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September 19, 2013

A party fit for a poet

Maudslay celebration to remember Whittier, raise money for museum

On the last day of the season, “Celebrating John Greenleaf Whittier” will honor the influential poet while bidding farewell to the “sweet summer days” he loved.

This Saturday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., the Whittier Home Museum in Amesbury will present its fourth annual fundraiser at the Maudslay Arts Center in Newburyport.

The event will remember Whittier through poetry, song and dance.

Award-winning poet Rhina Espaillat will debut her new poem, “A Caller at Gove House, Hampton Falls,” while Newburyport’s Exit Dance Theatre will perform choreographed dances to two of Whittier’s poems, read by best-selling author Andre Dubus III.

The John Tavano Trio will provide music, and the Newburyport High School poetry club will present a Poetry Slam. Food from David's Tavern is included with admission, and beer and wine will be available to purchase.

Espaillat’s poem reflects on Whittier’s life, friends and career and was written for this celebration. The Gove House is where Whittier died on Sept. 7, 1892.

Joining Espaillat to read the poem are her fellow Powow River Poets Toni Treadway, Robert Brodsky and Alfred Moskowitz.

“What we’re doing on Saturday is a little bit unusual,” Espaillat said. “I think it’s going to be something of a surprise, and I hope the audience enjoys it.”

Espaillat, a Newburyport resident who often reads at the Whittier Home and has taught Whittier’s poetry in the past, said she really enjoys writing poems for specific occasions like this one.

“I like them very much because they bind communities together,” she said. “I know the life of Whittier pretty well, and there are many details of his life that call attention to him not only as a poet but also as a man. His life was an inspiring life really.”

Whittier was a 19th-century writer, newspaper editor and Amesbury resident who helped lead the slavery abolition movement in the North.

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