Publisher: Talentpool | Publishers

There is a running joke that you can’t throw a rock without hitting a writer in Vermont.

We are, as a state, blessed to have so many talented wordsmiths per capita. It makes for interesting conversations in local coffee shops and independent bookstores.

April is National Poetry Month, and Vermont tends to do it up in style. Montpelier converts its downtown into PoemCity, a living display of poems. It also hosts a number of workshops and events devoted to writing and poetry. That creative spirit carries over into PoemTown in Randolph, where a similar tribute is paid to the state’s writers.

Throw into the mix other events at locations — schools, libraries, salons, even public access television shows — devoted to poetry.

A month devoted to poetry provides the ideal opportunity to engage young readers with rhythm, rhyme and recitation. According to media journalist Robin Pizzo, “Poetry is often considered not complex enough to strengthen reading skills; however, poems are perfect for the task simply because children enjoy them and can easily memorize them.”

She goes on, “For young learners to become better readers, they need to develop visualization skills, a proficiency in word recognition, information recall, automaticity and an ability to comprehend beyond the literal. A good poem provides opportunities to practice these strategies because of its creative content and limited text structure. … Challenge yourself to read or write a new poem each day with a child this month. Then continue to have fun with poetry all year long to help children become better readers.”

Consult with your local library for some poetry recommendations, or visit Montpelier and enjoy hundreds of poems posted around downtown.

But there is prose to celebrate, too.

Earlier this month, the Vermont Department of Libraries, Vermont Humanities, and Vermont College of Fine Arts announced the finalists for the 2021 Vermont Book Awards.

Created by VCFA in 2014, the award is now a collaborative effort between the three organizations and celebrates works of outstanding literary merit by Vermont writers. This year’s award honors books published in 2021.

According to a news release on the awards, independent Vermont booksellers, as well as publishers and readers, nominated books for consideration. Nine judges chose finalists in three genres — creative nonfiction, fiction and poetry — from 50 nominations.

The poetry finalists are Stephen Cramer for “Disintegration Loops”; Shanta Lee Gander for “GHETTOCLAUSTROPHOBIA: Dreamin’ of Mama While Trying to Speak Woman in Woke Tongues”; and Kerrin McCadden for “American Wake.” McCadden won previously for another work of poetry, “Landscapes with Plywood Silhouettes.”

The creative nonfiction finalists are Alison Bechdel for “The Secret to Superhuman Strength”; Kimberly Harrington for “But You Seemed So Happy: A Marriage, in Pieces and Bits”; Kekla Magoon for “Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People”; and Alexander Wolff for “Endpapers: A Family Story of Books, War, Escape and Home.”

The fiction finalists are Melanie Finn for “The Hare,” Brad Kessler for “North,” Nathaniel Ian Miller for “The Memoirs of Stockholm Sven” and Ricardo Wilson for “An Apparent Horizon and Other Stories.”

The 2021 winners will be announced at the Vermont Book Award celebration, held at 7 pm Saturday, April 30, at the VCFA campus in Montpelier. (The event is hosted by Vermont Humanities, which will also reveal their choice for Vermont Reads 2022, their one-book community reading program, during the evening.)

Likewise, libraries across Vermont have many of these nominees (and past winners) in their collections. With so much inspiration around us all year, it should be no surprise just how talented Vermont’s pool of writers truly is.

One piece of advice though — even if Vermont does have an abundance of writers, it’s almost always better to read them than to throw rocks at them.


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