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Local poet helps celebrate National Poetry Month

April 13, 2011
While Gilford resident Kelley White wears several different hats within the community, she is also considered an established poet, and draws from a variety of different elements when sewing together a string of poems.

In honor of National Poetry Month this April, White is in the process of planning a four-week-long poetry workshop, "Lifelines," in Gilford, while wrangling some of her newest work at the same time.

White grew up in Gilford, and attended Dartmouth College and Harvard Medical School. After years in rural New Hampshire, White practiced pediatrics at a community health center in an inner city community for 25 years.

Her three children often spent their summers in Gilford, visiting grandparents, although years back, White decided it was time to make the move back to her home town for good after her youngest daughter entered her college years.

"I lived in Philadelphia, yet I negotiated a bit and had summers off, so my two daughters and son had time here. My kids learned to swim at Gilford Town Beach and played hockey and tennis. They have a real attachment to New Hampshire," said White, whose mother still resides in Gilford.

She is now a pediatrician at Mid-State-Health in Plymouth, and believes abuse and poverty issues up in northern New Hampshire are as prevalent as the issues seen in Philadelphia, and devotes much of her time to this cause.

Since relocating, White has delved into her poetry even more, which started as more of a therapeutic experience in her younger years, and has developed into a finely tuned craft in her adult years. Her experience as a mother venturing off on her own, as a doctor, and as a proud owner of a historical home in Gilford with an interesting history have all contributed to her identity as a poet.

"I'll write about my experience as a pediatrician and some of the things I have seen. I write about relationships, pastoral poems, and I also experiment," said White. "I lived in the inner city for 25 years, and Plymouth for two and a half years; I have seen people as every bit as challenged and in poverty here, except there is also the problem of snow and isolation on top of poverty up north."

She is persistent in her endeavors, and is currently working four days a week at the health center and also working on five different manuscripts in hopes to add another new book to her hundreds upon hundreds of published poems.

While many of White's poems are published in small journals and chapbooks, she has also received national recognition for her work and made strong connections in the field of writing and poetry as a woman with more than one trick up her sleeve.

"I am always doing poetry submissions, and take workshops as much as I can. Poetry is the most limited but fulfilling endeavor," said White. "I've had the opportunity to publish often. While I am published in some very small journals, I love to publish, since I have made connections to people from all over the world."

While she has published thousands of poems in various journals, her two most recent poetry books, "Toxic Environment" and "Two Birds in Flame," show off some of her latest work. "Toxic" focuses on White's experience in the medical field, while "Two Birds" follows a Shaker theme.

"I am most excited about 'Flame' my latest published book. It's about the Shakers who lived in Canterbury," said White. "I wrote what you would call 'received poems' in the form of things other than poems, such as letters, recipes, and catalogues."

In her latest book, focused on Shakers, White also writes a persona poem about a female beekeeper in the community, which struck her interest. She said she was flattered to find out that one of her colleagues used her latest book as a "starting point" in class, and asked students to respond to her poetry with their own poems demonstrating that poetry has no limits.

A few years back, White also published "A Gilford Offering," a chapbook devoted to the history and past faces of her historic home on Belknap Mountain Road in Gilford.

A prior owner of the same home came across an unpublished manuscript written by Alvah F. Hunter, which gave way to a new perspective on this historic home, where Hunter once lived. His manuscript served as the inspiration for a collection of White's poems, fittingly written within the same house, overlooking the historic Meetinghouse.

"I also take every opportunity I can to study poetry. There are a lot of people who do poetry in a lot of different ways," said White, who has a large collection of poetry books written by local poets, such as Scott Hutchison, both famous and unheard of poets.

While some of her more experimental, edgy work can only be described as "wild," when it comes to the actual act of writing, White reduces her work down to its smallest element, and eliminates all but the "bare bones" in her work in order to get to the point of the story.

"If you write too much, you could lose something along the way. A poem has truth, and you must find it by bringing it down to the smallest piece possible," said White.

She has also been published in anthologies devoted to physicians, and believes there is a strong correlation between doctors and poets. A published poem in a medical anthology, "Body Language," also gave her a "claim to fame," and happened to be one of the first poems she ever had accepted by an elite publishing company.

For the past 12-15 years, White has devoted her life to medical work, to her children, and to writing about her life experiences and experimenting with her interests through the lens of poetry.

Poetry is dear to White's heart, although she is also a strong advocate for homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health all prominent issues in New Hampshire. To help battle these issues and raise awareness, White works closely with the Bridge House shelter in Plymouth, Genesis Behavioral Health, and CADY, Communities for Alcohol and Drug-Free Youth.

White's four week poetry workshop, "Lifelines," will be held at the Gilford Public Library from April 27 May 18. Those interested in pursuing poetry are welcomed to sign up for the workshop, which has lots of surprising in store for its participants.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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