Unique book of poems brings community together

By Martha Marteney-Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Thu., Mar. 31, 2011
Town Councilor Cary Prague, Elaine Burnham, Tracy Anderson, Sheryl O'Connor, Mayor John Pelkey, Kathryn Kelly and Valerie Marinucci listen, as Maria Carvahlo reads her poem, 'Summer's End,' at the book launch for "South Windsor Voices, A Collection of Poetry." Photos by Martha Marteney.
Town Councilor Cary Prague, Elaine Burnham, Tracy Anderson, Sheryl O'Connor, Mayor John Pelkey, Kathryn Kelly and Valerie Marinucci listen, as Maria Carvahlo reads her poem, 'Summer's End,' at the book launch for "South Windsor Voices, A Collection of Poetry." Photos by Martha Marteney.

After 14 months of hard work and creativity, "South Windsor Voices, A Collection of Poetry" has been published, and a book launch and reception was held on March 27 at the South Windsor Public Library. South Windsor resident Jim Dina provided music for the event.

The process began shortly after John Pelkey became the newly-elected mayor of South Windsor and invited Charlie Margolis to be South Windsor’s poet laureate. A steering committee of 15 volunteers took on the task of organizing Margolis’ idea for a poetry book written by members of the South Windsor community. It is believed that this is the first-ever book community poetry book, and it is hoped that the process will become a model for other communities to follow.

“It’s been a terrific group effort,” said steering committee member Pat Greaves, who also acknowledged the support the project received from so many groups of people in the community.

Community members were invited to submit their poetry, which was then reviewed for content and form by Colin Haskins and Elizabeth Thomas. According to Margolis, everyone who submitted a poem had at least one published in the book. The reviewers then selected 14 poems to be read by the authors at the book launch and reception.

Sixteen-year-old Benjamin Firsick has been writing poetry for seven years, inspired by his grandmother writing children’s books. He read his poem, Fishing, which spoke to the importance of process and enjoying the journey. His line “Fishing isn’t catching, it’s fishing,” seemed to resonate with the audience.

Kathryn Keller served as the book editor. She explained that she laid the book out to carry the reader on a journey, the different sections of the book representing all the aspects of the human experience. She selected Valerie Marinucci’s Follow the Road to begin the book with its serious, yet uplifting tone.

“It’s been a wonderful journey,” said steering committee member Cile Decker. “It’s so rewarding that people came out to support the arts in town.” She noted that the important thing about art is that it puts things into perpetuity, such as a poem that can be read over and over again.

On the book’s cover is a pen-and-ink drawing by Tracy Anderson, with additional illustrations also by Joan Warnick and five grade school children who are students at the Connecticut Art School. Although the artists worked independently from each other and did not know the content of the poems, Anderson said the artwork complimented the poetry. “It was a community-building project,” she said, “because art levels the playing field.”

“Poetry can be so many things for so many people,” noted Margolis. The South Windsor Voices poets were young and old, unpublished and published, first-time writers and those who have written for years, never thinking there would be an opportunity to share their words with others. Elaine Burnham wrote The Dentist 40 years ago, never imagining her funny tale would be published.

Cary Prague said he writes his political-humor poems in “ironic pentameter,” while Maria Carvahlo’s Summer’s End read more like prose. In Mama’s Gift, Lillian Handleman tells a powerful story of the gift of reading. Former librarian Rita Human read her rhyming poem And Marvin Makes the Kugel, and Rita Hyman used musical alliteration to describe the singing of birds in Harmony in B Flat. Together, Clair and Bonnie Silverman read their children’s poem, The Flea, The Green Giraffe and Me, which they wrote together 25 years ago.

Some of the poems dealt seriously with life’s more sensitive issues. Pelkey shared his personal experience of being laid off and Dolores Lawler reflected on the passing of time. Steve Straight’s touching tale of the burial of General Lee, a friend’s cat, brought most of the audience to the brink of tears. With spring in the air, people related to Pat Sprengelmeyer’s Night Drive and also related to Beverly Titus’ recollection on the Mill on the River and early fishing days. The final poem in the book, Early Macs by Charlie Margolis, brought us back to autumn and our childhood.

Sheryl O’Connor, president of South Windsor Cultural Arts, noted that in past times, artists were the heroes of the community. “I’m very proud of and supportive of the arts in the community,” she said, noting availability of all types of art at the South Windsor Public Library and the Wood Memorial Library, as well as the strong art programs in the schools.

Librarian Mary Etter noted that there will be additional poetry readings at the library and at the summer concerts at Evergreen Walk. Speaking about the book launch and reception.  “Poetry draws together 175 people to listen to the power of the written word,” she said.


A complimentary copy of "South Windsor Voices, A Collection of Poetry" was given to each poet and artist. The book will be on sale at the South Windsor Public Library and at the Wood Memorial Library. The cost is $10, and checks should be made out to South Windsor Community Foundation/South Windsor Voices. For more information, visit the website swfoundation.org.



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