For decades this group of writers has gathered annually to celebrate new work and publications as the New Pastoral Poets. These award-winning writers have been anthologized in China for over a decade including a book On the Monadnock: The New American Pastoral Poets (Chinese Drama Press: Beijing, 2006). They have spent decades staying true to language written beneath the shadow of the mountain Emerson, Thoreau and Kinnell made famous—Mount Monadnock.

Please join us for the annual gathering of the Monadnock New Pastoral Poets as they host their weekend poetry retreat at the Barbara C. Harris Conference Center in Greenfield, NH. The weekend will be low-key, collegial, but full with small group (6 maximum) workshops (a primary workshop which meets twice and an optional single  session secondary workshop that meets once), an individual conference with mentors, readings by participants, writing time, social time, optional activities such as Saturday night acoustic music by The Grumbling Rustics. The conference concludes with the 30th annual reading of mentors followed by a closing banquet.

There will also be opportunity to enjoy the almost 350 acres of hiking trails at the Harris Center on Otter Lake. See:

When Poets Play Baseball

by Clair Degutis

B.C. Harris Center ballfield.  Credit: Robert Steele
It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.” A. Bartlett Giamatti, Green Fields of the Mind.

Spring comes late to the soggy fields by Otter Lake
a rough diamond expanse of scruffy turf rimmed by gravel lane
and off a bit more a copse of seen-better-days restless, pines
where wild turkeys strut off to gobble in the woodsy bleachers

The lonesome songs of loons who have flown in with a splash
serenade poets coming to roost in their lakeside cabin rest spots
waterfowl are at water’s edge weaving, mounding sedge nests
poets are selecting their words with eye towards their best

Soon small groups of poets will gather in circles to read
critique and parse words in a serious manner  (indeed)
with edits in the making the readers choose readings
no peanuts or popcorn no beer but it is words for the servings

When the poems have been heard and rains cease for a stretch
it is late in the day when John and Rodger bring out the bats
wood and metal clang roll out on the grass near last patch of snow
with flutter of few ragged moths, a few rolling moth balls

tumbling from Rodger’s old canvas bag they clatter en masse
sequestered from last year’s opening day free-for-all
John opens his car trunk to find his glove and bat
leather scribed with his poem gifted by a daughter’s hand

Along with his special “big league” bat John and Jim warm up, play catch
then sorted we are – catcher, pitcher – first-up-to-bat we choose up positions
roll back infield tarp and mark out our bases and head to outfield – right,
center, left, with infield now covered our game begins with a crack of the bat

When Henry sends a splendid-splinter, high-fly over the fence
notes a Prairie Warbler singing somewhere off to the east
next up Claire avec “e” lines a drive right by pitcher Rodger
she heads for first base while on-deck John bat-in-hand steps up to the plate

With a sultan of swat success, he hits a deep right center field dinger
all base runners tag up and rack up some numbers
Clair sans “e” swings and whiffs, whiffs  yet again, finally
she connects bat with ball in a joy in Mudville-ness event

She runs in earnest and makes it safe at first base
her sneakers digging sod deep as with Seamus Heaney’s pen
at the seventh inning stretch positions all change up and
we all pause to remember those before us who have played, won and/or lost

When the poets play baseball, it is once again opening day
bringing another year with remembrance and promise of play
it is turning point time as past becomes present as we write, as we run bases
“how ‘bout those Red Sox” and tip our caps  to Diane and Rodger

as we ring in another spring season and
hopes for a few more years with extra innings

Clair Degutis, 2011