

>> View images from the Ceremony and Celebration

>>  Learn about our previous Laureates here.

~ ~ ~

The Poetry Hoot season takes place on the 1st Wednesday of each month from September through June at Cafe Espresso in Portsmouth from 7 to 9 pm. Doors open 6-ish. Write poetry; share at the Hoot!


Read Poems!  Poems from the Hoot Where we review poems by PPLP Poetry Hoot readers such as SL Manning and other local poets.

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