CONCORD, N.H. (AP)– Valerie Rochon aspires to read her e-mail every Monday morning, even when it makes her cry.
In addition to the unlimited Zoom meeting invitations, every week brings a brand-new poem tucked into otherwise matter-of-fact messages about the coronavirus pandemic from the Portsmouth city manager. Tammi Truax, the city’s poet laureate, has actually been adding to the newsletters because early April, raising the collection of public health updates and neighborhood resources with a layer of emotion and self-questioning.
” I think she’s definitely brilliant,” stated Rochon, who leads the Portsmouth chamber of commerce. “I look forward on Monday mornings to getting my week started with the wisdom and charm that she shares.”
When she was called poet laureate in 2015, Truax planned multiple projects around the theme “Poetry as a Bridge,” including using poetry to cultivate a more meaningful relationship in between the residents of Portsmouth and its sister city of Nichinan, Japan.
However after a planned trip there with high school trainees was ditched in April due to the pandemic, she instead she wrote a poem honoring the nursing trainees whose graduation they were expected to attend. And she has been highlighting Japanese kinds of poetry, such as haiku– “Some nights are so dark/that the moon alone is sure/morning will come”– and tanka, which she described as more individual and metaphorical– “The bramble extends/a tough walking cane offering/perfect raspberries/while everywhere else I look/an imperfect world festers.
Having long believed in the power of poetry to help people through difficult times, Truax stated she gladly took on the obstacle of composing poems weekly, despite the fact that that’s different from her usual procedure. Frequently she doesn’t write the poem until the day she submits it.
” Often things are percolating all week long, and often on Saturday early morning I have no concept,” she stated. “However we are living through extraordinary times, and each week appears to provide sufficient material for me to respond to.”
One poem evokes the toppling of monoliths– a nod to the Black Lives Matter movement– while another describes cops in Madrid delivering bouquets of tulips to hospital employees.
For the July 4 holiday weekend, she produced a “found poem” by extracting words from an Alexander Hamilton essay. The following week she marked the birthday of Frida Kahlo with a poem questioning what the artist, who was bedridden for months due to health problem and later injury, would make of “those people regreting seclusion” and unwilling “to forego what we want, think we need, do desire.”
The Portsmouth town library is consisting of the poems in a “community diary” recording the pandemic, and the poem about the Nichinan nurses will be read at their delayed graduation ceremony in October.
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” This actually does have ripples that extend out,” stated Stephanie Seacord, Portsmouth’s public info officer, who puts together the newsletter and came up with the idea of asking Truax to contribute, starting April 5.
” I thought, perhaps we can use a moment of calm in this sea of insaneness,” Seacord said. “And now, to me, it has a life in that it becomes part of the new typical. It becomes part of the archive of what we’re all enduring.”
Rochon stated she was especially touched by Truax’s newest poem, “Shifts,” in which she grieve’s a fellow poet’s impending death, hiding her tears behind her face mask and finding solace in collecting a zucchini from her garden and baking it into bread for the boy who fixed her automobile.
” We all do that, do not we? Whether we go into work, or go on a 20- mile bike ride, whatever it is, we all do that, just to be able to take in that sorrow,” Rochon said. “It puts you in touch with something that’s genuine, and there’s a lot to be said for that.”
While continuously news about the impacts of the coronavirus has actually ended up being commonplace, so, too, have tales of generosity. “One Good Idea” is a series of AP stories focusing on glimmers of pleasure and benevolence in a dark time. Read the series here: https://apnews.com/OneGoodThing