From Rochester Radar, November 3, 2017:
While she is a pharmacist by profession, Rochester resident Carla Desrosiers also has a deep love of writing, a craft that she believes is particularly essential to our well-being at present. “When there are endless sources of news and information coming at us from all angles, what we as a society really need is something that poets have always provided: interpretation, insight, and an understanding that bridges the material to the mystical,” she explains.
Desrosiers has been a featured reader at Rochester Writer’s Night, The Hill Library in Strafford, and the Water Street Bookstore in Exeter. She is a member of the New Hampshire Poetry Society, and a number of her poems have been published in the Society’s magazine The Poets’ Touchstone.
In celebration of Halloween, Desrosiers provided us with this playful poem about one of our favorite seasonal traditions. Her description of the pumpkin carving process, with its succinct rhyme and repetition, brings to mind the chant of the witches in Macbeth (“double, double, toil and trouble”) — casting a slightly ominous tone over this deceptively straightforward poem and hinting at a deeper tension between the traditional and the contemporary that may be bubbling under the surface.
Electric candlelight within —
The convenience is high,
And there’s certainly less
Of a seedy, pulpy, pumpkin mess...
And drawing the face,
And deciding the smile —
Blunt teeth or jagged?
(This takes a while)
Avoiding a slip
Giggles and laughs
Make it hard to grip.
Find the candle it needs
Then roasting the seeds...
Did I say I prefer the ceramic one?
The truth is... a real pumpkin’s much more fun!
From Rochester Radar, October 6, 2017:
Jerome Daly has found that since he began writing poetry, his perception of the world around him has changed. “I spend more and more time being in the moment,” says Daly, a recent graduate of the MFA in Writing program at the University of New Hampshire and 2017 recipient of the Dick Shea Memorial prize in poetry. “I never know when a certain angle of light, or sudden strange sound may either trigger a memory or make me think of something that may actually have nothing to do with the event that had just occurred, and then wonder why this happened.”
This inclination toward free association also shapes Daly’s writing process. “Most times I have no idea of what will present itself when I approach a blank page,” he says. “When I first started writing, I found this unsettling, but now, I get excited at the possibilities of what may come. Sometimes I may have a general idea, but that can change very rapidly once I'm in the process of creating a poem.”
Daly’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Gamut, Leveler Poetry, The Chaffey Review, and the Long River Review.
AS A CHILD
I always wanted to be Evel
Knievel. Flying at high speeds over cars,
buses--canyons. Not understanding the
complications of bones broken multiple
times--the eventual pain that sets in
and stays like a handprint pressed in
fresh concrete. But to wear that jumpsuit
with blue stripes and stars! Not like the one
Elvis wore in the 70s with the rhinestone
belt buckle, bloated, with sweat licking
his sideburns, singing to crowds of older women
who kept the icon of a Velvet Elvis
painting in their smoke-filled living
rooms. Viva Las Vegas! As a child,
I always wanted to be like Steve
McQueen. Riding a Triumph motorcycle--
being chased through fields on-screen.
Or, racing through the streets of San Francisco,
a green Mustang outmaneuvering bad guys
who were right on his tail. A scene I can watch
over and over. But not like his last days,
when he went to Mexico for mesothelioma--
hair greyed and over the shoulders, beard caressing
his throat. He took an experimental drug made from
ground up apricot pits--a last ditch effort. Bitter,
something you couldn’t sink your teeth into.
From the Rochester Radar, September 15, 2017:
“As the 21st century moves through its second decade, the need for rhythm and rhyme has never seemed more necessary,” says poet S.L. Manning of Strafford, NH. In today’s fast-paced world, Manning believes that poetry serves much the same function as physics or philosophy.
“Society accelerates mercilessly forward, but Einstein’s century-old search for a universal formula still reminds us that the Song of Solomon, the Music of the Spheres, whale-song studies, and slam poetry’s frenetic scream are all a synthesis of man’s quest for meaning,” Manning explains. “If hope exists, it may lie in our pursuit and need for patterns – a cohesive structure in our lives. For me nothing more exemplifies structure, meaning, and a pattern that I can live with than poetry.”
A frequent participant in poetry readings across New Hampshire, Manning maintains a calendar of statewide poetry events as a resource for other local writers. He reads his work regularly at the Rochester Writers Group, which is hosted by former Rochester Poet Laureate Pat O’Brien and meets the first Thursday of every month at Mel Flanigan’s Irish Pub. Readers interested in learning more can visit Manning’s blog at http://azeyeceaitt.weebly.com.
The following poem, which Manning wrote as a tribute to the turning of the season, is an excellent example of his fondness of form and structure as well as his characteristic narrative style and economy of language.
MIST ON THE MEADOWS
Don’t we admire the way they change?
And don’t we deny them on their way?
Yet we have so much to say,
On how their colors rearrange.
In the spring, in the field, down by the bog,
The crusted corn – snow sprouted a fuzz of lemon-lime,
Turning golden-green by another evening-time
And in weeks, home to the peepers and the frog.
Early summer brought a serious yellow phase,
With hooves-prints and groundhogs at sup,
And before the first-cut could be cut,
In the summer rain the wild lily’s turquoise haze.
Now summers end has turned the field at noon to gold –
All day the butterfly and red-winged blackbirds wing –
But in the misty sunset – still – all the peepers sing:
‘Come celebrate the year as she grows old.’
From Rochester Radar, June 30, 2017:
“Poetry serves many different purposes for me,” says Cynthia Plascencia when discussing her craft. “A photo album to record the places I’ve been, a diary to dwell on the latest fail, a refrigerator door to showcase a triumph, a leather couch to analyze on; it’s personal.”
Plascencia, a native Houstonian who moved to New Hampshire to complete her MFA in Creative Writing at UNH, currently works as a transportation writer for the Strafford Regional Planning Commission in Rochester. Her poetry can be found most recently in Outlook Springs, a delightful literary journal founded in Dover.
“One of poetry’s biggest appeals for me is how the experience can be so personal for the poet, yet universal and accessible for the reader,” says Plascencia. “Much of my writing is rooted in personal experiences, but I hope my poems become something personal for the reader too.”
I am so much mass
today I am denied life insurance;
no life can be readily sustained on such wide terrain.
And yet— though I grow exponentially in the health committee's eyes—
I shrink, swallowed easily (despite the enormity)
into 68-hour work weeks of mileage reports,
neon sticky notes, and jury duty so long you wonder if everyone is pleading
just to escape–guilty, guilty, guilty–
court transcript so long, the typist is out cold.
And on my queen mattress,
the dent beside a dozing partner is disappearing,
cooled by a tower fan,
and not even a kiss on a bare back
is enough for a stir.
From Rochester Radar, June 16, 2017:
Noah Burton, a poet living in Madbury, NH, says that defending the relevance of poetry is like trying to justify dreaming while we sleep. “Our daily lives, regardless of whether we want them to or not, have music: whether it’s the conversation and cadences of others or the sounds of our work,” he explains. “Sometimes, when selling burritos at Dos Amigos in Dover, I hear it at the register: Alright your total is $5.93. / Now if you’ll just sign this for me. // Can I have some mild avocado? / Absolutely, here you go!”
Burton, whose work has appeared in the Pen America poetry series, Paperbag, Outlook Springs, Sundog Lit, and other publications, believes that poetry functions much like a film soundtrack in that it provides moment-to-moment focus, allowing us to center ourselves more vividly within our experience.
“Much like that moment when recognizing a rhyme in everyday speech, when I read a poem, I, despite all of society doing it’s thing, become singularly important,” he says. “I am reading a poem and I am allowing it to musically knock on the doors of my memory, joys, and fears. In a time when so much feels out of our power, when it feels like our nature has been hacked, poems can give us singular emotional strength.”
Burton’s fascination with the extraordinariness of the commonplace, and the complexity with which poetry allows us to process our everyday experiences, is evident in the following selection from his recent work.
I’m reviewing your footsteps
in the sand. Well, this is a good place
to start. A wave came and you took it.
A barge floated by and I watched.
The sailor spit into a mug a bone
of a sardine too calcified to chew.
My sore shoulders gave out and I dropped
the umbrella. It is raining now.
Your head is bobbing one way down
the coast—in a jeep toward starlight.
From Rochester Radar, May 19, 2017:
“My poems almost always grow from my deep attachment to the natural world around me,” says poet Marie Harris of Barrington. The featured poem is no exception, having been written on a late spring day while she was beginning to prepare her garden for planting. “The ‘story’ in the poem is just as it happened, and my impulse was to record it in all its quirky detail, hay and onions and creatures in all,” says Harris. “I know that many readers will have experienced a similar moment, and my task, as I see it, is to record it for them in a way that might cause them to reflect. As the French poet Paul Valéry wrote, ‘A work of art should always teach us that we have not seen what we’ve been looking at.’” Harris, who served as the New Hampshire Poet Laureate from 1999-2004, is the author of four books of poetry, the most recent of which is the prose poem memoir YOUR SUN, MANNY (2010, White Pine Press). She has also edited several poetry anthologies, including AN EAR TO THE GROUND (1989, University of Georgia), one of the first multicultural poetry anthologies in the United States.
While Harris wrote the following poem several years ago in response to a different political upheaval, she finds its message to be equally relevant today.
“What made this experience, and then the poem, special to me was the dawning realization that the series of events I had set in motion were altogether ordinary for me, but they must have been terrifying for the creatures I had inadvertently disturbed,” she says. “Snakes fled; spiders left their homes carrying their tiny families; ants scattered in confusion. How then could I not make the implicit comparison between my huge and clumsy interference and that of, for instance, a powerful and sometimes heedless nation? Without belaboring the point, I hope I have suggested another way ‘to see what we've been looking at’ and pause.”
SOMETIMES THE WIDER WORLD CAN ONLY BE APPREHENDED OBLIQUELY
Snakes are always all of a sudden, no matter where I
encounter them. These two were baking under sheet
of black plastic that covered the old bales of the mulch hay
I needed for the onion row. A garter (imagine it wound
in delicate rings around a stockinged thigh!) and another
I can't name (silver-white core emblazoned along its length
with brown ovals etched in delicate black). Exposed and surprised
by light, uncoiling, they tongue the bright air. Spiders hurry away
carrying bulging white sacs. Ants rearrange their ranks. There has been
a profound disturbance. My each movement occasions an intricate series
of counter movements. I couldn't have predicted, for instance,
the thousands of reactions to my shadow.
This poem was first printed in POETS AGAINST THE WAR, edited by Sam Hamill (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2003).
From Rochester Radar, April 21, 2017:
For Sarah Terry, a freelance writer and game designer living in Dover, poetry has always been about finding the best way to turn thoughts and images into stories. “I think it’s one of the most empathic arts - you’re being invited into someone else’s brain and given a front row seat as they process their experiences in full, vivid detail,” she says. “It’s connecting and enriching and powerful - and sometimes it’s just hysterical and fun!”
Terry’s work has appeared in Strange Horizons, RHINO Poetry, Star*Line, and other publications. You can catch up with her latest news on Twitter @abendlied.
THE DREAM OF FLYING FISH
This morning, I am an observer named October, pale and wide-eyed, dying my lips blue
with the rain. The fish are swimming above the tank again. I am trying to feed them breakfast
but they’ve retreated into the cabinetry and now what is left to crawl out of the tank?
If only I had a laugh track, I thought, I would be so much braver. Instead, my hands grow
smaller every day. The ring I bought in Sweden from the old woman and her purple hair
slides around and makes me dizzy. I would like to go back again, to somewhere, and find
everyone has stayed put. But no. They are all like masterless fish, these people – they think
they leap so gracefully, cannot bear to remain. If only I were celestial, aerial – a Learjet
of cosmic awareness, yes, like a giant, like a saint. The world could slide through my arteries,
flapped and battered in my heart. I am only the sister of Desire. We would all be better off.
From Rochester Radar, April 7, 2017:
While Sue Zelie of Barrington has always meant to write a novel, she says that she constantly finds herself turning back to poetry because this form of composition forces her to slow down and savor life, examining her surroundings word by word. For Zelie, the right set of words is like a good pair of binoculars in the hands of a birdwatcher, deftly bringing its subject in and out of focus.
In “A Home in the Storm,” she balances a series of precise observations by shifting her gaze inward, layering the objective with the personal. She pins everything down with the weight of a familiar symbolic reference, but with a New England twist, giving a nod to the surest sign of spring in Rochester: The lilac.
A HOME IN THE STORM
Where do the birds go when it snows
I ask again.
While picturing them trussed up tight
In a family clot of feathers, deep in the thickets,
To their young,
I see one chickadee dive from the sky
And balance on a cradle of flimsy limbs
Eyeing the north, craning south,
Teeter-tottering from head to tail feathers now
In a tangle of lilac branches,
Until, arrested in an instant, seeming shocked
By the sudden sting of snow
Or maybe, like my cat, by the wind's bark,
He stiffens, shoots off, is flat gone.
I cannot tell why I love a storm.
I dream of a nest where all who are there, belong.
Where the happy ending is passed on from one to another
Where the bird the old man sends out from the ark
Flies back with an olive branch,
Or a lilac twig
In its beak
Reassuring the captives that things are looking up.
National Poetry Month, which takes place every April, is a celebration of poetry introduced in 1996 and organized by the Academy of American Poets as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States. Here are three ways you can celebrate, right here in Rochester!
1. Attend a local poetry reading.
For a full list of poetry readings in the New Hampshire seacoast area, visit the following blog compiled by local poet Skip Manning: http://azeyeceaitt.weebly.com/.
2. Support a local literary journal.
3. Take the 30-day NaPoWriMo challenge.
City Manager Daniel Fitzpatrick is pleased to announce that the City of Rochester will crown Katie O’Connor as the city’s next Poet Laureate.
O’Connor, a Rochester resident, will be formally recognized during the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7, at 7 p.m., where she will read some of her work and introduce herself to the Council. The meeting is open to the public. O’Connor will be the first Poet Laureate to serve Rochester since 2014.
“I am increasingly impressed by the level of appreciation for the arts that I have seen in Rochester,” O’Connor said. “I thank the City for the appointment and look forward to serving as Poet Laureate to further enrich the community.”
As Poet Laureate, O’Connor will work to make poetry more accessible to the Rochester community by developing public poetry projects and events. She hopes to establish and facilitate writing workshops, groups, and readings for Rochester residents and members of surrounding communities. She will also serve on Rochester’s Arts and Culture Commission, which seeks to promote public appreciation of the vital contribution of the arts and culture to the community’s quality of life.
O’Connor, a New York native, recently settled in Rochester after obtaining her Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from the University of New Hampshire. Her work has recently appeared in “The Fourth River,” “Stone Canoe,” “Paper Nautilus,” “So to Speak,” “Arsenic Lobster,” and the “Santa Ana River Review,” among other publications. She is also a former poetry editor of the online literary journal “Barnstorm.” She is currently employed as a full-time technical editor at a private fire investigation company headquartered in Rochester.
“We are pleased to crown Katie as our Poet Laureate and I am confident that she will bring a better focus and vision to our community arts,” City Manager Fitzpatrick said. “I look forward to working with her and further welcoming her family into the fabric of Rochester.”
O’Connor, a New York native, recently settled in Rochester after obtaining her Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from the University of New Hampshire. Her work has recently appeared in “The Fourth River,” “Stone Canoe,” “Paper Nautilus,” “So to Speak,” “Arsenic Lobster,” and the “Santa Ana River Review,” among other publications. She is also a former poetry editor of the online literary journal “Barnstorm.”
pOETRY HERE & NOW
Poetry Here & Now is published in Rochester Radar, a special section of Fosters Daily Democrat that is direct mailed to households in Rochester, East Rochester, Farmington, and Gonic.
Poetry Here & Now features the work of poets with a connection to Strafford County. Poems are selected by Katie O'Connor, Poet Laureate of Rochester. Writers of all ages, from beginners to published poets, are invited to share their poetry.
To submit work, send an email containing the following information to
firstname.lastname@example.org or by clicking the button below.
Click on the button above to access the digital archive of each column as it originally appeared in the Rochester Radar.