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‘Like a Bird Flying Home’

Writers to read from Hancock resident’s posthumous publication

Crinkling my sleep ear,

The chill of spring peepers

And underneath those

Blabber of toads…

Those are the words of the late Walter Clark, a University of Michigan English professor who retired to Hancock with his wife, Francelia Clark, in 1993. From his retirement home on Hunt’s Pond, he kept up a regular correspondence with his daughter, Alison; revised poems he’d written over the years while directing the university’s New England Literature Program; and also wrote new poetry celebrating the joy of retirement, the beauty of nature and his struggles to find faith and cope with death and despair.

Francelia and Alison Clark have now collected much of Walter’s work in a new book titled “Like a Bird Flying Home,” and a group of his good friends will share readings of his poetry, prose and letters on April 5 at the Hancock Town Library.

Francelia said Wednesday that Walter’s motto for New Hampshire was “It’s always beautiful.” He loved the land, spent hours alone outdoors, especially in winter, and put his observations into detailed, personal and often humorous poems. But his work also had a spiritual side.

“In mid-retirement, Walter began to write about death,” Francelia said. “Some of the poems were about his struggle to find a faith and about the desolation of death without faith. But then his poetry evolved. He could write about death, but it doesn’t seem like a desolate event. It’s wonderful to see this resolution in his poetry.”

In 2008, Walter died of a massive heart attack while walking alone in a woodlot near his home.

Francelia said one of the joys of Walter’s retirement was getting to know a group of local writers with whom he did readings at the library and the Harris Center. “These people got to know him and loved his work,” Francelia said. “They really brought him out. It was wonderful for him.”

Five of those friends — writers Jane Eklund, Howard Mansfield, Sy Montgomery and Julia Older, and musician Steve Schuch, will share Walter Clark’s work at the April 5 event at the Hancock library. The free reading starts at 7 p.m.

“Like a Bird Flying Home” is being published by Bauhan Publishing of Peterborough. Francelia said the title comes from the last line of a poem Walter wrote in Michigan in the late 1980s. “He was already bound for New Hampshire,” she said.

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