A new year is often seen as a time of new beginnings. This new year marked the beginning of a new position in the town of Andover that will enrich the arts community: The first-ever Andover poet laureate has been named.
“We received many more applications than we had anticipated,” said Leslie Seaton Malis, co-chair of the Andover Poet Laureate Council, which worked in partnership with the Andover Board of Selectmen and Town Manager Andrew Flanagan to select the inaugural candidate.
“We narrowed the pool down to six semifinalists and interviewed each one. We were struck by the caliber of their work and diverse abilities, as well as their energy and enthusiasm. Clearly poetry is alive and thriving in Andover,” she added.
After an intense selection process, Linda Flaherty Haltmaier was chosen for the position.
“Ms. Haltmaier was a natural choice," Malis said. "The quality of her work and her vision for this newly created role was a perfect fit.”
Haltmaier herself is quite excited for this new venture.
“I was elated when I heard the news. So often, I’m cloistered in my little world, rat-a-tatting and scribbling in solitude. This will be a great opportunity to emerge from my writing cocoon and share my love for poetry," she said.
“I think that making poetry a part of the fabric of daily life is paramount. ... I want to take poetry out of the ivory tower and into the streets. You shouldn’t need a thesaurus or an advanced degree to appreciate a poem. There is poetry to meet people right where they are.”
She was an easy pick for the council in filling the honorary, unpaid position. A Harvard University graduate who lives in Andover with her husband and daughter, Haltmeier is an award-winning poet and screenwriter whose works have appeared in various journals and anthologies. She was awarded the Homebound Publications Poetry Prize for her collection Rolling up the Sky (2016) and is a former Princemere Poetry Prize finalist. Most recently, Haltmeier was named a finalist for the 2017 Pushcart Prize in Poetry.
During her two-year term, Haltmaier will work locally to share her body of work and integrate poetry into the community. As poet laureate, she will conduct readings, attend public events, and participate in programs at local schools.
“I’m most excited about re-casting poetry in the public eye, re-introducing people to the beauty of poetry. I think poetry’s time has come… There is so much noise and content with so little of value being said right now. We’re drowning in words but we crave meaning and beauty—and brevity––and poetry can give us all of that.”
She also looks forward to working in local schools: “Once students realize that songs and poetry are linked, it opens them up to an art form they may have otherwise ignored.”
Poetry has long been a part of Andover’s story, as Haltmaier pointed out.
“Anne Bradstreet, the first woman poet published in the U.S., walked this town’s roads over 300 years ago… I’m humbled to be a part of that legacy!” As inaugural poet laureate for the town, she will have the opportunity to continue writing that story and create a legacy all her own.