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Inspired By The Past: 7 Local Poets Share Their Poems at the Norwich Historical Society

Mar 28, 2016 07:41PM ● Published by Kirsten Gehlbach

Gallery: Norwich Historical Society [3 Images] Click any image to expand.

The Norwich Historical Society welcomes the Upper Valley to a reading by seven local Poets  Poets and the Past and a reception celebrating their work on Friday, April 1, from 5 to 7pm. The exhibit is planned to run through April and May. Local poets browsed through the Society’s collections to find an item that captured their imagination for a poem. The results are as varied and surprising as the lives and times that inspired them.

The poets include:

Florence Fogelin

Giavanna Munafo

Ivy Schweitzer

Jane Benson Ackerman

Lisa Furmanski

Phyllis B. Katz

Woon-Ping Chin

Sarah Drew Reeves

The public (and school classes, with advance notice) is invited to join in a deeper reading of the Society’s holdings. The objects and the poems they evoked will be on exhibit at the Norwich Historical Society’s home in the Lewis House, 277 Main Street, through April and May, open Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10am to 4pm, and by appointment.

Every school child knows that poetry is a wonderful way to bring history to life (“Listen my children and you shall hear…”). The Norwich Historical Society brings this concept to the local level. Interaction with objects prompts reflection about the lives of those who used the items, what connects us to those lives, and how we are different.

A local poet floated the idea for this exhibit with this simple request to Jane Korey, president of the Society: “You at NHS should do something with poetry.” With many poets in Norwich and nearby towns, plus a poetry-writing group that meets regularly at Lewis House, this seemed to be a good idea. 

“Objects have the power to evoke the past. Museums and historical societies maintain collections not just because they show the “what” and “how” of the past but because engagement with them leads to reflection about the kind of lives their owners actually lived,” says Jane.

“Bringing their creative vision to common, everyday objects, the poets imagine the lives and feelings of their owners. Through their words, we are reminded that our predecessors in Norwich are not just “old Vermonters” but individuals as complex and thoughtful, as hurt and hopeful, as we,” explains Jane. “A woman robbed of an exciting career, a couple bereft of their son, children abandoned by their father, joy in the land—all these emotions are as real today as they were then. Because these feelings connect us to our past in a way that is deeply personal, they also demystify the past, bringing it closer and making it more understandable.”

Jane credits Nancy Osgood, “who knows more about the NHS collections than anybody else and who was the poets’ historical muse, leading them through the Lewis House collections until they found just the right thing,” and Margery Cantor, “a local printmaker who artfully set the poems for printing.”

“In some indefinable way, objects from the past help us to pass through a door, to open our minds to different ways of being. History is important because it provides an important context for understanding the present. I believe this exhibit will help our community better envision their shared past,” Jane adds, “I think these poems are moving and artful, worth knowing on literary grounds alone!”

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