Brockton Public Library Celebrates Poetry

Brockton, Massachusetts is known as the City of Champions because boxing champions, like Rocky Marciano and Marvin Hagler, hail from the South Shore town. Brockton is also home of one of the most extensive public libraries in the state. First established in 1867 with a collection of about 600 books, it is now comprised of three separate buildings, serving the community of roughly 100,000 with book lending, reference resources, and bilingual and outreach programs.

On Saturday the sixteenth, in celebration of National Poetry Month in April, the Brockton Public Library hosted poetry readings, sponsored by the Greater Brockton Society for Poetry and the Arts, Inc. Against a backdrop of artwork by the Boys & Girls Club of Brockton, the free event began at noon with an instructional workshop, facilitated by local author Colleen Roberts. At 2:15 pm, twenty-five participants, ranging in age from 18 to 70, read during an open microphone segment. The program culminated at 3:30 pm with poets Diana Der-Hovanessian and Victor Howes reading from their work. Mr. Howes replaced Franklin D’Olier Reeve, an academic, poet, and Russian translator, who withdrew due to illness.

Ms. Der-Hovanessian, the president of the New England Poetry Club, twice a Fulbright professor of American poetry abroad, opened her reading with “Requiem for Remembrance,” written by the late Frank Miller, one of the original organizers of the library’s poetry series. She continued with a blend of upbeat pieces, closing with the poem “The Secret Of Friendship,” a humorous look at the history of New England.

Mr. Howes, now a Boston resident, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. With a Ph.D. from Yale University, he has taught English literature at various New England colleges. His poems have appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, and The Classical Outlook. He began with “Molehole Madness,” a commentary about the environment, and included “Lost Cello,” a love letter to the instrument.

Many public libraries throughout the commonwealth held similar literary events in April, but the library in Brockton presents a poetry experience once a month. The standing room only series, created by library director Harry R. Williams, and driven by the leadership of Philip Hasouris, Frank Miller, and Arnie Danielson, has been running continuously since 2004. Commenting on the role of the arts, Mr. Danielson said, “The more cultural programs we have, the more it defines us as a community.”

This month, on Saturday the 21st, the library welcomes poets January G. O’Neil and Bert Stern. Ms. O’Neil was featured in Poets & Writers magazine’s January/February 2010 Inspiration issue as one of its 12 debut poets, while Mr. Stern has been nominated four times for a Pushcart Prize, and is the recipient of an Artist’s Grant from the Somerville Arts Council.

Designed by Nathaniel C. Smith of New Bedford, Massachusetts, and dedicated in June 1913, Brockton Public Library was constructed of brick and limestone, with an interior finish of white marble and quartered oak, and skylights for natural lighting. In 1941, Fritz Fuglister, commissioned by the WPA (Works Projects Administration), painted a four-wall mural depicting the history of books and printing. During the two-year, $12.1 million renovation and expansion (2001-2003), the original design elements, including the skylights that were blocked for years, were cleared and the library was doubled in size, upgrading technology and adding meeting space. Local artist John Arapoff restored Fuglister’s mural.