September 30, 2016

Poetry Friday--2nd NH Poetry Festival Review

Last Saturday, in Manchester, the 2nd Annual NH Poetry Festival took place at the New Hampshire Institute of Art. I was delighted to see that poetry is thriving in the Granite State!

I attended a workshop, several panel discussions, a small press reading, and the headliner reading by Ellen Bryant Voigt.

First I'll tell you about the workshop. It was run by January Gill O'Neil, a Massachusetts poet who also is responsible for the annual MA Poetry Festival held in Salem, MA every May. Here's the workshop details:
Note to Self

Think of the self as source material, an all-access backstage pass into a world of our own making and unmaking: a door to enter and exit however we please. In this workshop, we will look to the self as center for language, experience, image, and inspiration. Much of this class will be generative, as we write to broaden our sense of how and where we might find poetry in our private and public domains.

Not one to pay attention to descriptions, I missed picking up on "Much of this class will be generative, as we write..." I generally hate writing in groups where people "share" their work. I also didn't realize how much the "much of this class will be generative" referred to. Here's a hint--the whole class (except for the sharing). Actually, January gave us such interesting prompts and challenges, that I ended up enjoying the whole experience! In the hour and a half, we worked on three poems!

The first assignment was to write a poem using our non-dominant hand. In my case, that's the right. Our prompt was, "The last time I saw..." It's incredible how difficult it was to come up with words and to have to remember how letters are formed so I could write them with my right hand. After we were told to stop we were all asked to hold up our papers. Most everyone wrote with big strokes and used up the whole sheet of 8 1/2 X 11" paper. Being a control freak, I only filled up the top third of my page and tried to make it look like a poem. Here's what I wrote (and you probably won't be able to read it, so I'll translate it below):

The last time I saw him
I knew it was the last
for his face was one I no longer recognized
so diminished had he become
old so old
and all those years between the time
he was last my dad and
the moment we said goodbye
unknown.

We also were given the task of drawing a map of a neighborhood. I went back to the home I lived in between the time I was three and the age at which I began sixth grade (12 maybe?). This wasn't an easy task because there was so much I had forgotten (like the neighbors who lived right next door). Interestingly, the first thing I drew was a small woods on the next block (Cue: Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs.) After drawing, we were to write a poem. That one I won't share because of some the bizarre memories it brought up! But it definitely could be considered an "all-access backstage pass" to my suburban youth!

I will show you the third set of prompts as they were written on the board:


I hope you can see the second one, it said, "Things you would or would not buy in a grocery store." At first glance I read the "buy" as "hug" and it set me off on a riff about cashiers and bag boys and peaches! It was no way readable by time I was done scribbling and crossing out, but it was fun to write.


I hope I'm the only one who wasn't familiar with the poetry of Ellen Bryant Voigt. I didn't recall ever having heard her name, so I considered leaving prior to her reading. I'm so glad I stayed! She is a wonderful poet! Although she wasn't born in New England, she has lived in Vermont for a number of years and can be considered a New England poet in the same vein, subject-wise, as Robert Frost. She also stuck me as humble, yet secure in the knowledge that she knows what she is doing with words and their sounds. Here's a poem from Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006 by Ellen Bryant Voigt (W. W. Norton, 2008).


This wasn't one of the poems she read, but I neglected to write down the titles of the ones she did read, with the exception of "Dancing With Poets," which is worth looking for!

I'm looking forward to the 3rd NH Poetry Festival! But in meantime, I'm heading over to Karen Edmisten's blog for the Poetry Friday Round-Up.

25 comments:

  1. What a lovely wrap-up. I enjoyed this immensely. And yes - definitely things you would hug in a grocery store! I wondered what you were talking about, when you said 'buy'. :)

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    1. It's easier to decide what is huggable than what to buy in a super-supermarket!

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  2. I saw "Hug," too, which I thought was odd! Nice to see the workshop generated some creativity, Diane - I wish I'd known about the festival!

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    1. As soon as I find out about it next year, I'll give you a heads-up.

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  3. I love workshops like these for the volume of try-its I get to play with. Sounds like a wonderful day of writing.

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    1. It was a great day. I prefer the conversations about poetry rather than the writing. I can do the writing at home, but I almost never get to listen to conversations!

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  4. Oh, what a lovely post. I'm going to try writing poetry with my non dominant hand. Never occurred to me that it might have things to say. Now that I think about it, it has a share in everything I type!

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    1. It definitely prevents you from writing too much! Give it a go!

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  5. It's always a pleasure to read what you experienced at these festivals, Diane. I enjoyed hearing about your workshop, glad you had a good time, even thinking about "hugging" at the grocery! Thanks for introducing us to Ellen Bryant Voigt, a lovely poem of one small time.

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    1. Definitely look for Voigt's work, I think you'll like it.

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  6. Enjoyed hearing about the festival, Diane. Didn't realize you were left handed. :) And thanks for the intro to Ellen Bryant Voigt (nice poem!).

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    1. Yup, left-handed. There are a number of us in the family.

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  7. I also saw "hug" - hmmm, that's an interesting poetry prompt! Maybe a bag of marshmallows, or that super-premium soft toilet paper? ;) Sounds like an inspiring opportunity to build and grow your writing craft.

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    1. I don't think she meant to have us think about hugs. She was thinking "things I won't buy because I'm allergic," or "things I would buy if I never thought about calories," or something along that line.

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  8. Sounds like an amazing experience, Diane. I am totally impressed with your results from the first prompt! I don't know if I could even hold on to my thoughts long enough to get them on paper with my left hand. But not only did you succeed, with a beautiful poem no less, but your handwriting is most definitely legible. I also was thinking about what I might hug for the third prompt. Along with produce, Pampers and Charmin came to mind, but definitely not cashiers and bag boys.

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    1. I wrote about the bag boy flirting with the cashier. So cute and huggable.

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  9. This sounds like a wonderful experience, Diane, and I so enjoyed reading about it. What an interesting idea to write with your non-dominant hand! Your poem was moving and powerful. Thanks for sharing bits and pieces of this poetic celebration, including the introduction to Ellen Bryant Voigt.

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    1. I like to share because I know there are so many events in the world of poetry that no one can possibly get to them all!

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  10. Thanks for the festival peek! Sounds like lots of fun!

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    1. Definitely! A small, but growing festival.

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  11. Wow, D. I love everything you've describedd here. So glad you took the time to share. Jet

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  12. You had me at New Hampshire Poetry Conference. Sounds like you had an amazing time and discovered wonderful new ideas in a familiar place. Great ideas to share as well. Have a great week and thanks!

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  13. I saw "hug" here too, and thought about the seafood section - no huggable salmon! Loved your poem in your right hand. It was beautiful.
    I'm going to have to try to write in my calendar to try to get to the Manchester conference next year. It's so close really.

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