The Plymouth Poetry Contest took place in 2020, with poets asked to submit poems about Plymouth, historic or contemporary, in any form or style.
The poems chosen as winners were printed in a limited-edition series by Kat LiBretto at Inky Hands Print Studio & Gallery in downtown Plymouth, where we hosted a reading and had the poets autograph the prints.
Plymouth’s first poet laureate starts tenure with poetry contest
PLYMOUTH — Born and raised in Plymouth, 37-year-old writer Stephan Delbos is well-suited for the town’s new position of poet laureate. Now, he’s working to inspire the rest of the town to take up the pen as well.
“It feels like I’ve been training or leading up to this forever, in a sense,” he said. “It’s an honor and a privilege. I’ve been writing and publishing poetry and literature for more than a decade, and Plymouth has always been really central in my creative outlook and been inspiring to me.”
After studying English and then poetry at Providence College and then New England College, Delbos moved to Prague, earning his doctorate in American Literature and Culture at Charles University. He’s worked as teacher, translator, playwright and editor, on top of publishing two books of poetry.
So when he saw the town was creating a poet laureate position in honor of the its 400th anniversary last November, he was thrilled and eagerly applied. The town first narrowed the candidates down to four, and after a poetry reading with the finalists at the Plymouth Public Library in February, Delbos was ultimately selected for the two-year position.
“I’ve traveled a lot — traveled all around the world, lived in a lot of different places. And Plymouth has always been the place that I’ve called my first home, my deepest home,” he said.
As poet laureate, Delbos is tasked with writing about Plymouth and getting others engaged with the town in a creative way. He said he’s excited to be able to serve the town through poetry, and is already representing it internationally by planning a partnership with the poet laureate of Plymouth, England.
Delbos said one of his main goals is to engage the community to write and create in conjunction with local business. His first effort to do so is a poetry contest he’s holding this month that challenges citizens to write poems that engage with Plymouth in a significant way. The winner will receive a hand-printed broadsheet version of the poem from Inky Hands Print Studio and Gallery that will also be available for viewing and purchasing at the studio.
What might that poem look like? Well, Delbos said the submissions could end up looking very different. He said a poem could focus on a personal experience in the town from someone who grew up there or someone just visiting, it could take a look at a historic figure or event important to the town, or even go over the town’s 400 years of history.
“It could be a four-line poem — a beautiful, short, condensed kind of moment. It could be a 40-page poem that’s bringing in history and all different events,” he said. “That’s the magic of poetry. It’s a huge umbrella and there’s so many styles and approaches that fall under it.”
Delbos said even in the past few weeks in his new role, he’s heard incredible stories from residents about their, sometimes generations-long, background with the town.
“What I’m most excited about is seeing these different stories and people’s relationship with Plymouth,” he said.
Delbos is encouraging poets of all ages to submit their work, and said there could even be a separate student category if enough students apply. No experience is needed.
“It doesn’t matter what your literary background is. It’s just about the poem on the page,” he said.
But no matter who wins, Delbos said this is just the first of many creative projects he’ll be leading in the town. He said he hopes that with the quarantine, poetry as a creative outlet might help soothe the soul.
“With the current situation, it’s taking a bit more resonance,” he said. “I think people are really just looking for something inspiring.”
To apply, poets must submit up to three unpublished poems in English, along with a cover letter explaining their relationship with the town, to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight, April 30.
Winners of poetry contest honored for poems about Plymouth
Poetry is a conceptualized expression of our innermost thoughts and feelings. It allows us to explore existential ideas of reality in abstract form to make a point about the human condition.
Four local residents were recognized for their inner expressions during the Plymouth Poetry Contest. Organized by Poet Laureate Stephan Delbos, the competition honored Michael Flanigan, Jean L. Kreiling, Susan Hunter and Joan Dugas, all of Plymouth, for their winning entries about the human condition – especially as it pertains to America’s Hometown.
“I was impressed by the strength and variety of the submissions we received,” Delbos said. “It is thrilling to see so many talented poets creatively interpreting the history and current life of the town. The winning entries are outstanding in their powerful use of linguistic economy, imagery and music, and all of them capture and evoke an aspect of Plymouth that is relevant and resonant for Plymoutheans, as well as a general readership.”
Delbos kicked off the contest in April for National Poetry Month. Poets were asked to submit unpublished poems in English that engage with Plymouth in a significant way. Preference was given to poems that addressed the town’s 400th anniversary, though this was not a requirement.
The winners were recognized at Inky Hands Print Studio and Gallery with silkscreened prints of their original poems. Signed and numbered copies are available for purchase at the store in Downtown Plymouth.
Flanigan won for his poem, entitled “Haiku,” which reflects on the return of Mayflower II to Plymouth. Originally from Detroit, Flanigan fell in love with the town when he served at Otis Air Force Base while in the Air Force, and then moved here when he retired.
“Elegantly simple, this crafted, lightly handled haiku evokes history, community and the present day,” Delbo said. “It is a serenely expansive poetic expression honed with linguistic economy.”
Kreiling was honored for her poem “Remember Allerton, ca. 1615–ca. 1655,” a passenger on the Mayflower. A retired music professor from Bridgewater State University, she is an award-winning poet with two published collections of poems.
“This gorgeously crafted sonnet compellingly illuminates the life of a local historical figure and provides poetic perspective to Plymouth’s past,” Delbos said.
Dugas was recognized for “Sunday Morning,” a poem featuring a line from a T.S. Elliot poem.
A retired social worker, she is a frequent contributor to literary and poetry journals. Dugas is a former editor of Reflections, an annual literary and visual arts anthology.
“This concentrated poem is full of evocative, allusive imagery that sets a typical Sunday morning in Plymouth within a personal and literary context that heightens the drama and power of each line,” Delbos stated.
Hunter won for her poem “Cape Cod Bay,” which looks at the darker side of colonization and its impact on both the Native American inhabitants and English settlers. She is a retired editor and journalist who won several awards for her writing. Hunter’s poems have appeared in several journals.
“The compelling, disquieting imagery and alluring music of this poem conjures a powerfully resonant reconsideration of history and the present day,” Delbos said.
Signed and numbered silkscreened prints can be purchased at Inky Hands Print Studio and Gallery. For more information, contact owner Kat LiBretto at774-608-5040 or email@example.com, or visit www.inkyhandsprintstudio.com/.