The Hippo


May 30, 2020








Alice Fogel

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Keeping busy
NH Poet Laureate Alice Fogel on A Doubtful House

By Kelly Sennott

 Three years have passed since Alice Fogel was appointed New Hampshire poet laureate, and she’s far from slowing down. 

Fogel spent the past month conducting poet laureate duties, from hosting workshops and readings to setting new initiatives, and she released her latest poetry collection, A Doubtful House, April 4. Unlike much of her other writing, these pieces aren’t inspired by nature, but by four walls and a roof. They start with a quote from Aladdin: “Phenomenal cosmic power! Itty bitty living space.”
“It’s about people who live together for a long time in a house, and how challenging that is,” Fogel said during a recent phone interview. “I try to look at all aspects of intimate relationships. I think readers will be able to find themselves in these poems.”
Also new for Fogel is the poems’ structure; the lines are set against left and right margins, lining both sides of the page like walls of a room. Woven in the text are elements of realism and fantasy. She likes coming up with new approaches to poetry with each collection she writes.
Fogel recently helped establish the state’s first youth poet laureate position with Andrew Fersch, founder of The Penn (an alternative high school), and just announced the appointment of Portsmouth High School student Emma McGrail to hold it from now through August. The program will be supported by the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the New Hampshire Poetry Society. Fogel plans to perform a reading with McGrail at The Word Barn in Exeter in July.
“It’s a way to honor young people,” Fogel said. “Someone like Ella is a perfect candidate for this to start it off. She is so articulate and creative in such a variety of ways. She stands as a representative for youth and can talk to them in a different way than I could, or any other adult.”
Fogel has also been collaborating with Portsmouth poet laureate Mike Nelson in formulating an ongoing writing workshop with local refugees at the International Institute of New England. At the first meeting in early April, about 10 showed up, with representation from five continents. Their goals are to provoke creative expression and offer refugees an outlet to write about experiences and improve their English in a low-pressure environment.
“I’ve been wanting to do this kind of thing for a long time,” Fogel said. “I just love it. I feel like it’s a privilege to meet these people and be a part of welcoming them into a new home. They’ve basically been homeless, some of them for decades. They’ve been through a lot of losses. To be part of their experience of belonging and becoming Americans is incredible. I think everybody in the room felt that connection.”
Her next big venture is what she calls the New Hampshire Raining Poetry project, in which she’ll stencil poems by Granite State poets on local sidewalks with superhydrophobic paint, which repels water. Dry, the words are invisible, only revealing themselves when it rains. 
Fogel went through a long process of obtaining permission from selectmen and town businesses in order to install the first poems by Patricia Fargnoli and Henry Walters in front of the Walpole Town Library. At the time of the interview, she was waiting for a few dry days to get painting and had conversed with many New Hampshire poets interested in getting the program running in their towns.
But this May and June, she’s taking a break from laureate duties to delve into one of her other passions, hiking. Fogel, who has tackled about half the Appalachian Trail in patches, plans to explore the trails in Glacier National Park and various parks in Utah. She frequently finds inspiration during these hikes, jotting things down at night for when she returns to her desk at home.
“[Hiking] does seem to be a common trait amongst writers. There’s something about the rhythm of walking that sits with the rhythm of language. There’s also beauty in connecting to the earth and everything we live here with. And poetry is about connecting,” Fogel said.

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