The Hippo


Apr 23, 2019








Charles Simic. Courtesy photo.

New Hampshire Poetry Festival

Where: New Hampshire Institute of Art (most events will be in or around the French Building, 148 Concord St., Manchester)
When: Saturday, Sept. 19; panels, workshops and readings occur all day, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Contact: Registration, plus a full schedule of the day’s events available at
Admission: $120, $100 for PSNH members, $55 for students

Poetry celebration
First-ever New Hampshire Poetry Festival this weekend

By Kelly Sennott

New Hampshire’s poetry scene has deep roots, but until now, there hadn’t really been a venue where poets all over the state could come together.

This was Jennifer Militello’s qualm and the reason why, shortly after becoming Poetry Society of New Hampshire vice president, she shared her idea of having a poetry festival with the society.
“New Hampshire has a great poetry community and a great poetry history. I personally came to New Hampshire to write poems,” said Militello, who currently also heads the creative writing program at River Valley Community College and studied at UNH under former U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Simic. “I feel like New Hampshire is a gift for poets.”
Society board members agreed with Militello — there was a need, a real need, and so planning for the first-ever New Hampshire Poetry Festival, which happens this Saturday, Sept. 19, at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, came together fast. 
“I originally thought we might start it in 2016, but everybody on the board really wanted to do it this year,” Militello said.
In fact, Militello is a little surprised at how well it all came together, considering the organization only began planning in the spring. Some big names agreed to read or host workshops, and so far, registrants from as far as California have signed up. Major media outlets like the Boston Globe, Washington Times and Miami Herald have picked up the story.
“It came together in a way I hoped for, but was unsure about; but response has been fabulous. People really want to celebrate poetry, and giving them the form to do that, people really responded,” she said. “I think the headline that New Hampshire is about to hold its first poetry festival — that seems like a really interesting beginning of something.”
The New Hampshire Poetry Festival starts as a one-day event and, if all goes well, could expand in future years. Simic himself is the main attraction — he’ll perform a reading near the event’s close — but the rest of the day’s offerings make the event resemble a smaller, poetry-focused Writers’ Day. It consists of workshops (led by award-winning poets like Ravi Shankar, Tim Liardet, Jeff Friedman and current New Hampshire Poet Laureate Alice B. Fogel), panel discussions (about mindful writing, translation, Robert Frost, Ekphrastics, making time for writing, etc.) and readings all day long. 
Centrally located at the intersection of a few major highways, Manchester seemed like the most obvious city for a festival like this. And within the city, the New Hampshire Institute of Art seemed to be the best venue. All the school’s buildings are within walking distance, and there’s a parking garage, hotel and variety of downtown restaurants nearby. Plus, it’s a school for creative writers.
Militello went to NHIA Creative Writing Chair Monica Bilson.
“I said, I’ll do one better. I’ll provide not just the space, but also catering and volunteers. I’ll get students involved in the event from our creative writing department,” Bilson said via phone. “We have great facilities. We’ve already co-hosted an event with the New Hampshire Writers’ Project — the Three Minute Fiction Slam. We hosted the finals the past two years. And we hosted the Poetry Out Loud semi-finals last year as well.”
Bilson said it benefits everybody to have these kinds of events at the institute. It gives those organizations a facility and also a host who understands their needs.
“And it gives us visibility, and it gives our students opportunities to meet professionals in action, not just as writers but as people who are planning these kinds of events,” Bilson said.
Bilson would like to see the school continue to build not just a city arts community, but also a literary community — to see more people from the public attend its high-profile visiting writers series and perhaps see a local developer finally build an indie bookstore in the city’s downtown.
Militello hopes this will continue the “congealing” happening in New Hampshire.
“I think that because it’s such a rural state and because the pockets of the community are spread out, there’s been a discussion for a long time about centralizing the poetry community. And maybe now people are starting to take action and respond to that desire in an active way,” Militello said.

®2019 Hippo Press. site by wedu