Mike Nelson of Portsmouth, NH, is the 11th Portsmouth Poet Laureate.
Nelson was named at a “passing of the quill” ceremony during the April 3 meeting of the Portsmouth City Council at City Hall in Portsmouth.
Nelson, who grew up in New Hampshire, cut his poetry teeth in open mic readings around the Seacoast. The author of three volumes of poetry, he is well known as host of the “Beat Night” poetry series at the Press Room in Portsmouth and as a regular reader throughout the Seacoast area.
“For nearly two decades the poetry community of Portsmouth has given me the gift of honoring my voice,” Nelson said at the ceremony. “I’m grateful and excited to use my position as laureate to give that gift back to Portsmouth and New Hampshire by creating platforms for a diversity of voices to be heard.”
His poetic efforts are diverse and not limited to the Seacoast or even the United States, however. Nelson organized the first-ever poetry reading at The Light and Leadership Initiative in Huaycan, Peru, in 2014. He founded Tribe Poetry Project in 2015 and began teaching poetry classes to teenage refugee and immigrant students at Organization for Refugee & Immigrant Success (ORIS) in Manchester, NH.
Nelson has “harnessed the power of Beat Night” on a number of occasions to raise money for poetry-related causes, including more than $900 for the Light and Leadership Initiative and $1,300 to support ORIS’ Our Story Hill campaign to buy a farm in Dunbarton, NH “that gives Granite State refugees a place to work, live and thrive.”
Introducing Mike Nelson at the ceremony was the 8th Portsmouth Poet Laureate, John-Michael Albert. Albert noted that Nelson “is an artist, community activist, and father who has not only discovered a powerful means of self-examination and expression in poetry, but has worked hard to cultivate the private and public benefits of poetry in everyone from childhood on up.” Nelson’s appointment “will bring great honor to Portsmouth as well,” Albert said.