The Chase Home Poetry Class

Down past the West End in Portsmouth, far from the concerns of hotels, parking garages and noise, as you’re heading towards the highway, tucked way off the road down a little winding driveway you’ll find The Chase Home for Children. Although this is not its original location, The Chase Home has been in town since 1877, first as an orphanage and now as a home for at-risk teens and young adults.

I believe a community’s, and thereby the world’s, problems begin and end with the issue of listening and being heard. Despite the increasing connectivity of technology, I see a greater sense of emotional disconnect than ever before, especially between kids and the adults around them. The kids I’ve had the privilege of teaching at The Chase Home are desperate for connection—real connection. They’re all there because the important connections that should have been made in their life, for the most part, have failed.

Poetry and the writing exercises we do in class together give these young adults an opportunity to express themselves in a safe atmosphere and allow for the vulnerability necessary to break down defenses that have built up over time. I know from my own childhood how isolating it can be when you feel no one is listening. I also know how that feeling can lead to self-destructive behavior. It’s been so rewarding to see these kids be creative and open up, letting the sensitive beautiful human beings that they are have a say and take part in a community of compassion. The Chase Home has been doing that for a hundred and forty years in Portsmouth and I’m so grateful to them for allowing me to be a part of it.

The Chase Home relies on donations, volunteers and community support to care for their residents. If you’re interested in making a contribution, please visit their support page.

Below are some of the writing and poetry art collages we’ve done in class over the summer.

A Fantastic Summer With Poets in the Park

Poets in the Park 2017 has come to a close. This summer we gave the stage to women and they reached hundreds of locals and visitors alike with the words of the women poets and writers that have inspired them throughout their lives. With a variety of voices from the region and beyond they helped us all step outside the echo chambers of thought and discourse and introduced new perspectives.

Women, as with many things, are still underrepresented in the field of writing which means their voices are under-heard in society. Poets in the Park was an incredible opportunity to do something to correct that imbalance and reach the ears of the general public.

I’m so honored and grateful to NH Poet Laureate Alice Fogel, NH Youth Laureate Ella Wheeler McGrail, former Portsmouth Laureate‘s Kate Leigh, Kimberly Green and Maren Tirabassi, Portsmouth City Councilor Nancy Pearson, Jenna Dion, Tamara J. Collins, Kayla Cash, Pricilla Cookson, Amanda Giles, Lauren WB Vermette, Cara Cristina Chanoine, Katherine Towler, Crystal Paradis, Taygra Longstaff, Jessica Purdy, Executive director of the NH Black Heritage Trail JerriAnne Boggis, Shetarrah Byfield, Jubilee Byfield, Wendy Cannella, Julie Dickson and Marybeth McNamara for participating and making this series an amazing one and something our community can be proud of.

And a HUGE Thank you to Ben Anderson and the Prescott Park Arts Festival for sharing your stage with us and giving us this opportunity. I’m already looking forward to next summer when we get to do it all over again!

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Poets In the Park – Women Reading Women

Here it is, the incredible list of women writers for the Poets in the Park – Women Reading Women series at Prescott Park! Each Thursday before the stage production of Mary Poppins, three amazing local/regional women poets and writers will take the main stage to read the work of, or read something they wrote about, another woman poet or writer of their choosing from history, recent or past.

In the 21st century, women writers are still underrepresented by a wide margin. Here is a quote from the book “Poet on Demand” about the life and times of Celia Thaxter by Jane E. Vallier: “A rewriting of the female literary history is perhaps the major academic and aesthetic responsibility of our generation of literary scholarship…work that includes the establishment of accurate texts, the recasting of biographies and the re-evaluation of literary traditions.”

With this in mind, we give the stage to women so they may continue to write their own history and establish the path for all of us towards a more equitable future. Twenty one women in all participated and read to crowds who may not normally have any relationship with poetry. Thank you to Ben Anderson and PPAF for sharing your stage with us!

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link to Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce post about Poets in the Park

Article in the Portsmouth Sunday Herald about my plans with Tribe and the PPLP. by Jeanné McCartin

A Poet with a Mission

Portsmouth’s new poet laureate builds community through poetry

Posted May 14, 2017 

By Jeanné McCartin

Mike Nelson, a man with a mission, was named the eleventh Portsmouth Poet Laureate at a ceremony, April 3, at Portsmouth City Hall. Nelson had designs on the position, but with an eye on advancing poetry and programs rather than his own work. The eleventh Laureate said it best in his acceptance speech.
“For nearly two decades, the poetry community of Portsmouth has given me the gift of honoring my voice,” Nelson said. “I’m grateful and excited to use my position as laureate to give that gift back to Portsmouth and New Hampshire by creating platforms for a diversity of voices to be heard.”

Continue reading

Raising Voices

I’m excited to share my first project with the PPLP as poet laureate called Raising Voices. State poet laureate Alice Fogel and I have partnered to put together a poetry and creative writing class at the International Institute of New England with a group of their refugee and immigrant English language students.

Our aim is to participate with the IINE in their efforts to make refugees and immigrants to New Hampshire feel safe, welcome and valued and to help them in the process of integrating into their new life here in the states. In the long run, we hope to collect the poems and stories of these new Americans in the form of writing and video diaries to create a forum for education and outreach to the larger community. 

Once we see a person’s humanity and see that they’re people with families just trying to survive in the world like everyone else, compassion can be the only response. Refugees and immigrants are the same today in America as they’ve always been. The family history of so many Americans can be traced back to refugees and immigrants of all cultural and religious backgrounds who faced similar prejudices as those of today.

Through compassion and education, we can help stem the tide of fear and rise together toward a more integrated and supportive community.

 

Poem for Refugees

Says the man of fear,
do not let them in.
But we are all strange and troubled beasts
growing up together.

Says the man of fear,
do not let them in,
because he doesn’t understand
that a vulnerable heart,
rather than walls of safety,
is the way to peace.

Says the man of fear,
do not let them in,
because he forgets
that we are all refugees on this world
looking for a home.

Says a man of love,
Be the change you want to see in the world.
Says a man of love,
Love your enemy.
Says a man of love,
Those who are merciful have mercy shown them.
Says a man of love,
I have a dream.
Says a man of love,
Let them in.

Mike Nelson

ORIS Fundraiser Results

Thank you to everyone who participated in this incredible event! We made 1138 dollars for Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success! Thank you Wendy Stevens, Charlene Higgins and Lindsey Shaffer for all the great work you do at ORIS!

Thank you to Katherine Leigh, Tammi Truax, Katherine Towler, Sarah Anderson, Crystal Paradis, Stefanie King, Lindsey Coombs, Lauren Wb Vermette, Wendy Cannella, Wendy Stevens, Heidi Therrien, Lauren Elma Frament and Allie Fitzgerald for being our amazing features for the night. Thank you also Fatuma Mahadi, Amin Hassan, Nasteho Mohamed and Dilip Tmg, Tribe Poetry Project students, for coming and reading at the mic.

Thank you Midheaven Massage, Stelzer Metalworks, Dos Amigos Burritos, Tulips American Handcrafts, The Music Hall, Ceres Bakery, Portsmouth, Street 360, Seacoast Rep, Score More Sales, Tournament Headquarters, Eileen Fay Flockhart and Steffanie Antonio Art for donations to the fundraising raffle.

Thank you Megan Stelzer and Crystal Paradis for going around the room and selling the raffle tickets at the event. Thank you Denise Wheeler for taking these fantastic photos.

Thank you to The Beat Night Band, Scip Gallant, Mike Barron, Frank Laurino, Chris Stambaugh, David Tonkin, Scott Solsky and Don Davis for always being there and playing just the right thing every time. And Thank you Bruce Pingree and The Press Room for always giving us a home.   

After the beat night fundraiser last month many posts were made and shared far and wide. We watched the number rise steadily over a month and we saw the names of our friends show up on the donation list as the seacoast joined in the state-wide campaign for ORIS and the 20,000 dollar goal was reached by the deadline! 

This fundraiser was about a show of support from the community for this farm where refugees and immigrants to New Hampshire have a place to work, live and thrive, and that support has been given 100%! The next step is some grant writing to some larger donors and with the support of the community behind them the people at ORIS are extremely confident the ultimate goal of purchasing the farm will be reached.

I’m so proud to have participated in this fundraiser through Beat Night and to be a part of a community of such caring and compassionate people! Thank you to everyone who took part in this incredible show of compassion! click here to see the results: https://www.crowdrise.com/fundraiser/campaign-updates/1119555#!/status/13                                   Mike Nelson

Beat Night Fundraiser: NH Farmland for Refugees

It’s more important than ever to help immigrants and refugees to the United States assimilate, become self-sufficient and feel welcome. And it’s also more important than ever to listen to women. At the December 15th Beat Night we will do both.

ORIS (Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success) in Manchester is doing really important work and they need our help. ORIS is pursuing the purchase of 56.8 acres in Dunbarton NH to create a permanent farmstead that offers refugee farmers a place to grow food as well as live.

The December 15th Beat Night is going to be a fundraiser to help buy this farm! We have fourteen special guest poets and speakers who will be featured that evening and they are all women.

During this season of giving let’s do something important with our time and money to help ensure that refugees and immigrants to New Hampshire have a place to work and be a part of the community as well as continuing to make New Hampshire a beacon of compassion in the world. 

#BeatNightforORIS

 

Article in The Square about the thriving poetry scene on the seacoast by Debbie Kane

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Sarah Anderson’s Word Barn in Exeter

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Crystal Paradis steps up to the mic at Beat Night at the Press Room

It’s a full house inside The Word Barn, a  19th century barn in Exeter. People mingle or sit in folding chairs, waiting expectantly for the afternoon program of poetry and short story readings to begin. It’s the third
installment of the Silo Series, organized by poet  and writer Sarah Anderson. Nearly every chair is occupied, an indication of how popular the series has become in the short time — less than a year — it’s been in existence.

Similar scenes are playing out in various venues around the Seacoast where seasoned and aspiring poets read their work in front of appreciative audi- ences. “Poetry speaks to people’s lives,” says David Phreaner of Greenland, co-chair of the board of trustees of the Portsmouth Poet Laureate Program (PPLP) and host of its monthly Poetry Hoot. “It’s a unique way to tell a story.” Continue reading