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Out & About: Poetry walk comes to Strafford Edible Pocket Park

  • The Strafford Edible Pocket Park will be the site of a new Poetry Walk starting this weekend. (Photograph courtesy of Wally and Barbara Smith) Photograph courtesy of Wally and Barbara Smith

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/1/2021 3:07:21 PM
Modified: 9/1/2021 3:07:27 PM

SOUTH STRAFFORD — As its name indicates, the Strafford Edible Pocket Park is planted with things you can eat.

Starting this weekend, it also will be full of things you can read.

An opening reception for a Poetry Walk, which features around 50 poems by 10 area poets, is slated for 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday at the park, which is located behind Murray Field in South Strafford, across the street from the Newton School, which is located at 243 Route 132. If there is a downpour, the event will be rescheduled for Sunday. For more information, email

“It was kind of inspired by the children’s story walks,” said Wally Smith, who is helping his wife, Barbara, organize the event, citing the programs featuring pages of illustrated books spread throughout the park that Morrill Memorial & Harris Library had set up this summer. “It seemed like a neat idea.”

It is also a pivot from an event the library had been planning featuring Strafford resident Gus Speth at the Morrill Homestead. Owing to a rise in COVID-19 cases in the area, the library canceled the reading, but the Smiths still wanted to find a way to introduce Speth’s poems to readers.

The pocket park seemed a natural venue. Wally and Barbara Smith have been working on the park since 2014. Since then, it has evolved into a community space where families can be found picnicking. Due to the library’s story walks, many of the wooden stakes the poems are being attached to were already in place and the Smiths added others. They also reached out to area poets, including some they had heard read at an event in East Randolph.

“We found out there are more poets around here than you can shake a stick at,” Smith said.

The 11 poets hail from seven towns: Strafford, Sharon, Thetford, Tunbridge, Vershire, Bethel and Chelsea. The poetry walk will be up for at least two weeks. The poets participating are Strafford residents Gus Speth, Jim Schley and Martha Manheim; Patrick Gillespie, of South Strafford; Corey Cook, of Thetford; Ina Anderson, of Sharon; Mel and Herb Goerbz, of Tunbridge; Suzanne Lupien, of Vershire; Taylor Katz, of Chelsea; and Carl Russell, of Bethel. They contributed whatever poems they wanted, but Smith said most of the poems are themed around nature and the outdoors.

True to its name, the park is quite small and Smith said it takes less than a minute to walk from one end to the next, unless a visitor stops to pick berries or read a poem.

“There are green spaces and then guilds with plants and flowers in them,” Smith said. “It’s all really sort of organic and nonlinear and the poems are posted all around the place on the edges of the guilds and flower plants.”

The park has become a regular host of concerts and other events. The pandemic brought much of that to a halt, save for a memorial for Rep. John Lewis, who died in 2020.

“It is meant to be a community resource, and it’s becoming that more so as time goes by,” Smith said. “This is just one more time when we’re hoping people will come down and enjoy the place.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at or 603-727-3221.

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