Ten Valley residents attended “Release your inner poet,” a free workshop led by local poets Susan Bauchner and Sally Reisner at the Warren Public Library this week. The Sunday, March 13, workshop kicked off the Warren, Waitsfield and Moretown libraries’ participation in the statewide community reading program, Vermont Reads, coordinated by the Vermont Humanities Council. The book selected for this year’s Vermont Reads program is the young adult novel “We Contain Multitudes” by Sarah Henstra. Vermonters are encouraged to read the book and participate in discussions, workshops and events throughout the state related to its themes.


Sunday’s workshop was the first of a series of free events libraries in The Valley will host related to the book and writing. Upcoming events include a screening of Bess O’Brien’s original Vermont teen musical “Listen Up!” at the Valley Players Theater on Friday, March 25, at 6:30 p.m.; a program at the Moretown Memorial Library with Outright VT exploring the live experiences of LGBTQ+ youth on Thursday, April 14, at 6:30 p.m.; and a poetry slam at the Waitsfield United Church of Christ on Friday, April 29, at 6:30 p.m. with slam master Geof Hewitt.

Poetry plays an important role in “We Contain Multitudes,” whose title comes from a Walt Whitman poem. At Sunday’s event, Bauchner and Reisner, both longstanding members of the Vermont Poetry Society, shared their own work, read former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins’ poem “To My Favorite 17-year-old high school girl,” talked about poetic forms and structure and led a brainstorming session on poetic themes to write about. There was time for writing and sharing work. Participants ranged in age from a seventh grader to grandparents. Experience with poetry and publication varied.

“The best poems are ones that come from emotional times,” Reisner said, after she read a poem about her husband’s cancer diagnosis. She encouraged writers to pay attention to details to make their poems come alive and experiment with different forms.

Laura Brines, Waitsfield, attended Sunday’s workshop. The first poetry workshop she had participated in was run by the tri-town libraries as part of a pandemic project. The librarians compiled a collection of Valley residents’ writings into a booklet, “A Year of its Own: A Mad River Valley Pandemic Story Project.” Brines read her work at a reading for the project at Toast and Eggs in Waitsfield in the fall. Now, she returned to write new poems. “This kind of opportunity, I just feel like it really pushes those of us who are wanting to dig deeper into writing to do it,” she said. “There’s something about the power of being together with these wonderful facilitators and poets.”

“We look forward to having more poetry workshops in our libraries,” Reisner said.