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John Greenleaf Whitter 200th Birthday Bash! - nhpeacenik
John Greenleaf Whitter 200th Birthday Bash!
As soon as I heard that poet John Greenleaf Whittier's 200th birthday was going to be celebrated with a 24-hour poetry vigil from noon Sunday to noon Monday, December 17 at his birthplace in Haverhill Massachusetts, I knew I desperately wanted to be there.

Whittier has been one of my favorite poets since my teenage years when I was introduced to his work at Moses Brown School in Providence, Rhode Island. Moses Brown was a Quaker school, and Whittier had written several poems in honor of it, one of which had been set to music as the school song.

One of Whittier's most famous poems was Snowbound, in which he describes a childhood experience of being snowed in during a major blizzard, along with family members and visitors, so it was poetic justice that the event was "cancelled" due to a blizzard.

But wait, it wasn't actually cancelled. The notice said that the poetry vigil was "cancelled while a travel advisory exists", and that phrase was ambiguous, since the term "travel advisory" did not seem to be an official term that anyone was using. On Monday morning, after dropping my daughter off at work in snowy, pastoral Lyndeborough New Hampshire, I steered slick, snow-narrowed roads all the way to Haverhill, and (miracle of miracles) found a little knot of poets gathered around a blazing fire in the stone fireplace of the homestead, which is now a museum.
 There had been a signup sheet for readers, and, as I hadn't signed up, I guessed I would just listen to other people read.

But I was wrong! The last scheduled reader was just finishing up as I arrived, and I got to read some of my favorites, including The Eternal Goodness and the celebratory anti-slavery poem New Hampshire.  Then we had a reading and discussion of the poem Kenoza Lake.

I am grateful to have had the chance to be there. The local newspaper said, erroneously, that the whole event had been cancelled except for the serving of a 450-pound birthday cake at the local public library later that day. I had to be in Lowell, so I missed the cake, but I think I had the better part of the bargain. I hope that the museum director posts some interesting pictures and commentary at a later date.

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