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!


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

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. 



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


Sarah Anderson’s Word Barn in Exeter


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

Cut and paste the old fashioned way

IMG_20160203_161140928IMG_20160203_164059569In our January/February classes at ORIS our students are Somali-Bantu but were all born in  Dadaab in Kenya, a UNHCR refugee camp and the largest one in the world. One of the girls just arrived a few months ago and was reunited with her mother after ten years.

This time we took a different approach to poetry. We IMG_20160113_154715528took the cut up method of writing very literally.  Some friends of IMG_20160203_161648180mine had donated a big pile of Poetry magazines and I gave the kids some scissors, glue sticks and paper and told them to follow their instincts and inspiration. They read through the magazines cutting out lines and verse IMG_20160203_161313that they liked to make new poems out of them.

They were exposed IMG_20160203_152835856to a lot of different writing at once but this also freed them up IMG_20160203_163952827from linear thinking as they pasted together new poems all their own. I’ve always thought that writing is part inspiration and part thievery.

I can’t say enough about how important it is to break away from our habitual ways of IMG_20160113_154136270_HDRthinking and looking at life. Poetry introduces new and wild ways of seeing that have the power to create connections in our IMG_20160203_160927783mind between ideas that were previously miles apart. Poetry IMG_20160203_162357275can create worm holes in the fabric of thought that send us to places we never could have imagined otherwise.

For these kids and their process of integration into a new culture, becoming aware of new modes of thought IMG_20160203_164349696through poetry can overturn fears and bring new insight that is IMG_20160203_164016820_HDRinvaluable to cultivating their sense of self and place. When we read we are listening, not just to the writer but to our own thoughts as well. Our own voice gets louder and more and more we understand the value of sharing who we are with the world. Which is why it’s so fun to read at the mic!mike_oris-2

Tribe Poetry Project is Back at ORIS

IMG_20151007_171033We’ve started a new round of poetry classes at ORIS this time with teens from Uganda, Somali-Bantu from Kenya and the Middle East. From Christian and Islamic faiths. One new item we have that we didn’t have last time is a microphone and an amp.

These kids are full of light, laughter and words and they couldn’t wait for their turn at IMG_20151011_221521the mic – although some were nervous once they got there. Standing at the mic with everyone looking at you, and hearing your voice amplified, you can suddenly feel very vulnerable.  I told them that my first time at the mic was terrifying, but explained how important it was that I did it.

Tribe Poetry Project is a three part experience.  The first part is writing, the second is reading and the third is listening. I teach that respectful listening as an audience member is just as important as reading at the mic.  Vulnerability, humility, acceptance and IMG_20151011_221630respect are necessary for tapping into inspiration, churning out a good poem, growing as a writer and working well with a group.

Mike Nelson Beat Night Project ORISThese kids get it and they do it with grace and laughter which are also necessary ingredients of the process. I can’t relate to the extraordinary experiences that brought them to this country but by listening and being heard we can all relate to each other. It’s so humbling and such an honor to work with them.