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On Shepherdstown’s Town Hall

By Staff | Nov 4, 2016

Earlier this year, Shepherdstown Poet Laureate Hope Maxwell Snyder and Mayor Jim Auxer announced a new Poem of the Month program for Shepherdstown. In September and October, a poem by a poet active in the town’s poetry community has been displayed on the front, glass wall of the Shepherdstown Town Hall at 104 North King Street.

“Poetry and poets play an active role in Shepherdstown’s diverse arts community, and this enriches our town’s life,” Mayor Auxer explains. “We want to acknowledge our poets and to pay homage to their work. Posting their work for public view at the town hall will enable more folks to sample what our poets are producing these days.”

Town Clerk Amy Boyd supported the project as soon as the idea surfaced. She acquired the display device and manages the monthly displays on the Town’s behalf. Unsolicited poems cannot be considered, due to lack of staff to handle them.

September’s poem, “Napping with Steve Orlen,” by Hope Maxwell Snyder is a memorial to the poet and beloved teacher. Orlen had been a featured poet in the former Sotto Voce Poetry Festival series in Shepherdstown.

October’s poem “Working,” by Antrim Ross, presents a snapshot of clerking in an area grocery store. The day begins with a decided lull because of a squall, which gives the poet clerk pause to consider her job as a way of service. “. . . the trick / is trying to fit yourself // inside so small a service.” Ross, a graduate of Jefferson High School and Denison University, began graduate work at Cambridge University in England this fall.

November’s poem of the month, “Junk Drawers” by Tom Donlon, may be displayed initially on the inside glass door to the Town Office. This in honor of the wonderfully spooky Halloween display on the building’s front, glass wall.

Donlon’s poem celebrates the drawers of miscellaneous useful items most households possess. It is a list poem-mostly a catalog of items-as befits its subject’s miscellany.

“You need a clothes pin to clamp a bag of tortilla / chips. Task one: untangle or cut the Gordian knot / of cell-phone-charger wires, yellow and red yarn, / blue thread, white shoelace, green extension cord . . . .”

The Mayor and Town Council appointed Hope Maxwell Snyder as Poet Laureate of Shepherdstown in March of this year. The town’s second poet laureate, Snyder was appointed following the death this past January of longtime Poet Laureate Georgia Lee McElhaney, the first to serve the town in that capacity.

By establishing the town’s poet laureateship in the late 1990s, the Mayor and Town Council recognized poetry’s active contribution to life in Shepherdstown. At that time, the town’s Bookend Poets reading group had already been meeting monthly since the mid-1970s. The group continued meeting monthly until 2014, by which time it had spawned monthly first-Sunday readings at Shaharazades Exotic Tea Room, initially led by Ilona Popper.

The Bookend Poets reading group is being revived and will meet on Thursday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m., at Four Seasons Books, 116 West German Street, in Shepherdstown. Poets are invited to attend and read a poem or two. Please bring 10 copies of your poem if you would like to have feedback from the group. Feedback is gentle and respectful.

The group plans to meet on the third Thursdays of each month at Four Seasons Books.

Two Shepherdstown restaurants host monthly poetry readings and open microphones. These gatherings enable poets to try out new work, try their work aloud and get feedback if they request it.

Shaharazades Exotic Tea Room at 141 West German Street hosts open readings the first Sunday of each month – including Super Bowl Sunday. Domestic Restaurant at 117 East German Street hosts poetry the last Wednesday of each month. The Domestic program includes a featured poet and musical group followed by an open microphone.

Shepherdstown’s quarterly Good News Paper, founded in 1979 by Randall Tremba and Ed Zahniser, published town poets in its early history. For decades now, the all-volunteer publication has published a regular poetry page devoted to the work of poets connected to the town and its lively poetry scene.

FLUENT, a free-subscription regional arts magazine published online, is produced by Jefferson County’s Nancy McKeithen, editor and publisher, who is also a poet. The quarterly magazine regularly features regional poets, including poets from or active in the Shepherdstown community.

The Friends of Shepherdstown Library holds an annual poetry fundraiser gala to benefit the Shepherdstown Public Library and its programs. For more than 10 years the fundraiser was held in April, National Poetry Month. This year it took place on Sept. 30. The evening featured readings by five poets, Prof. Heidi Hanrahan reading Emily Dickinson poems, and music by Don Oehser and Laura First.

With this new Poem of the Month program, Shepherds-town’s rich poetic culture will be on display 365 days per year-366 days on leap years.