A Townie Experience: Poetry Out Loud

ˈtounē ˌikˈspirēəns – (compound noun) one’s witnessing locally the humble intersection of age, profession, and political persuasion, which evokes a latent appreciation for one’s hometown

Have you had any “townie experiences” lately?

Their elusiveness lies in their familiarity. In other words, the most organic townie experiences are the most ordinary: when the camaraderie at the local diner percolates as predictably as the coffee; when the cheering at a dusty, sun-bleached baseball game crescendos into that goose-pimpling fight song. Whatever the occasion, it demands a surrender to the simple hallmarks of New Hampshire’s communities; their endearing modesty; their transcendent appeal.

Here’s the story of my latest townie experience:

It’s a blustery, winter’s night in downtown, Laconia. Neighbors, families, and friends stomp their boots and beat their hats, as they enter Wayfarer Coffee Roasters. The hissing and the tamping of espresso machines are drowned by the din of anticipatory chatter. From the street, the coffee shop appears as a painting influenced by Norman Rockwell’s wholesome mirth: rosy cheeked patrons ensconced in the warmest hues, embraced by the hardiest hugs, and unaware, each, of his or her unadulterated winsomeness.

This is Laconia High School’s first Poetry Out Loud event. Poetry Out Loud is a recitation contest established by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation. Students recite canonized poems, and their recitations are judged on their delivery and accuracy. By winning both local and regional competitions, students earn spots in the State Competition—and from there, the National Competition! Sizable college scholarships are awarded to students, who excel in both the state and national contests.

The high school’s English Department is co-hosting the event with Stand Up Laconia, a local altruistic organization that combats substance abuse. In a city, where heroin- and Fentanyl-related overdoses occur with alarming frequency, the organization’s work is crucial. Together, Laconia High School and Stand Up Laconia are promoting safe and educational alternatives to drug abuse. And Wayfarer Coffee Roasters—with its exquisite espresso drinks and charming décor—is the perfect venue.

Students recite from memory poems by Yeats, Dickinson, and the like. And as I prepare to announce the night’s winner, I see from the stage that humble intersection: a hundred-or-so attendees—siblings sitting crisscross-applesauce and parents stifling proud smiles—awaiting with bated breath the results.

How often does our collective interest in the safety, education, and wellbeing of our communities’ young people supersede our demographic differences?

My townie experience reaffirmed in me this belief: the people of New Hampshire’s communities are truly one of its greatest assets.

What’s your townie experience? Share it with me—or better yet, send me an invite! And I’ll be sure to celebrate it in an upcoming blog post!

If you or someone you know would like to be profiled, then contact me at townies@stayworkplay.org. Let’s continue to celebrate our living New Hampshire!

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