As he takes over as Shelburne’s poet laureate, Rob Broder recognizes that his poetic feet have some pretty big shoes to fill.
Broder takes over from Rick Bessette, who is Shelburne’s first and, so far, only poet laureate.
In fact, it appears Bessette is the only town poet laureate in the whole state.
The second of Bessette’s two terms ended in April 2020, but no one stepped up to take over as Shelburne’s master of meter, ruler of rhyme, coach of couplets, potentate of pentameter, so he stepped back into the wordsmithing breach to continue as the town’s go-to person for events requiring versifying or spreading the joy of poetry with students.
Broder said he doesn’t just have big shoes but “big Vermont mud boots” to fill, taking over as town bard.
Bessette said he was proud to have Broder take over the program and that he’s the person to do it because of his background as a writer of children’s books.
Those books include “Paul and His Ukulele,” “Crow & Snow” and “Our Shed: A Father-Daughter Building Story.” In May 2022, “Better than New” is being published by Patagonia, that company’s first children’s book.
“Better than New” is about recycling nylon fishing nets into clothing, so it’s an appropriate inaugural children’s book for a company that made its name as a clothing company.
As poet laureate, one of Broder’s goals is to get more high schoolers involved in not only writing poetry but also rereading and editing it. He also would like to have poetry performances at the Pierson Library, where he works part time.
“I don’t know if you want to call it an open mic night or poetry slam, but I’d like to get kids of all ages to come and read their poems, so they’re not just sending them in or writing things but sharing what they’re writing,” he said.
Bessette is disappointed he could not attend the Shelburne Selectboard meeting last Tuesday, Nov. 9, when Broder was officially handed the poetic reins. He had a serious accident while vacationing in Maine in early September, tripping over a curb, tearing a quadricep from his femur and breaking a wrist.
He said it was timely when Broder got in touch with him and said he would like to throw his hat into the ring as the next poet laureate if Bessette still wanted to step down.
“I was thrilled that he was interested,” Bessette said. “I’m very proud that the program is doing what it’s supposed to do — and that’s growing.”
For the time being Bessette can’t write. He wrote a poem when Ernie Goodrich retired as Shelburne cemetery grounds supervisor, and it took him three weeks because with his arm in a cast he can only hold a pencil for five minutes or so.
He’s glad that his successor is involved with writing children’s books.
“My feeling is the children in town really need to be incorporated in the program. You can’t forget them,” Bessette said. “Now, I want to sit back and watch Rob carry it forward.”