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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

New Hoot Season: Jason Tandon and Betsy Sholl

Betsy Sholl, former Maine Poet Laureate and Jason Tandon, winner of the 2006 St. Lawrence Book Award, kick off the 2015-16 Poetry Hoot Season. The Hoot takes places at Cafe Espresso Wednesday September 2nd, 7 to 9 pm. Doors open 6-ish..

    Jason Tandon is the author of three collections of poetry including, Quality of Life (Black Lawrence Press, 2013) and Give over the Heckler and Everyone Gets Hurt (Black Lawrence Press, 2009).
   Betsy Sholl’s eighth collection of poetry is Otherwise Unseeable (University of Wisconsin, 2014). Other books include The Red Line, which won the AWP Prize for Poetry and Don’t Explain, which won the Felix Pollak Prize. She served as Poet Laureate of Maine from 2006 to 2011.

A great Hoot Season launches Wednesday, September 2nd.  Two fine poets and of course the wonderful locale of Cafe Espresso. Speaking of which -- this fall Dave Hadwen and crew enter the second decade of hosting the Hoot!

  To learn more about upcoming Hoots and other occasional events, sign up for our eNews letter (above).

   See you at the Hoot!

Ceremony & Celebration!
June 3rd, 2015 we celebrated the 10-year anniversary of Cafe Espresso's hosting our monthly Hoot.  Actually, it was actually ten years ago September, 2014 - but who's counting?  In our brief ceremony we honored Dave Hadwen and his server crew.  He returned the favor by baking a delicious 10-year anniversary cake. 

    To see photos and the text of the presentation follow this link.

Portsmouth Poet Laureate, Kate Leigh

image courtesy: www.soundnh.com

The Passing of the Quill is part of the inauguration ceremony, every two years, of the next Poet Laureate. An ingredient of the Passing of the Quill tradition is this:  after the outgoing Laureate passes the quill, the new Laureate reads a poem.  Here is Kate's poem.  Blog-style, Tammi Truax's introduction appears after Kate's poem.

Lilacs by Kate Leigh

We're fond of the common lilac over other flowers,
As children we played beneath her branches with our toys.
We love the way she drapes her weight, forming scented bowers.
Now adults, we cut her blooms to grace our homes with poise.

Lilac, no wonder you are named flower of our state.
Weddings planned so brides can stand, cradling your bouquets.
It’s for all your varieties and exhaled breath we wait.
Your white and purple fragrant bunches, favorites of displays.

I hold with Celia Thaxter’s abundant love of flowers.
She basked in joy of tending, from seeds to fully risen.
Her gardens beamed with splendor, both single buds and showers,
Her bliss sustained by those beds, radiant as prisms.

On Smuttynose the Island’s stand of lilacs has gone wild.
For whom is shrub pruning more a pleasure than a duty?
These may be the oldest boughs New England has on file.
Whence springs the caring soul that cherishes their beauty?

Celia says, 'true lover of flowers is born, not made’
May pure ‘joy…..tranquil, innocent, uplifting, unfailing’
Visit our gardens, and while near lilacs’ corsaged glade,
Persuade us always to adore loveliness unveiling.

Obama recently remarked a barren world would be,
One which we will not allow, one void of poetry.

As Portsmouth keeps expanding, let us hope to revere
Lilacs grown by historic homes, and lyric poems sincere.

City Hall Ceremony, May 4, 2015:
Introduction by Tammi Truax

I met Kate Leigh, appropriately enough, at a poetry reading, I don't know how many years ago. We have been shepherding each other's work ever since. For example, she is currently reading a hefty manuscript of mine that I can't get anyone else to touch. And I know she will give me thoughtful and intelligent feedback.

Writing, particularly poetry, appears to come easy to her. It's in her blood, her DNA. She descends from a long line of proud poets. Going back at least as far as her Grandfather, a poet who chaired the English department at Phillips Exeter Academy when she was a child.

She maintains a quiet and focused daily practice of reading and writing the likes of which most artists only manage during the first few weeks of January. Poetry, the beautiful expression of carefully chosen words and thoughts, is simply part of who she is.

But in addition to being a poet, Kate is many other things. Most notably; a mother, gardener, and healer. They too are strong parts of who she is. You're likely to see these attributes during her term. Like a shepherdess, she will lead us, softly and gently, to a new place, a safe place, where we will feed.

I am certain that we, this little city that she loves flaws and all, will benefit in ways now unimaginable. I am certain her project, whatever it will be, will also have the mother's, the gardener's, the healer's touch to it. It will come to us, I expect, in soft and subtle ways, and we will find ourselves fed in ways we didn't know we hungered.

It will be peaceful. It will be profound. It will be poetic.

I'd like to close by reading a brief poem written by Portsmouth very first poet laureate, Esther Buffler, chosen because this poem reminds me of Kate. Probably because both are/were unflappable women.

Posthumous by Esther Buffler

like removing one's bra in relief.

Things that bind the spirit,
now no one's looking, nothing to fear;

Old established patterns
have no meaning;

Lifted, arising into an unfettered,
unbothered clear, I am free.

>> 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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