Jeffersonville poet Susan Sanders has spent the last month capturing in verse what she sees as the essence of every Lamoille County town, focusing on what makes each unique and an attribute to the whole of the community.
“This all stemmed out of COVID, feeling very isolated and overwhelmed, and I felt compelled to do something,” she said. “I wanted to pay tribute and just acknowledge the people who are doing jobs, like cashiers and people that have these jobs that have to be on the front lines to work.”
Sanders originally set her sights on a poetry version of the 251 Club — in which people visit each of the state’s 251 towns — and pondered penning a poem about every municipality.
“And I said, I can’t do that. It would take me three years, and I would only be able to work remotely for now,” she said.
She has settled for every town in Lamoille County.
Each poem, like its inspiration, is slightly different from the next. But, since Sanders’s unadorned style is consistently, singularly hers, there is a certain leitmotif they all share — part history, part travelogue, part character sketch.
Sanders is a native Vermonter who grew up in Cabot. She has lived on both sides of Smugglers Notch, in Stowe and Jeffersonville.
She left the state for a while but came back shortly after 9/11, living in the St. Johnsbury area for 15 years, followed by a stint in Newport before moving to Jeffersonville last year right before the pandemic hit.
Her first poem in the project was finished March 11, and was her ode to her current hometown, Jeffersonville.
“I feel pretty connected to this county,” she said. “Thomas Wolfe said ‘You can never go home again,’ but you can.”
At the start of the pandemic, Sanders noticed that Stowe was “almost like a ghost town.”
The shoulder seasons are often like that in normal years, but she was acutely aware of the lack of people, even into the summer.
“There were a few people milling around but nothing like there would have been the summer before,” she said.
Sanders draws inspiration mainly from the Vermont landscape, and other poets — Galway Kinnell comes to mind — who have captured the state in verse.
She said she lives on Route 108 and has the luxury of looking at Mount Mansfield every day.
“I get a lot of inspiration from just driving around,” she said.
“I tried to really capture the landscape, a little bit of history and the people. I just hope that it makes them feel better about where they’re at, makes them think, “Hey, somebody took a little notice and paid attention to my town.”
Sanders’ poems are in a variety of different places, both physical and virtual.
For instance, without a real central location in Belvidere since Tallman’s Store closed up in 2017, Sanders opted for the small town’s Front Porch Forum.
Here’s where to find Sanders’ other poems — she treated Jeffersonville and Cambridge as two different towns for her project, because of the year she’s spent in Jeffersonville:
• Cambridge: Cambridge Village Market
• Elmore: Undecided, but she hopes at the local store
• Eden: Elementary School library
• Hyde Park: Undecided
• Jeffersonville: Hanley’s General Store
• Johnson: Sterling Market
• Morrisville: Morrisville Food Co-op & Morristown Centennial Library
• Stowe: Stowe Free Library
• Waterville: Undecided
• Wolcott: town newsletter for now, maybe the Glee Merritt Community Library