Book Notes: Bookstock Grows by Volumes

The rise of Bookstock, the annual festival of writing and writers in Woodstock, has been, to borrow a word from Hollywood, meteoric.

What started in 2009 as a gathering of writers primarily from the towns surrounding Woodstock has become a star-studded weekend, particularly in its poetry practitioners. This year’s roster of poets at the July 26-28 festival includes Richard Blanco, who read at President Obama’s second inauguration, and two of the great poetic voices of rural New England, Donald Hall and Galway Kinnell.

As interesting as it might be to hear Blanco in person, I suspect Hall and Kinnell will be the bigger draws. Born in New England in 1928 and 1927, respectively, both men have long been rooted in New England soil and the region’s landscape, voices and concerns have become essential parts of their subject matter.

“We like to call them our own. They’ve written quite a bit about this region,” said Partridge Boswell, who helped found Bookstock and coordinates the poetry readings.

Hall has lived in Wilmot, N.H., on his family’s farm for the past 30 years. He was the nation’s 14th poet laureate, from 2006-7, and is the author of 16 books of poems and 20 books of prose. Kinnell used to divide his time between his home in Sheffield, Vt., and New York City, where he taught at New York University, but for the past several years has lived in Vermont.

As much as they’ve written about New England, Hall and Kinnell are both expansive writers, as interested in the cosmos as in their neighborhoods, Boswell said. About Kinnell, Boswell noted that “for every poem he’s written about rural Vermont, he’s got 10 that he’s written about other places, other experiences, social injustice.”

Blanco, too, lives in New England, in Maine. He has written movingly of navigating his Cuban-American identity and his life as a gay man in rural Maine. He’s as responsible as anyone for the current interest in poetry, Boswell said.

“Poetry’s always there,” he said, calling it “an undercurrent. Then it sort of rises to the surface.”

The list of poets who will read at Bookstock also includes Aimee Nezhukumatathil, the author of three books of poetry and a professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia, and West Lebanon poet Jeff Friedman, who has written five collections of poems and teaches at Keene State College.

Bookstock’s full list of events, which includes readings, panel discussions, activities for children and a book sale, is available at

∎ Also in Woodstock, Norman Williams Public Library will hold its annual fundraising dinner on Sunday. Historian Lynne Olson will be the guest speaker. Her recent book, Those Angry Days, an account of the political battle over whether the United States should enter World War II, has been well received.

The annual dinner is the library’s major fundraiser. Tickets cost $125, of which $85 is tax deductible. Call 802-457-2295.

∎ Poetry is a subject that some people fear. Poems are difficult, hard to understand, sometimes almost willfully obscure, at least according to this line of thinking.

It doesn’t have to be that way, and poet Alice B. Fogel is going to explain why at Canaan Town Library on Saturday afternoon at 1. Her talk, “Strange Terrain: How Not to ‘Get’ Poetry and Let It Get You Instead,” promises to take the audience through eight steps toward understanding and appreciating the elements of poetry.

Fogel’s talk, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the New Hampshire Humanities Council.

∎ H. Nicholas Muller III, a historian, past president of Colby-Sawyer College and former executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, will give a talk Wednesday evening at 7 in Norwich Congregational Church on the later years of Wright’s career.

Titled “The Regeneration of an Artist: Frank Lloyd Wright After 1932,” Muller’s talk covers the exceptionally productive decades at the end of Wright’s long life. The talk is free and open to the public and is sponsored by the Vermont Humanities Council and Norwich Public Library.

∎ Randolph’s Chandler Center for the Arts has extended the deadline for its Vermont play competition. Writers from Vermont or with strong ties to the state are invited to submit original plays on current social issues. Entries must have a running time of at least 45 minutes and must be accompanied by a statement confirming that the play has not yet been produced professionally.

The deadline for entries has been extended to June 30. It costs $20 to enter a single script, and another $15 for a second. Judges will choose five finalists, each of which will be honored with a $100 prize and a staged reading during the Chandler’s 2013-14 season. An application form is available at the Chandler’s website,

∎ If you can’t wait until Bookstock, a pair of poetry readings are planned for early next month.

On Wednesday, May 8, at 6:30 p.m., several poets published in Bloodroot Literary Magazine will read from their work at Norman Williams Public Library in Woodstock. The reading is free and open to the public and features an open mic for other poets to read through.

The next day, May 9, at 7, Dave Celone will host the latest of his series of informal readings at Lampscapes on Gates Street in White River Junction. Seating is limited. Celone has 10 people already signed up and the venue holds only 25 seats. Contact him at

The writer can be reached at, or 603-727-3219.