St. Albans studnents at Justice and Poetry

BFA students participate in a writing workshop with poet Suzanne Rancourt.

ST. ALBANS — On July 22, for the first time since 2019, Sundog Poetry was able to host its annual “Justice and Poetry for All” event at Kill Kare State Park. 

This was also the first time Bellows Free Academy-St. Albans students were able to attend. English teacher Larissa Hebert brought a group of students to the event as a summer Academy Breakout field trip. 

When Hebert, who has volunteered with Sundog Poetry since 2015, heard about Academy Breakout, BFA’s free summer enrichment programming, she realized the “Justice and Poetry” event would be a great opportunity for students.

Hebert also helped Sundog Poetry organize the event, contributing to planning, advertising and catering through The Clean Spoon.

“The show was a marvelous opening into the world of the Abenaki and the other Wabanaki tribes of the ‘dawnland,’” Sundog’s treasurer Bill Drislane said. “It was like a door opening for the audience to see the history of these peoples through the writings and poetry.”

Before the event, BFA students arrived early at Kill Kare to partake in a workshop with Suzanne Rancourt, the night’s featured Indigenous poet.  

Rancourt walked students through some movements and breathing exercises, meant to help them connect with nature, and gave a short explanation of creative cultures from an Indigenous perspective. Students then spread out across the park for a 7-minute solo writing exercise. After that, students were given the opportunity to share their writings.

One of the poems shared, written by August Hawkins (‘23), reads:

Is my spot the best one I could find?

Did I find the shadiest tree, the softest grass?

Is there somewhere I would like more?

Maybe I should spend the rest of my time

Making sure there’s nowhere better.

At 6 p.m., BFA students and community members gathered under the Kill Kare pavilion for the highlight of the evening: an Indigenous poetry reading. 

Rancourt recited her poetry, and she was followed by a variety of Indigenous writers such as Carol Dana, Robert Peters and Alice Azure.

The readings were accompanied by personal anecdotes, cultural music courtesy of Morgan Lamphere, a land blessing by Chief Richard Menard and his granddaughter Chantel Menard-Bockus and a description of Indigenous lives in New England.

“We were very fortunate to connect with people from the Missisquoi Nation and the other Vermont tribes,” Drislane said. “Their presence made the day a success.”

Hebert said she was also happy with how the reading went. 

“I was very pleased by the public turnout for the event,” Hebert said. “I found the reading enjoyable and Morgan Lamphere’s music was a nice touch.”

BFA students said  “Justice and Poetry” was a great experience.

“I wasn’t expecting to be this interested in poetry, but it was really cool,” Tanner Dalley (‘23) said.

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