Throughout September in Easthampton, Massachusetts you can look for poetry in unexpected places.
Current Easthampton Poet Laureate Carolyn Cushing’s poetry pamphlet—aka chapbook—City Poets will be popping up in unusual venues in the city throughout the month. Containing 10 poems by the five individuals who have served as Poet Laureates so far, City Poets is free—a gift for the people of Easthampton and anyone who stumbles across the bright-green-covered chapbook.
If you want to be assured of finding copies, visit Big E’s starting September 11th and look for them in the Deli/Bakery Department.
There will also be a brief reading by some of the Poet Laureates in the Big E’s parking lot on Thursday, September 14 from 6-6:30 pm as part of Easthampton’s monthly Art Walk. The reading will happen in sun or light rain (under a small tent) but be canceled if there is a deluge or lightning. Bring a chair or plan to stand.
If you want alerts about places to look for City Poets later in the month, you are invited to sign up for Carolyn Cushing’s poetry alert list at soulpathsanctuary.com/poetry
The Easthampton Poet Laureate Program was founded by Easthampton City Arts in 2018 in an effort to highlight and elevate the rich and vital community of poets and culture of poetry in the City of Easthampton and throughout the Connecticut River Valley. In 2019, the Easthampton Poet Laureate program transitioned from a 1-year term to a 2-year term. The five Laureates are:
Gary Metras, 2018 – 2019
María José Giménez, 2019 – 2021
Jason R. Montgomery, 2021 – 2023
Alexandra M. Woolner, 2021 – 2023
Carolyn A. Cushing, 2023 – 2025
Middlebury College’s Special Collections Department blog describes the chapbook’s origins: “[C]hapbooks go back to 16th century Europe, when printing technology began to democratize. Books had long been the preserve of the wealthy, who possessed both the education and means necessary to read them. This changed, however, when the increasing accessibility of paper and printing presses made it feasible for unbound books of eight or twelve pages to be sold for a penny or less.”
Chapbooks shared ballads, folk tales and epics as well as political and moral ideas with broad audiences. Its popularity ebbed and flowed influenced by printing technology and economics of the mediums for sharing information. In the 20th century chapbooks became associated with the sharing of poetry through both elaborately- and simply- produced booklets. City Poets flows from this lineage.