Vermont Arts Council

Hail the Poets!

Vermont’s writers enrich our culture as their words move us—emotionally, first, then literally. For example, Nico Amador (pictured left) offered “I recently had a high school teacher in Montpelier write to say she’d used a couple of my poems in a unit on LGBT writers, and she shared some of the observations they’d made about one poem, specifically. I was so touched to know that my poems had reached these students and they had treated them with such care.” Then we all edge one societal inch forward with Julia Shipley, who will be “recording twelve tiny essays I wrote for The Old Farmer’s Almanac as their first female calendar essayist since the Almanac’s founding in 1792.”

National Poetry Month is the perfect time to reflect on the contributions of just a few of Vermont’s treasured poets. We checked in with Nico Amador, Stephen Cramer, Lizzy Fox, Geof Hewitt, Peter Money, Verandah Porche, Elizabeth Powell, Julia Shipley, and Julie Cadwallader Staub.

What Poets Do

write, read, teach, lead

(Money) It’s really all about writing every day, somewhere between a little and a lot, and putting everything I have into each piece.

(Porche) I am just beginning a collaborative writing project at Great River Terrace, a new residence for formerly homeless people in a motel, beautifully renovated by the Windham-Windsor Housing Trust and Groundworks Collaborative. Our writing will explore the growth of this new community and the lives of those who are creating it.

open U pick (blueberries)(Amador) I’m writing essays for the first time, which has surprised me. I don’t think it’s an impulse to move away from poetry as much as finding new ways into the craft.

(Shipley) I will be reading with James Crews, Ross Thurber, and Michelle Wiegers at the Left Bank in North Bennington . . . All of us are involved in growing and raising food, so, we reap what we sow—be it peas or poems.

(Cadwallader Staub) I am celebrating the first performance of an anthem for which I wrote the text; in other words, a poem of mine that has been set to music! The anthem is called The Least of These and is a beautiful, lyrical reminder of our responsibility and privilege to care for one another.

(Powell) . . . my African American Contemporary Poetry class at Northern Vermont University-Johnson is studying the work of Vermont poet Major Jackson, as well as Pultizer prize-winning poets Tracey K. Smith and Natasha Tretheway . . .Other special projects/celebrations include reading in Poem City in Montpelier twice this poetry month, and also in a reading in Waterbury at Bridgeside books.

(Fox) I’m co-leading a class with VSA Vermont. I’ve paired up with artist Alexandra Turner to combine digital photography and poetry. Students have just finished creating photos with Alexandra, and they’ve started writing ekphrastic poetry based on their own photographs. I’m also polishing up my first manuscript of poems with the working title Blue Canvas.

@OhSaintsnovel Apr 2 This was an earlier me saying, ‘one month, peeps!’ The countdown to the Great-American-Irish- Student-Abroad- Book-of-Friendships- Oh-When-the-Saints #newnovel launch in #Dublin! #longhomecoming…

(Hewitt) I’ll lead a poetry slam for all ages . . . Lost Nation Theater is sponsoring an all-ages anything goes! slam . . . I’m also offering writing and slam workshops in Vermont schools and leading a slam in Natick, Massachusetts for the Morse Institute Library.

and publish

(Cramer) This National Poetry Month I’m polishing up my next book of poems, The Disintegration Loops. Since last poetry month I’ve put together the anthology Turn It Up! Music in Poetry from Jazz to Hip-Hop, which will be out at the end of this summer.

(Money) And, really, it’s the novel. Probably the novel is just as poetic—and maybe more revealing—than the lyrical poems I’ve been known to write. I’ve carried the story with me a long time.

(Powell)  . . . my hybrid novel just came out “Concerning the Holy Ghost’s Interpretation of JCrew Catalogues.

(Cadwallader Staub) . . . looking forward to the publication of my next collection of poems this fall, Wing Over Wing, by Paraclete Press.

(Fox) I also have poems coming out this spring in Hunger Mountain and The Greensboro Review, two literary magazines that I just adore.

All for Good Reason

(Amador) I don’t think poetry can save us or that it can do the work that’s needed from social movements. But I think CAConrad has it right when they say, “No matter who you are, having a daily creative practice can expand your ability to better form the important questions we need to be asking ourselves about how to best change the destructive direction we are all headed in.”

(Cramer) [Poetry offers] connection and compassion in a world that seems to be more and more disconnected and indifferent.

(Fox) Poetry helps me to slow down and notice the details—both the internal details of what is in my heart and spirit, and the external details of the world around me. Capitalism is all about doing as much as we can as quickly as possible, and I don’t think that urgency is always healthy (for us as individuals or in its impacts on the environment, cultures, and communities). Practicing poetry on the individual level is, from that view, a small form of resistance. (And a great act of self care).

(Hewitt) Some poetry has a calming effect, and the world needs calm. Some poems are nonsense, and a little of that kindles a sense of humor. The world needs laughter and patient introspection with consequential reform: some poems invite notions of peace and understanding as well as action on climate change.

(Money) Poetry can lift to consciousness the awareness of our human time, the ephemeral beauty, and the needs we each of that rely upon the other. I think poetry furthers our sensitivities (not to fray but to increase), like emotional exercise that has an intellectual outcome and broad social benefit. So, the world needs more people reading more poetry and having the tender discussions that ensue.

(Powell) [Poetry offers us] a way to think more clearly and to creatively solve problems, linguistic and otherwise. Poetry offers us a moment to consider what we might have otherwise buried in the day to day abyss of too much, too little, too late.

(Cadwallader Staub): [Poetry offers us the opportunity] to slow down, to savor, to be compassionate, to be reminded of what beauty there is to be found in silence and solitude.

Susan McDowell

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