by Tom McKone
One summer afternoon a few years ago, while I was standing in line at the creemee stand, I heard from behind me: “Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soute/ the droghte of March hath perced to the roote…” It was a former student of mine who greeted me by reciting the opening lines of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which she had learned in one of my classes a decade before. It’s not every day that a 21st century Vermonter is greeted in Middle English or in verse—and it was even more of a treat than the soft-serve ice cream. Then a mom in her late twenties, this young woman told me she could still recite all 18 lines she had memorized in high school. When poetry clicks with us, it tends to stick with us.
April is my favorite month at the library, and poetry is the reason. We put poetry front and center, offering dozens of readings, workshops, performances, presentations, and discussions, and posting hundreds of poems by Vermonters throughout downtown and beyond. For 30 days, we become PoemCity.
This is the ninth year that the Kellogg-Hubbard Library has sponsored PoemCity. Much to my liking, this year one of our first programs is “Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: Still Funny After All These Years.” We are the local hosts of the Vermont Humanities Council’s First Wednesday program, and this is the April program. Dartmouth professor Peter Travis is going to discuss the genius and enduring humanity of Geoffrey Chaucer, the 14th-century “father of English poetry.” I can’t attend all 42 events that we sponsor, but this one tops my list.
PoemCity encourages us to share words and thoughts and emotions; to explore the beautiful, the mysterious and the troubling, and to try to make sense of them. “A poem,” as Robert Frost said, “begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” The library and all of our partners and sponsors wish that you both enjoy this month of poetry and grow in wisdom because of it.
Tom McKone is executive director of the Kellogg-Hubbard Library