What is the mission of a Poet Laureate?
There are poets laureate in all but 5 states of the United States and additional positions in many cities. Our mission is to bring poetry to everyone regardless of age, education or status. I have free reign to imagine and implement programs, some of which I will describe for you.
Youth Poet Laureate
I’m excited to have initiated a 1-year position for a committed high school poet to write and advocate for poetry. The inaugural YPL is Portsmouth high school senior Ella McGrail, an avid writer and activist. This new position is supported by the NH Poetry Society, the NH Arts Council and the NH Writer’s Project. Ella will travel to schools and offer readings to students and teachers. http://www.seacoastonline.com/news/20170424/phs-senior-nhs-first-youth-poet-laureate
Refugee Poetry Project
Along with some of my poetry friends, and an art gallery open mic, we raised money for the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success (ORIS), which focuses on farming for immigrants and refugees in NH. The International Institute of New England for Refugees and Immigrants is hosting me and Portsmouth poet laureate Mike Nelson to offer creative writing workshops designed to give an opportunity for refugees to express themselves creatively and improve their English. Some of the countries represented by people resettled in NH through the IINE are Burundi, Nepal, China, Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Columbia.
Raining Poetry: Bringing poetry to the streets
In a collaboration between industry and the arts, we have identified a kind of concrete protector product that we’ll use to stencil poems directly onto downtown concrete. The product dries clear and invisible. When it rains, the poems materialize on the sidewalk, only to disappear again as the suns comes out. We are rolling the project out in rural Walpole, NH and have hopes of introducing it to many other towns in the state.
Gathering New England Poets Laureate
At the 2017 annual Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Salem, Mass, I convened a first-ever meeting of all the New England poets laureate. We read poems to each other and our audience, and discussed the projects we have initiated in our states.
Vermont: Chard deNiord
Rhode Island: Tina Cane
Maine: Stuart Kestenbaum
Connecticut: Rennie McQuilkin
(Note: There is no poet laureate in Massachusetts despite periodic efforts to establish a position.)
Published Poet Showcase: An Anthology of NH Poets
I collaborated with Sydney Hall, Jr., the owner of Hobblebush Books, located in southern New Hampshire, to collect and publish the first print anthology of living NH poets. The collection is 125 pages and represents a wide variety of styles.
Published my sixth book and fifth collection of poems: A Doubtful House
Bauhan Publishing has just released my most recent collection of poems. These poems are written in the voice of a house listening to its inhabitants. A Doubtful House explores what happens to boundaries–psychological, emotional, physical, even syntactical–when people live together for a long time.
“Challenging, wildly inventive, philosophical, as intense as it is intimate, A Doubtful House reveals and deepens our understanding of the strangeness within the ordinary… Her boundary-pushing syntax emphasizes the inevitable connects and disconnects of human beings in close proximity. A Doubtful House is ambitious and risk-taking, yet there’s a vulnerability in Fogel’s voice that humanizes and, yes, even celebrates that common struggle to remain ourselves while giving so much of that self to another.”
—John Sibley Williams, author of Disinheritance
Since this is a five-year appointment, I have completed other projects and have several more in the pipeline.
- I have compiled a list of all living and recently deceased NH poets. This compilation of 100 poets is organized by town and county so that libraries and schools can invite poets to do programs and buy their books.
- There is now also a list of all reading series around the state of New Hampshire. Many of these are ongoing series, and they are held in a wide array of venues including barns, libraries, meeting houses, coffee houses, and bookstores. Hundreds of people are going out to listen to poetry every month and this compilation will make it even easier for readers to find a venue in their area.Along with the NH Writers Project, I am developing a collection of ten poetry curricula for educators, with themes, readings, prompts and guidelines.
- Along with the NH Writers Project, I am developing a collection of ten poetry curricula for educators, with themes, readings, prompts and guidelines.
- The NH Chapter of the Women’s Caucus for Art is collaborating with me to develop a traveling exhibit of interconnected art and poetry, which will first show in 2018.
- In my efforts to bring poetry to the widest possible audience, I have presented readings, talks, writing workshops, and programs to a variety of participants, including (but not limited to) prisoners, the elderly in retirement homes, the mentally ill, children, teachers as part of their professional development, and poets themselves at all stages of their writing lives.
Since you asked, here’s some advice for poets young and old
Be ambitious for your poems; make them as great as they can be.
Don’t give up on your poems too soon; keep pushing them to become more interesting and layered.
Don’t give up from rejection; it’s part of the writing life.
Things that are important to me as a poet
I am interested in playing with language to see what it can do besides “communicate” thought, or how it can express consciousness through more than simply verbal meaning; language is my medium in the same way as paint or any other material is for a visual artist.
I work with sound, texture, form, and movement as well as imagery, metaphor, and sense, to achieve an emotional experience.
My hope is that reading or listening to my poems will teach you how to enter into them or let them enter you.
Tell us about your experience jurying for the 360 Xochi Quetzal Writing Residency. What have you learned, and observed from the applications? Do you have any advice for prospective applicants?
Jurying for the 360XQ Residency is a very exciting experience. I’m inspired and amazed. Many of you are working on innovative, unexpected, and meaningful projects, and the quality of writing itself is often exceptional. I’ve been taken by a simple damn good story told in a solid, convincing voice. I’ve been captivated by creative research into why memory and communication so often go awry. I’ve been moved by a series of poems about identity and place, and by a play about a family struggling with mental illness. The thrill of discovery that I experience in reading so many of these applications is only dashed by having to choose only two writers per residency. I also think about who will benefit most from the residency, taking into consideration factors like age range, experience, and recognition or lack of it. My hope is that any writers who have worked hard on their writing, and are committed to taking it as far as possible–for themselves and for readers–try applying. And please remember that any rejection note is both an invitation to revisit your work and a subjective decision.
Alice’s other recent books:
INTERVAL: Poems based on Bach’s Goldberg Variations (2015)
This brilliant collection won the Nicholas Schaffner Award for Music and Literature and the 2016 NH Literary Award in Poetry and was featured in O Magazine.
STRANGE TERRAIN: A Poetry Handbook for the Reluctant Reader (2009)
This warm and accessible resource is written for anyone wanting to learn more about how to read poetry.
Alice B Fogel is New Hampshire’s poet laureate. Her 2017 collection is A Doubtful House, and 2015’s Interval: Poems Based on Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” won the Nicholas Schaffner Award for Music in Literature and the 2016 New Hampshire Literary Award in Poetry. Her previous book, Be That Empty, was a national poetry bestseller. She is also the author of the guide for readers and teachers, Strange Terrain, on how to appreciate poetry without necessarily “getting” it. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and other awards, her poems have been anthologized in Best American Poetry, Poet’s Choice, Poetry Daily, The Poetry Foundation, and elsewhere, and have been nominated nine times for the Pushcart Prize. She works one-on-one with learning-disabled students at Landmark College in Putney, Vermont, is an avid hiker, and lives in Walpole, New Hampshire.