Erine Leigh is a NH seacoast writer who served as poet laureate of Portsmouth from 2015 to 2017. Her community project, Poems For Peace, was centered around the values connected with the community’s response to disturbance of the African Burying Ground.
In 2015, Leigh worked with Jerome Meadows, designer of the African Burial Ground, on a production celebrating its history, called Blank Page Poetry, at 3S and live at the Burying Grounds.
Leigh was awarded the Sarah Farmer Peace Award in 2018, by Green Acre Bahai Center.
She has attended The Salty Quill Women Writers Retreat them last two springs.
Her work has been published widely in local anthologies, once in Hole In The Head Review, and in two volumes of collaboration with local photographer, Sarah Flause. Erine is also a reader for Barrow Street Journal.
In 2019, Leigh was part of the cast of Pussy Riot, directed by local musician, Billy Butler, and has acted as poet in his previous production, The Brechtones.
Erine facilitates workshops each year for the Wheaton Writing Academy, and has presented a program for NHPS on the topic of Jane Kenyon and Edna St Vincent Millay, in contrast.
In addition, she serves as the Beat Poet Laureate for NH, 2021-2023, assigned by the National Beat Poetry Foundation.
Erine remains available to support young poets with their writing, recording, and performances.
Here is a list of Erine’s events and projects during her term.
- Erine along with Jerome Meadows Blank Page poetry at3S with local adult poets and one child October 2015
- We had the Martin Luther King Jr event at South Church in January 2016
- The Art and Poetry Show plus Reading at Ceres Bakery April 2016 which was up for the month of April
- A field trip with the kids to the Isles of Shoals in June 2016
- The Poems for Peace event at 3S in January 2017 which was recorded and Televised. View the full event on Youtube here.
- Erine was a keynote speaker for earth day at Berwick Academy April 2017
- Erine was asked by the city of Portsmouth to read a poem at the inauguration of Mayor Blalock.
- The Seacoast Peace Response asked her to write and read a poem at their August remembrance of the bombing of Nagasaki/Hiroshima
- The Portsmouth Library asked Erine to read a poem to open their event Talent Day
- Ongoing throughout this time were After School Poet programs held every 2 weeks at the Portsmouth Library
- There were monthly Youth Poetry Workshops held at 3S Art Gallery
- Kate visited any school in the seacoast that expressed interest in having her throughout her term.
In Erine’s own words:
“Before I became a poet laureate I had published a book of poems about the Isles of Shoals. One of my friends taught third grade in Newmarket and each spring she introduced her students to the isles as well as to the iconic local historical poet, Celia Thaxter.
For several years, she invited me to participate by visiting her classroom where I would read my poems and hear them read ones they had written. My friend retired and I missed going into her classroom, so I decided to use my laureateship to re-enter classrooms and work with children on poetry. Also, Portsmouth had just completed our African Burying Ground so I used that dedication as my theme.
Later on, I included the Isles of Shoals and Celia, as we were exploring local history. Both themes worked to spark our imaginations about fairness, equality, and love of the natural world. This is the essence of my project, to encourage self-expression through poetry early, and cultivate confidence and artistry in young people.”