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Jennifer Militello is New Hampshire’s new State Poet Laureate

Jennifer Militello stand in front of a tree.
Peter Biello
Jennifer Militello is New Hampshire's new State Poet Laureate.

Every five years, New Hampshire appoints a new state Poet Laureate. Jennifer Militello was selected out of a large pool of nominees, and the award-winning poet, teacher, and author based in Goffstown started her term this week.

Militello joined All Things Considered host Julia Furukawa to talk about her goals for her time in her new position, and shared some advice for how to get started with your own poetry.


Jennifer, you were selected for this position out of a large pool of nominees. What was it like for you when you found out that you would be the next State Poet Laureate?

One of the things, I think, that marks our lives are those moments where we want to, or feel the urge to, jump up and down with joy. This was definitely one of those moments. I was absolutely thrilled. So excited, so grateful.

You have just started in this role, but what will be your first project or goal to approach as State Poet Laureate?

I think my first goal will be to reach out to members of the community in New Hampshire who are in supportive roles. I think about teachers, librarians, academics. I'd really like to find out what people need, what they're hoping for, how they see the poetry community evolving and moving forward. So, I have a lot on the docket, but I think reaching out to find out what people are thinking or hoping for and where they feel poetry is in New Hampshire will be a first step.

You mentioned working with teachers. You yourself are a teacher. What knowledge do you hope to impart or pass on to Granite Staters who have a passion for poetry?

I think the thing I would primarily want people to understand is that poetry is for everyone and is about everyone. There's no ivory tower. No poet is writing to make things purposefully difficult or complex. Poetry is about the individual emotional experience for each person, and every poet wants to reach an audience. So I think I would like just everyone who can possibly understand that poetry is there for them to understand that.

What might you say to encourage someone who has thought, 'Well, I've always kind of wanted to write poetry, but I'm a little scared or I don't know where to start.' What advice would you give?

I think two things: Probably one is to find some poems in the world and read them and see what they're doing as a form of potential inspiration or a frame of reference, but also just dive in. One of the things I always tell my students is just put words on the page, just follow your brain and your voice where it's going. You don't have to know what a piece of writing is going to be about. You don't have to have an intention for it. You can say, I'm going to write for five minutes and just put down whatever comes to your mind. You can start with someone else's line of poetry, but once you start to put those words on the page, something magical will happen no matter what.

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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