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PoemCity Anthology: Bring All Those Storefront Poems Home

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We’re just past the midpoint of PoemCity, the Kellogg-Hubbard Library’s annual celebration of poetry, and if you’re not sure you’re going to make it to all 450 poems posted around downtown Montpelier, don’t worry: “PoemCity Anthology 2024” (Rootstock Publishing, 2024) just came out, so you can take all those poems home with you.

This impressive, 345-page collection has poems by veteran, widely published poets (including former Vermont poet laureate Sydney Lea), poems by poets just starting out, and plenty by experienced, engaging poets in between. Although the majority is from central Vermont, the poets span the state from 75 communities, and range in age from 3 to 94.

Poets write about a variety of topics, including the natural world, sports, family, relationships, and the arts. There are poems about mud season and the flood, as well as about other life challenges, from aging and cancer to figuring out how to answer “24 Questions about Love.”

There are mysteries, surprises, and fun. In “Halfway in Between,” Graniteville’s Jim Hogue has a great time, starting off with, “I’ve an in between dog/And an in between cat./Wherever they are that’s not where it’s at.”

“A greeting card once taught me,/Truly Taught me/The secret every poet needs/ – really needs.” So begins “Twice” by Robert Troester of Montpelier. The poem is cute and didn’t go where I expected it would.

There are also serious poems, such as “The Last Man to Die for a Mistake,” a moving Vietnam War poem by Roberta Herald of Montpelier, and “When the Second Person Dies,” by Heather Wishik of Woodstock. Both made my return-to list, as did “Aging,” by Sam Sanders of Montpelier. That begins:

I can wait in line at the supermarket,
Judging the man, who, like myself, is slow:
Slow to find his credit card,
Slow to pack his groceries.
Or I can know that we are the same, he and I,
Living through this phase of our lives:
Sad to be so slow,
Embarrassed to be keeping people waiting.

Toussaint St. Negritude of Newark wrote “Blues for the Masses,” a thought-provoking poem in honor of Reuben Jackson, who died in February and to whom the anthology is dedicated. A Goddard College graduate who spent many years in Vermont and enthusiastically participated in PoemCity, Jackson was a poet, educator, jazz scholar, radio host, and music critic. (See Remembering Reuben Jackson by Jess Turner in the March 20 issue of The Bridge).

Young poets are well represented in the anthology, with the last section devoted to poems written by third and fourth graders from Calais Elementary School and fifth and sixth graders from Montpelier’s Main Street Middle School. “Queer Equality,” a poem by an anonymous sixth grader, is one of the more serious youth poems. It begins:

They think my thoughts are wrong.
They think my existence is illegal.
Just because my view of
The world isn’t the same as theirs.
They stop me from being who I am.

Some poems by young people were submitted outside of school, including this one by 9-year-old Malachi Johns of Roxbury:

Freya
sweet, joy
nice, cozy,
comfortable
happy
soft ears
warm
Freya dog

With 450 poems — almost 250 by adults and 200 more by children and youths — I can mention only a few to suggest the range of this wonderful snapshot of poetry in our community today.

The book launch celebration, which will include an open mic for sharing poems, will be in the Hayes Room of the Kellogg-Hubbard Library on Monday, April 29, at 6:30 p.m.

The anthology was compiled by the Kellogg-Hubbard Library and published by Rootstock Publishing of Montpelier. The book sells for $20, with proceeds going to support future PoemCity programming. It may be purchased on the Rootstock Publishing website, at Bear Pond Books, or at the library. Copies purchased at the library are offered on a sliding scale from $10 to $20.

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