The Avid Reader: Sharing deepest thoughts through poetry

Published: 7/31/2020 10:35:54 AM

What is poetry? The Encyclopedia Britannica defines it as, “literature that evokes a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience or a specific emotional response through language chosen and arranged for its meaning, sound, and rhythm.”

Ok, yawn, we have a nice, clinical definition. But that definition doesn’t even come close to what poetry does for the writer, for what it communicates to the reader or listener, and how it can move our very being.

Our local poets, however, clearly understand what poetry really is, and what electrifying and stimulating responses it often arouses in each of us. These poets, members of the Peterborough Poetry Project, are a group of writers, thinkers, and observers of life, who open their passionate hearts and share their deepest thoughts every time they pick up a pen and reveal a piece of themselves to us.

‘On and Off the Road’

“On and Off the Road: Poems of New Hampshire” is their first published collection. It is an anthology of works consisting of contemplations about people, places, and the wild – reflective of the New Hampshire ways we express ourselves.

We have a unique view of the world up here in Northern New England, and it is difficult sometimes to explain our distinctive culture and the irreplaceable way we express ourselves. This slim volume does indeed reveal our inimitable voice.

Interestingly, the poets and their poems came from many places other than New Hampshire! Over 160 poems were submitted from locations as close as the Monadnock region and as far away as Florida, Washington, and California. Yet, each reflects that unique New Hampshire spirit that we celebrate, contemplate, and ruminate upon every day here in this glorious state. Clearly, there are people “from away” who understand, admire, and can convey the “genuine us.”

One contributor, Elizabeth Gauffreau, in her poem “New Hampshire Comfort” nicely covered one part of how we think in her last stanza:

When granite stones survive

There will always be someone

To wonder who we were

And how we lived

And whether we were loved.

I like to think we all have these musings as we go about our day, and while Gauffreau and her fellow poets certainly have the discipline to sit down and put these ponderings to paper, the Peterborough Poetry Project would like to see everyone writing, reading, and thinking about poetry as part of everyday life.

‘Out of Darkness’

Bill Chatfield, founder and director of the Peterborough Poetry Project, stepped up to the challenge with his own book of poems coming out this summer. “Out of Darkness” is an assemblage of poetic re flections that cover several trains of thought, although I particularly like his inspirations on science and our quest to know the universe beyond our little planet here at the edge of the Milky Way.

We Are Stardust

We are drifting

back and forth

in and out of a flowing cosmic stream.

We are stardust

in a whirlpool

deep in the midst of a universal dream.

Chatfield has also written of retreat from a way of life due to the current virus, about his treading time in life, and moving into the light when his meditations include:

Sunshine

Give me a glimpse of sunshine

To whisk away the rain

Give us a taste of hope and love

To ease the lonely pain

As readers, we mostly involve ourselves with prose. Biographies, autobiographies, informational texts, or works of fiction with a beginning, a middle, and a clearly defined end – where all can relax when the story concluded nicely – take most of our reading time. Poetry is not like that. Poetry has an edge, it pushes us, sometimes soothes us, occasionally makes us laugh. But the end of a good poem is not really an end at all. It is a provocation to go beyond – with our own thoughts and imaginably explore our own emotions. Chatfield’s poems do this throughout the collection, and when I finished reading, I realized that the poems didn’t permit an ending – just a conduit for more ideas – my own this time. A lot of stimulation for such a little book.

Chatfield and the Peterborough Poetry Project has a brilliant mission. The idea to think poetically, take a mental snapshot of a moment in time, realize our connections with other people, share a piece of who we are, or just have some fun every single day, with poetry as the vehicle. This has to be one of the most worthwhile purposes any group, or individual, can have.

As a local, not-for-profit organization with a six-person board of directors, the Peterborough Poetry Project conducts poetry contests year round, sponsored the Peterborough Book Fair, and has a website (peterboroughpoetryproject.org) that takes comments, poems, and responds to poetry-related questions. My suggestion is to get committed, write a poem such as a haiku (5-7-5 syllable count – I wrote about this before!), and start thinking like a poet! We can do this! It won’t hurt you, but it will stretch you, and that is a good thing.


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