Plymouth Writing Project Hosts Rural Poetry Contest

April 12th, 2006 by Adam

Rosemary Bateman, a senior at Kearsarge Regional High School, writes poems about changing seasons, childhood memories and the natural beauty that surrounds her country home. For her poem “December,” Bateman won a first place award from the Plymouth Writing Project’s poetry writing initiative, Celebrating Rural Poetry. Bateman, who will travel to Washington, D.C. in May to read her poetry alongside United States Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, was among a group of young New Hampshire poets from around the state who read their work at a Plymouth Writing Project reception at Plymouth State University, Tuesday, April 11.

Celebrating Rural Voices is part of the National Writing Project’s nationwide celebration of place-based rural poetry. The Plymouth Writing Project (PWP) at PSU, New Hampshire’s chapter of the National Writing Project, is one of six rural sites throughout the nation to be awarded grant funding to implement statewide training in place-based poetry for high school students and teachers. As the host site for the PWP, Plymouth State University is dedicated to promoting excellence in the teaching of writing in classrooms across the state. The Plymouth Writing Project offers summer institutes for teachers, in-service professional development programs at schools, workshops on the PSU campus and a chance to publish teachers’ own written works. For students, the PWP hosts summer youth writing camps and produces an anthology of student work called High School Voices.

This is the first year the PWP has held a poetry competition specifically focused on rural writers. To prepare for the competition, which drew more than 90 entries from students around the state, rural poetry coordinator Elizabeth Jane Whittington held poetry workshops for 25 high school English teachers and visited 10 New Hampshire high schools to offer workshops for students.

According to Whittington, place-based education “engages students with the strength, beauty, troubles, issues, history and heritage from which many seem to be disconnected.”

“I have enormous respect for the teachers and students I worked with as coordinator of this project. The place-conscious poetry composed by teachers and students alike as a result of this project, is extraordinary,” said Whittington. “The voices of young people resonate locally and spiral out globally; they tell us what is praiseworthy in our communities and remind us that we have the power to transform that which is not working well.”

Dr. Thaddeus C. Guldbrandsen, director of PSU’s Center for Rural Partnerships, called the student poetry “powerful and moving.”

“The poems really did a nice job of portraying what it means to live in rural New Hampshire and be connected to the landscape. For those of us who are concerned with the future of rural New Hampshire, this poetry is a powerful tool for taking stock of where we are today and the things we value most,” said Guldbrandsen.

PSU English professor Meg Petersen, the coordinator of the Plymouth Writing Project, says she hopes to make the rural poetry program and competition a yearly event. Other finalists in the competition included Joseph Ainsworth of Inter-Lakes High School, Emily Anderson of Kearsarge Regional High School, Shaun Flynn of Inter-Lakes High School, Hannah Lipman of Plymouth Regional High School, Rachel Northrop of Plymouth Regional High School, Natasha Pasternack of Oyster River High School, Sarah Roeder of Oyster River High School and Andrew Thompson of Kearsarge Regional High School. Liz Ahl, professor of English at PSU, chose Rosemary Bateman’s winning poem. The selection committee for finalists was comprised of Rebecca Alosa, Randy Brooker, Jennifer Drinen, Patty Heard, Meg Petersen, Kelli Thompson and Elizabeth Jane Whittington.

Plymouth State University (PSU) is a regional comprehensive university offering a rich, student-focused learning environment for both undergraduate and graduate students. PSU offers 42 majors and 62 minors in programs that include education, business, humanities, arts, and natural and social sciences. The College of Graduate Studies offers coursework that promotes research, best practices and reflection in locations on- and off-campus as well as online. For non-traditional students, PSU’s Frost School of Continuing and Professional Studies offers working professionals opportunities to pursue an undergraduate degree by attending classes in the evenings, weekends and online. Located in a beautiful New England setting, Plymouth State University has been recognized as one of the “Best in the Northeast” by The Princeton Review.