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National Poetry Month: On lilacs, leaves and other lines that remind you of life in NH

Colorful flowers bloom out of a book.
Sara Plourde
April is National Poetry Month.

April is National Poetry Month and at NHPR, we wanted to hear from you. We asked: Do you know a poem that reminds you of a special place here in the Granite State?

Many of you shared a poem and told us why it evokes the spirit of your special place in New Hampshire. State Poet Laureate Alex Peary joined NHPR’s All Things Considered host Julia Furukawa to reflect on those submissions.

Below are your thoughts and excerpts from the poems.

Mount Kearsarge by Donald Hall

A photo of Mt. Kearsarge's rocky summit, with views of more summits in the distance.
Eileen Curran-Kondrad
Eileen Curran-Kondrad sent in a photo of the rocky summit of Mount Kearsarge.

Great blue mountain! Ghost.
I look at you
from the porch of the farmhouse
where I watched you all summer...

Eileen Curran-Kondrad: "Although I can't see Mount Kearsarge from my front porch, like Donald Hall does in this poem, I live close enough to climb it often. Hiking Kearsarge, as well as the high peaks in the White Mountains is a thrill. When I get to the top I revel in the expansive views, the feeling of clarity, of euphoria like being on top of the world. Just one of the natural beauties of living in New Hampshire."

Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church by Emily Dickinson

Red rose bushes in the foreground. There's a greenhouse, and yellow and pink rose bushes in the background.
Sandy Belknap
Sandy Belknap took this photo of roses at the Fuller Gardens in North Hampton.

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church—

I keep it, staying at Home—

With a Bobolink for a Chorister—

And an Orchard, for a Dome— ...

Sandy Belknap: "It reminds me of not only my garden in Nashua, but also two beautiful public gardens that open in May: Bedrock Gardens in Lee, and Fuller Gardens in North Hampton."

Lilacs by Amy Lowell

A bloom of lilacs on the ground.
Nancy Stone
Nancy Stone has one small lilac bush in her yard.

Lilacs watching a deserted house
Settling sideways into the grass of an old road...

Nancy Stone: "[This] is the poem that always comes to my mind in late May when lilacs start to bloom all over our state... My own love of the poem began in the 1950’s when I was 14 in a little town in Kansas. My Grandmother, whose ancestors were from Massachusetts, would read us poems when we visited her. She would mention that the lilacs she saw in Kansas always reminded her of New England. Thirty eight years ago I moved to NH and found a backroad from Fitzwilliam to Jaffrey that had hedgerows of lilacs… and I sought out the poem again. As I re-read the poem, the voice of my Grandmother and her interpretation of the poem came back to me as if she was sitting across from me again. I continue to seek out back roads in NH in the Spring… because the poem applies throughout the state."

Path by Midge Goldberg

A person walks on a rocky trail in heavy fog. A pile of rocks is used to mark the trail.
Robert Crawford
The cairns here mark a trail in the fog.

Each cairn appears out of the fog
just as you need it to find your way...

Robert Crawford: "One of my favorite places in New Hampshire is above tree line in the Presidential range. There, I feel alone but alive and closer to some essential truth that, at that altitude, I can almost touch. The attached poem by Midge Goldberg, "Path," uses the iconic physical presence of the cairns—the piles of rocks used to mark the trail—to bring me back to that feeling. The combination of the physical and spiritual is very powerful. Lost but found."

Town Roads by Robert W. Crawford

A photo taken at dusk of a white church in the town of Chester.
Midge Goldberg
Located in the center of the town of Chester is the Chester Congregational Baptist Church.

At each town line the old town roads change names
To take the name of where you're coming from:
The Chester Road will bring you into Derry
Derry Road ends at the Chester green...

Midge Goldberg: "'Town Roads' is a deceptively simple poem about the center of town in Chester, N.H. I grew up in Florida, in a nice city but one too big for a real sense of community. Chester's been my home for 12 years now, and there's something special about living in a very small town, where, wherever you go, whether it's the general store, the library, the town fair, or voting day, you will ALWAYS see someone you know, and who knows you, and maybe your parents or your kids or your siblings. Bob has captured the essential sense of home, and how important that is to carry with you, whether you stay home or leave for the 'wider world.'"

In the Shadow of the Steeple by Melissa Rossetti Folini

A tree with bright orange leaves in the fall is next to the steeple of a church in the town of Chester.
Judy Balk
The poem Judy Balk nominates is a tribute to the steeple of Chester Congregational Baptist Church.

In the shadow of the steeple
Sit many historic homes
What makes them so, are families, that resided long ago...

Judy Balk: "Long time Chester resident, Melissa Rossetti Folini, wrote this lovely tribute to a landmark that has served the test of time. This poem reminds us of our past while giving us hope for our future."

October's Party by George Cooper

Rows of trees with multi-colored leaves line a narrow road during autumn.
Chelsea Hedquist
Chelsea Hedquist's photo shows Putney Road in autumn.

October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came—
The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples,
And leaves of every name...

Chelsea Hedquist: "Whenever I hear this charming poem, I think of Putney Road in Bow, the stone wall and tree-lined street where my parents live. This stretch of road erupts into vivid hues each October, and one of life’s greatest pleasures is taking a stroll beneath its colorful canopy—catching glimpses of the multicolored mountains (including Pat's Peak and Mount Kearsarge) off to the west. On the corner of Putney and Hop Kiln stands an enormous oak that my mother refers to as 'The Lord King Tree.' Its colors are always the most magnificent, and it is a truly majestic sight! I often find myself thinking, 'October gave a party, indeed!' whenever I pass by and pay my respects to the King."

Michelle Liu is the All Things Considered producer at NHPR. She joined the station in 2022 after graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in journalism.
Julia Furukawa is the host of All Things Considered at NHPR. She joined the NHPR team in 2021 as a fellow producing ATC after working as a reporter and editor for The Paris News in Texas and a freelancer for KNKX Public Radio in Seattle.
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