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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

Our June Poetry Hoot

Wednesday, June 3rd 7 to 9pm. Doors open around 6.

    What a great way to close the 2014-15 season ~ with Pat Parnell and Ryan McLellan!

Ryan McLellan is a nationally touring poet, educator, editor, singer /songwriter, and lover of punk rock music. He is the author of six collections of poetry and the spoken-word album Last-Second Changes to the Set List.
     He is a three-time recipient of the Esther Buffler Poetry-In-Schools Fellowship. He is a National Poetry Slam semi-finalist, the 2012 Maine Grand Slam Champion, a two-time Maine representative at the Individual World Poetry Slam, and a two-time top-five finisher at the Arkansas Grand Slam.
     He currently lives on Vinalhaven Island, off the coast of Rockland, Maine, where he teaches English.

Pat Parnell, of Stratham, is a poet, teacher, and journalist. For years she edited the monthly “Poems from the Hoot” column for “Spotlight” magazine – now edited by John Simon.
     She is author of Snake Woman and Other Explorations: Finding the Female in Divinity as well as Talking with Birches, Poems of Family and Everyday Life.
     Pat is Professor Emerita in the writing program of the former Chester College of New England (now closed).
     In her 91st year, Pat is a loyal Poetry Hoot attendee, a strong encourager of new poets.  She continues to offer writers her wise editorial counsel.  Plan to attend.

Ceremony & Celebration
 September 2014 marked the 10-year anniversary of Cafe Espresso's hosting our monthly Hoot. Better late than never we want to honor Dave Hadwen and his team.  If you are planning to read during the open mic, please consider writing a poem that in one way or another celebrates the Cafe Espresso connection.


Kate Leigh Our New Portsmouth Poet Laureate

image courtesy: www.soundnh.com

An primary element of the Passing of the Quill tradition is this:  after the outgoing Laureate passes the quill, the new Laureate reads a poem.  Here follows Kate's poem.  Blog-style, Tammi Truax's introduction appears after the 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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