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N.H. poet laureate named

Published February 9, 2004; Category: ARTS & SCIENCES

Author Cynthia Huntington to serve five-year term
Cynthia Huntington
Cynthia Huntington

Dartmouth poet and Professor of English Cynthia Huntington will become New Hampshire's new poet laureate on March 22, succeeding Marie Harris of Barrington. The Governor's Executive Council approved the five-year appointment on Jan. 21 following nominations from the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and Gov. Craig Benson.

Huntington, chair of the creative writing program at Dartmouth, is the author of three books of poetry and one of prose. Her other honors in recent years include the Four Way Books Levis Prize for Poetry in 2001 and the 1998 New Hampshire Writers' Project Jane Kenyon Award for Outstanding Book of Poetry. She also has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Hampshire Arts Council, The MacDowell Colony and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland, among others.

Although the poet laureate position is largely honorary, with no pay or specific duties, its existence reinforces the importance of poetry and communicates support of artistic endeavors in the state, said Huntington.

"Poetry is one of the last noncommodifiable resources. It exists outside our market economy," she said, noting that publishing poetry is rarely a profitable venture. "The appetite to find meaning outside the market is huge." If the popularity of master's programs in writing is a measure, then the number of people writing poetry today is "astronomical."

"There's a tendency today to see art and poetry as irrelevant or unnecessary, which is why having an advocate for poetry is so important," said Provost Barry Scherr. "When you look at Cynthia's accomplishments and the commitment she has shown to her creative work for more than 20 years, it's easy to see why Governor Benson and the Poetry Society selected her to be that advocate."

"Dartmouth has such a distinguished creative writing program, with faculty who are always doing amazing things."

- Cynthia Huntington

Associate Dean for the Humanities Lenore Grenoble also praised Huntington's appointment.

"I don't think the students who have taken classes with Cynthia would be surprised at her appointment - they've seen first hand how generous and talented she is and how generous with her time. Her new role as poet laureate will allow her to share those qualities with a broader audience," Grenoble said. "I think she will serve the state well as an advocate for poetry and the humanities."

Huntington has not decided what her agenda will be as poet laureate, but is considering expanding projects she is already involved in, such as working with adult learners and appearing at poetry readings around the state. She also is considering an artist exchange with other states.

Originally from western Pennsylvania, Huntington joins the ranks of several past poets laureate, including Donald Hall, Maxine Kumin and Richard Eberhardt, who were not native New Hampshirites. However, she has been active in arts-related organizations around the state for several years, serving as trustee of the New Hampshire Writers' Project and working with the state Council on the Humanities, among others.

"A lot of people in the arts and writing are drawn to New Hampshire because of the lifestyle and the landscape. It's not just that they happened to grow up here; they chose to be here," she said. "I think, in that way, this is a very cosmopolitan place."

While honored by the poet laureate title, Huntington pointed out that the state - and the College - are rich with writing talent.

"This certainly doesn't mean I'm the best poet in the state.... Dartmouth has such a distinguished creative writing program, with faculty who are always doing amazing things. I think this is just one more in an unending series of awards that our faculty has earned," she said.

By TAMARA STEINERT

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Last Updated: 12/17/08