Poetry, poetry, everywhere in the Monadnocks

A couple of headlines in The New York Times caught my attention recently: “Statisticians 10, Poets, 0” read the first with a subhead, “Words take a backseat to spreadsheets and metrics as more aspects of life become quantifiable and apps track even our moods. It looks as though the nerds have won.” Sometimes, as the Red Sox’s Don Orsillo notes that Big Papi adjusts his gloves 4.2 times during each at bat, comparing his GA (glove adjustment average), to the league GA of 5.3, I wonder if the writer doesn’t have a point.

The other headline was a bit more provocative: “Poetry: Who Needs It?” I must admit that back in the bad old days of Tristan and Isolde, I might have agreed. But today I can read poetry — and even attempt to write it on occasion — because I want to, not because I have to. I can also listen to it being read by its author, as I did recently at an event held at Dublin’s Delrossi’s by the Monadnock Writers’ Group.

The poet was John Hodgen, a professor of English at Assumption College, a multi-award winning poet and celebrated author of four previous award -winning books of poetry.

It was a unique experience to hear him emotionally and creatively render several of his works, enriched by the back stories that brought them to life. Indeed, as Christine Destrempes’ recent piece in this newspaper attests, we have many forms of poetry readily available to us here in the Monadnock region, much of it cataloged in the Ledger-Transcript each week as well as in Mary Armstrong’s amazing e-newsletter, and the new Discover Monadnock website.

But poetry comes in many forms, it occurred to me as I gazed at the art at Monadnock Community Hospital! Yes, the Healing Arts Gallery at MCH — right outside the Emergency Room — is a surprising venue for poetry in art and sculpture; one that may not be widely known, but I found it quietly absorbing and powerful.

And when it comes to poetry, how can you beat the Bard? In yet another piece in the Times, Book Review columnist Riva Galchen sees conversation as a dying art, a victim of today’s image-driven tweets and epigrams. “Look at how witty the dialogue is in Shakespeare,” she writes, noting that, where once we could speak Elizabethan English, those skills have been lost. “Elizabethans could have nuanced merry wars and everyone could follow and think up quick wordplay responses.” There’s no better example of that kind of Elizabethan wordplay than right here in Peterborough with Actors’ Circle Theatre’s August production of Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” in Depot Square Park. Despite dating to 1594, it’s a play right out of the Marx Brothers and Three Stooges — loaded with slapstick and puns as well as wordplay, and the show is free! Of course, there’s poetry in poetry, too.

Also dating to the 16th century, the Japanese literary form of haiku captures an entire experience in three brief lines. Earlier this year, the good ole’ reliable Times ran a “New York City”-themed haiku contest on their website, garnering almost 3,000 submissions. Closer to home, the Monadnock Writers’ Group is taking a page from the Times with the introduction of a “Monadnock Haiku” project complete with “how-to” details on their website, All are invited to submit, “even if you’ve never written anything before.” I know I’m going to try it. I hope you will too and, to borrow from Walt Whitman’s poem, “O Me! O Life!,” add your own verse to the poetry of the Monadnocks.

George Duncan is a writer and marketing consultant living in Peterborough.

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