Inspired by Robert Frost, New Hampshire Poet Laureate Jennifer Militello has achieved her childhood dreams

New England College professor Jennifer Militello will be New Hampshire’s Poet Laureate as her  five-year term starts in this month.

New England College professor Jennifer Militello will be New Hampshire’s Poet Laureate as her five-year term starts in this month. Joanne Smith


Monitor staff

Published: 04-13-2024 8:00 AM

As a child growing up in Rhode Island, Jennifer Militello dreamt of moving to New Hampshire and becoming a poet – both goals which she attributes in part to Robert Frost.

In her preteen years, Militello fell in love with the poetry of the longtime Derry, New Hampshire resident. Captivated by Frost’s poems and by the natural beauty of the Granite State during family camping and ski trips, Militello fixated on moving north.

“I really loved the idea of being in a place where I could be surrounded by trees, spend a lot of time outside, maybe have a little hut in the woods where I would write some poems and read some poems,” Militello said in an interview last week. “That was really appealing to me as a dream for my future.”

As a 17 year old, Militello enrolled at the University of New Hampshire under the tutelage of legendary Pulitzer-prize winning poet Charles Simic.

Besides attending graduate school in North Carolina and some teaching positions elsewhere, Militello has never left New Hampshire since. Last week, the Goffstown resident began a five-year term as the state’s 14th poet laureate.

The honorary position carries no official duties, but Militello has set three goals.

First, she wants to strengthen the support system for young people interested in poetry. 

“I think poetry sometimes gets overlooked and we want to just make sure that people know it’s there, and how many different forms and manifestations it has,” Militello said.

She plans to reach out to elementary and high school English teachers and encourage young people to send her their poems.

Second, Militello plans to establish a thriving poetry festival in the state. She founded the New Hampshire Poetry Festival in 2015, but the event has not run since before the pandemic.

Third, Militello hopes to create an online repository of poetry written by New Hampshirites.

Meanwhile, Militello will continue to write her own poetry, including potentially for official events, such as the inauguration of New Hampshire’s next governor in 2025.

Militello, the author of five poetry collections and a memoir, describes her poetic style as in the school of Emily Dickinson or Federico García Lorca, poets, she said, who think about “language and music and emotional impact.”

“I really believe that poems should have an immediacy about them and should impact the reader in ways that don’t necessarily have to be analyzed or even articulated, because they are about every individual’s response and inner life,” Militello said.

Her earlier work focused on family and identity, whereas more recent work addresses issues including gender disparity, climate change, and technology.

In one of Militello’s favorite poems, entitled “Antisocial Media”, she writes, “It’s easier / to computer than to hold a hand or knit / a winter together from headlights on the highway.”

No matter the topic of her poetry, Militello said, “I am always thinking about the impact of the music of the language alongside the meaning of the language.”

Her next collection, entitled “Identifying the Pathogen”, is forthcoming in 2025.

Militello directs the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program at New England College in Henniker and lives on two acres of wooded land in Goffstown.

Having achieved her childhood dreams, she does not plan to move ever again.