The Hippo


May 27, 2020








Melissa Balmain reads at the Hyla Brook Reading Series in 2016. Courtesy photo.

 2018 Hyla Brook Reading Series 

Where: Robert Frost Farm, 122 Rockingham Road, Derry
When: Friday, June 15, 7 p.m., featuring Melissa Balmain and Susan de Sola; Thursday, July 12, 6:30 p.m., featuring Janutary Gill O’Neil; Thursday, Aug. 9, 6:30 p.m., featuring Marilyn Nelson; and Thursday, Sept. 13, 6:30 p.m., featuring Dudley Laufman
Cost: Free and open to the public 

Poetry reading series returns to Robert Frost Farm


 By Angie Sykeny
Poets and poetry lovers convene once again at the Robert Frost Farm in Derry for the annual Hyla Brook Reading Series, which kicked off last month and continues monthly through September. 
Most events feature two readings: one by a nationally renowned special guest poet, and one by a member of the Hyla Brook Poets, a poetry group that meets regularly at Robert Frost Farm. 
The next event is on Friday, June 15, and will feature poet and 2018 Frost Farm Prize Judge Melissa Balmain and, in place of a Hyla Brook Poet, Susan de Sola, who was selected by Balmain as the winner of this year’s Frost Farm Prize.  
While the special guest poets represent a variety of poetry styles, the Hyla Brook Poets focus on metrical poetry, which is poetry that adheres to fixed form, as opposed to free verse poetry. 
“Most poetry written nowadays is free verse, so the Hyla Brook Poets have made it their mission to promote the writing and teaching of formal poetry, the type that Robert Frost wrote, because hardly anyone does,” Robert Crawford, director of Frost Farm Poetry, said. “The mission of the series, however, is simply to bring fantastic poets to Frost Farm, and that includes all kinds of poetry.” 
Balmain, who resides in Rochester, New York, writes primarily humorous poetry. She is the editor of the comic verse journal Light and winner of the Able Muse Book Award for her poetry collection Walking in on People. She also teaches humor writing, poetry writing and journalism at the University of Rochester. 
“I tend to see the comedy in life, even when the situations I’m writing about are dire,” she said. “I think now, more than ever, perhaps, a lot of us are in need of humor to get us through the day, so I try to help fill that need … with poems that are entertaining, honest and accessible.” 
At the June event, Balmain will not only read her poetry, which will include a new poem she wrote just for the series, but will also give a talk about metrical poetry and “the importance of constraints in creativity.” 
“Having constraints like rhyme and meter often sparks greater creativity,” she said. “It forces you to push beyond that first easy idea that you have and go for something more interesting, so that’s what I’ll be talking about.”
The Frost Farm Prize is a yearly national poetry contest limited to metrical poetry, the winner of which receives $1,000 and the chance to be a featured poet in the Hyla Brook Reading Series. De Sola’s winning poem, “Buddy,” was one of 1,123 entries this year. It tells a story in 81 lines about a friendship between a young woman and man from disparate backgrounds, and the woman’s later realizations and regrets. De Sola will read “Buddy” and some of her other poems at the event. 
At each event, following the two readings, there is an intermission, during which books by the featured poets are available for purchase. 
It closes with an open mike, where attendees have an opportunity to share their original poetry. 
“Every poet, at one point or another, starts out reading at open mikes,” Crawford said. “It’s a nice way to get experience and kind of take that next step; from there, maybe you get invited to read somewhere else, then you get published, then you come back [to the series] as a featured reader yourself.” 

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