The Hippo


May 25, 2020








Poetry and writing in Derry

Robert Frost Birthday bash: With Rick Holmes Monday, March 20, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., at the library 
Derry Author Fest: Saturday, May 6, times and details TBA; there will be a Hyla Brook Poets and Frost Farm Poetry Conference table at the event, at the Derry Public Library, 64 E. Broadway, Derry, free for all
Hyla Brook Poets: Reading series is at Robert Frost Farm typically June through September, visit
Frost Farm Poetry Conference: Friday, June 16, through Sunday, June 18, at Frost Farm $310 (includes food), aimed at writing/teaching metrical poetry,

Derry’s first poet laureate
Robert Crawford chosen by DPL and town council

By Kelly Sennott

 Robert Crawford’s goal as Derry’s first poet laureate is to make the art form more mainstream in town — no easy task.

“Some people would rather do almost anything — have a root canal — over reading or writing poetry,” Crawford said, laughing, via phone last week. “If I could do anything, I’d like to make poetry more popular again, and show that poetry can be a powerful and inspiring art form.”
Staff at the Derry Public Library selected Crawford for his writing (his books include Too Much Explanation Can Ruin a Man and The Empty Chair) and his work establishing the Frost Farm Poetry Conference and the Hyla Brook Poets writing workshop and reading series at Robert Frost Farm. The Derry Town Council endorsed this decision Jan. 24.
Library Director Cara Barlow conceptualized the position about a year ago, though initially she envisioned it as a DPL poet-in-residence.
“But as I started to think about it, it seemed to make more sense to have a poet laureate of the town, since poetry is such a big part of the Derry history and Derry community,” Barlow said. “The purpose of this program is to support the local reading and writing community, and also to bring some positive attention to the town of Derry.”
In the next two years, Crawford will work closely with the DPL to formulate programming at the library via an on-site office reserved for the poet laureate, from workshops and lectures to a poetry contest named after Derry’s first librarian, Rev. W. E. Gaskin. Barlow also hopes to create an appointment committee to choose the next Derry poet laureate in two years, drawing applications from residents of Pinkerton towns: Derry, Hampstead, Chester, Candia, Hooksett and Auburn.
It’s important to Barlow that the programming coming out of this effort be active. This was also her intention in starting Derry Author Fest, which celebrates its third year this May. 
“I’m very interested in helping people learn how to pursue their interests outside of a social setting, and the public library’s a perfect place to do that,” Barlow said. “It’s important we’re not offering passive programming, but programming you can participate in. I wanted Author Fest to be a how-to event, not an event where you go and listen to an author do a reading. I wanted to help people increase their skills and make social connections that will help them. I think the programming we do with the poet laureate will be similar to that.”
And, in her opinion, Crawford is one of the best people to start things out.
“I’m not a poet, and I’ve never done anything like this before, and he has some connections with the poetry community,” Barlow said. 
Crawford, a Chester resident, is a big player in Derry poetry organizations, but he came to the art form later in life. He moved to the area in 1994 in search of the simple life after working at the Pentagon. Having grown up in Gilford, Crawford always dreamed of coming home and owning a white house with a wood stove, writing Tom Clancy-like novels. But it was less fun than he anticipated.
“I got so bored. Slowly, I became more interested in the words,” Crawford said. “The actual sound and rhythm and beauty of them put together.”
While working as an evening librarian at the Chester College of New England, he took out every book he could find on poetry. One of the most notable was Introduction to Poetry by X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia, which was heavy on form and meter. 
“At the time, I didn’t think anyone wrote that way anymore,” Crawford said. “The more I found out, the more I started to enjoy writing in meter and rhyme. That’s how I discovered Robert Frost.”
Of course, he’d known Frost’s work, having read “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” in school, but he felt a different appreciation after studying the craft. Or maybe it was just living in the same town where Frost did so much writing. Crawford became a trustee at the farm and co-established a few Derry poetry events and contests, mostly because he felt somebody should.
“When I first discovered that Robert Frost lived in Derry, one of the things that surprised me was there had been no … ongoing poetry activity associated with the farm. I thought it was a shame, because boy, that’s an amazing draw for poets, Robert Frost Farm,” Crawford said.

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