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Tickets for Billy Collins Poetry Reading Are Going Fast

Woodstock — With the countdown to the sixth edition of the Bookstock literary festival at three weeks from today, organizers are still counting by the dozen the number of seats available for former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins’s opening night appearance at Town Hall Theatre on July 25 at 8 p.m.

“So far,” festival publicity team member John Mathews said on Wednesday, “260 tickets have been picked up with about 120 remaining.”

The festival is offering up to five free tickets per inquirer, on a first-come, first-served basis, to Bookstock-goers who call ahead to 802-457-3981, or visit the Pentangle box office in Town Hall, or respond to the festival e-mail announcing the tickets.

Collins, who served as the national poet between 2001 and 2003 and segued straight into the role of New York state’s poet laureate, is one of three former U.S. poets-laureate coming to the festival. Thanks in part to his time as laureate, and to his frequent appearances on public radio’s A Prairie Home Companion, his 10 collections of poetry are best-sellers.

Next up in the lineup of laureates, Charles Simic, who taught English and writing at the University of New Hampshire for 30 years, will take the stage at Town Hall for a reading at 11 a.m. on Saturday, July 26. After he and his family narrowly survived bombs and attacks in Yugoslavia during World War II, they emigrated to the United States and Simic embarked on a writing journey — in English — that led to more than 60 books and 20 poetry collections, often with nightmarish and violent imagery, and a Pulitzer Prize.

At 4 p.m. on the 26th, former laureate and Pulitzer-winner Louise Gluck will read from her half-century body of work — 12 collections, with another, Faithful and Virtuous Night, on the way — in the North Universalist Chapel just down the street from Town Hall. She made her reputation with poems focusing on loneliness, family, divorce and death.

Along with Collins, Simic, and Gluck, poets taking their turn around town throughout the July 26 include New Hampshire poet laureate Alice Fogel and Mark Wunderlich, Martin Espada, Robin Becker, renowned translator David Ferry and Brownsville-based Peter Money, who teaches at Lebanon College and edits Harbor Mountain Press, a small publishing company dedicated to poetry.

And that’s just the poets: Between an hour here and an hour there in chairs, bookworms will be able to clock hundreds of steps between venues trying to keep up with the likes of novelists Anita Diamant (The Red Tent, Good Harbor) and Howard Norman (Next Life Might Be Kinder, and other novels and collections of short stories set in Atlantic Canada and focusing on the Indians there), naturalists such as Lyme’s bear-whisperer Ben Kilham, a variety of non-fiction authors, and Vermont-based New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss. Bliss will present Anna & Solomon, the book he illustrated and his mother-in-law wrote.

Ron Miller, second-year coordinator of the festival, credits “our program committee — Buzz Boswell for poets and Pam Ahlen for all others” — with recruiting strong lineups of presenters. Almost too strong, in some eyes.

“Some people do express frustration about having to miss some sessions they’d love to see, because so much is happening at once,” Miller said this week. “We try to avoid obvious conflicts where we can — for example, the poets all read at different times — but with so many sessions, it’s just inevitable that many people won’t be able to catch everything. But that’s better than not having enough choices.”

Miller added that about 1,000 people have attended Bookstock in each of the past few years.

“I’ve heard from several people who are hosting friends visiting from other parts of the country who are coming specifically for Bookstock,” Miller said.

Throughout the weekend, books from a variety of regional publishers will be on sale under tents on the Woodstock Green.

For more information about Bookstock, visit bookstockvt.org.

Aspiring Writers

As a lead-in to Bookstock, the University of Vermont’s Green Mountain Writing Project and the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park are inviting young writers ages 13 and up to a workshop on Thursday, July 24. Participants will hike around the park’s trails on Mount Tom and around the Pogue, an outing designed to spur their creativity. The group will meet at the park’s Carriage Barn Visitors Center. To r egister, call Joan Haley at 802-457-3368, ext. 44. Participants should bring shoes and clothes sutiable for hiking, as well as a bag lunch and water bottles.

Canaan Meetinghouse Readings Begin

If you’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms for author readings that won’t wait till Bookstock, take a deep breath and set aside next Thursday night, July 10, for Round 1 of The Meetinghouse Readings on Canaan Street in Canaan. Essayist Douglas Bauer will lead off with readings from his book, What Happens Next: Matters of Life and Death, after which novelist Sue Miller, who first came to prominence with The Good Mother, will read selections from her new creation, The Arsonist. Admission is free for the readings, which begin at 7:30 p.m.

Howe Now

Next Thursday night at 7, the Howe Library in Hanover will play host to Yankee Magazine veteran Edie Clark will talk about her book What There Was Not to Tell, following the impact on her family, over generations, of an ancestor’s death in war.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.