Alice Fogel, New Hampshire Poet Laureate
Alice B. Fogel seems the perfect choice to be the state’s new poet laureate. A lecturer in the Keene State College English Department, Fogel is nationally known as a poet – her most recent poetry collection, Be That Empty, spent four weeks on the National Poetry Society’s bestseller list – and also as a kind of ambassador for the art form. Her 2009 book, Strange Terrain: A Poetry Handbook for the Reluctant Reader, based on a program she created for the New Hampshire Humanities Council, is aimed at helping people feel more comfortable with poetry.
“Alice Fogel’s work makes poetry more accessible for all people, helping convey the human relationship to the natural world in a way that all poetry readers can appreciate,” Governor Maggie Hassan said in a statement. “I am excited for her to serve as New Hampshire’s next poet laureate and am confident that she will help build on the Granite State’s rich poetic history.” Hassan formally nominated Fogel to the post at the Governor’s Arts Awards November 6; the state Executive Council ratified the appointment November 20.
Fogel, a resident of Acworth, hopes to bring that experience to other residents of the state during her five-year term. “New Hampshire has a great history of nurturing the arts,” she says. “I’m thrilled to have benefited from some of that support, and to be able to do my part in sharing it with others. I hope to bring more readers to the many good poets in New Hampshire and beyond.”
The poet laureate job is an honorary position that comes with no specified duties, though a laureate may be asked to craft a poem to accompany an official occasion like a gubernatorial inauguration. Most use the opportunity to raise the visibility of poetry and poets in the state, through programs like reading series, an online showcase of poems by New Hampshire writers, and a conference of all the US state poets laureate.
Fogel replaces Walter Butts, who died in March in the middle of his term. Previous poets laureate have included Patricia Fargnoli, Cynthia Huntington, Marie Harris, Donald Hall, Jane Kenyon, and Maxine Kumin.
“From my own experience,” says Fogel, “I believe that literature provides an opportunity to deepen and broaden our relationships to others, to ourselves, to the natural world, to history, time, and the mystery of being alive. In particular the language of poetry isn’t only the translation or expression of experience; the language of poetry is experience. When we read or listen to the exploded moment of a poem, our only limits to experience are in our abilities to set ourselves aside and bring empathy there instead.”