With a formal Proclamation issued by Portsmouth Mayor Eric Spear and read by Assistant Mayor Bob Lister, Kimberly Cloutier Green was introduced as Portsmouth’s Ninth Poet Laureate at City Hall on April 15th, 2013.
She was selected by a seven-person Selection Committee made up of community members with an interest in poetry and its potential for generating community from among seven nominees. Her two-year term runs to April, 2015.
During her term, assisted by the members of the Board of Trustees and interested volunteers she will be developing one or more projects that will help create and deepen a sense of community by way of poetry. As plans evolve they will posted here and distributed through our email newsletter. [Newsletter sign up: firstname.lastname@example.org]
Kimberly Cloutier Green’s inaugural remarks and poem: Bus Stop
April 15, 2013
Good evening everyone and thank you, all, for your vision and support of this institution, and for the gift and honor of naming me the next in a line of Poets Laureate – women and men who have lifted up the life of our community through their commitment to the city, this program, and to poetry.
Among the nominees this year are poets whose work has appeared in literary journals as well as in collections published by Pudding House, Diamond Press, and Autumn House; one is the senior editor of Café Review, another is a Maine Literary Fellow. One is a sailor and a sometime Shoals-dweller, and one is a much-loved newspaper columnist and radio producer. They share their lives as poets, readers, teachers, counselors, and collaborators with generous good will, grace, and dignity. I am deeply honored to have been selected from among this esteemed group of writers.
I was lucky several years ago to participate in John Perrault’s Voice and Vision Project, which led me to spend a lot of time observing the comings and goings at C&J Trailways here in Portsmouth where, at the end of that year, the painting-poem that the painter Cappy Whelan and I created was finally installed.
For a glimpse into who we are as people…into what matters to us, into what we long for and cling to…sit a while in that station – going nowhere – and watch.
You’ll see parents, children, old friends, and lovers rush and collapse into each other’s arms, the relief of each reunion a sudden apprehension of what wholeness feels like; you’ll see how some defend against that depth of feeling – the small pat on the back, a quiet word or two, the focus on parking and fumble with bags, and you’ll see the sometimes subtle, sometimes flagrant ways we hide from one another in our books and papers, our ipads and phones.
Hardest to see – you have to look closely – is the pain of separation. We’re shyest here, where the public sphere’s too bright for grief. But look closely and you’ll see that heartbreak appears first in the eyes… and we lean in close for the scent of one another, longing to remember it, for the quiet murmurings we’ll continue to hear after our loved ones are gone. The wave we wave as the bus pulls away stands in for an animal howl.
Bus stations are threshold places where we glimpse, briefly and brightly, who we are. Partly this has to do with time… so little time… so our reunions and leave-takings are forced into high relief.
I like to think of poems as kinds of way station, junctions where for a brief moment the writer and reader meet and, under pressure of time, glimpse something true about who we are and why we’re here.
In the next couple of years, together with the PPLP Board and the city’s many wonderful poets, I hope to explore all our human longings for what they tell us about what we reach for and what we hope in as a city and as a community of fellow travelers.
The poem I offer this evening is set in C&J Trailways, that threshold place. I offer it with gratitude for what a past PPLP project gave to me, and with pleasure and hope for all that lies ahead.
He’s annoyed behind his paper
by the kid with rosy curls who spins
and spins, her mother unable to still her,
and you’re sure as he checks his watch
he’s thinking it better come soon—
and now she’s singing, God help her,
a tune for the woman in a gold sarong
a song about colors you can’t help humming
until a girl sits next to you who’s scary or sore,
every part of her pierced: her nose, brow and belly,
each stab an adamant wound, gem-red
and strangely Darwinian—
then just as it’s clear you’re headed for extinction
the bus wheezes into its bay like an ark
and you see the driver’s no more than a boy
a happy-faced kid standing too straight
his hand outstretched for your tattered ID
and there’s a moment—only just—
you’re certain you’re going
not south to Boston but west at last
where your long-dead mother waits to greet you
her face still bright, no trouble in her eyes,
your farewell words—I promise, soon—
breaking like a shower of light around her
and as you scan for an empty seat in the back
wondering why it’s distance you keep
when it’s nearness you need, the pierced girl
tucks in beside you offering a stick of gum,
her hurt mouth consoling—Where are you headed, you ask,
a burst of mint on your tongue, and when she says not sure
you know you’ll talk the whole way.