Thanks, New Hampshire Humanities

My colleague and friend Morgan Wilson, NH Humanities Marketing and Communications Specialist, took this photo of me in Concord, NH. Morgan traveled with me to nearly all the New Voices readings featuring refugee and immigrant writers. And my friend and colleague Becky Kinhan, Director of Communications, wrote this about my work to create The Year of New Voices. Thank you, Becky!

“Sometimes ‘tell me more’ are the most generous words you can tell somebody.” 

https://www.nhhumanities.org/news/new-hampshire-humanities-bids-farewell-terry-farish

“You could say Terry Farish is a story whisperer.

For Farish, a writer, poet, and author, life is about words and storytelling.  But perhaps one of her greatest gifts is the ability to gently coax and nurture words and images from those who don’t know how to tell their story– or believe that their story even matters.

This fall, Terry leaves her post as our Connections book discussion coordinator to devote herself to her writing life and other projects. The ripple effects of her time here are profound. 

From 2008-2013 Terry led the Connections book discussion program, working with Adult Basic Education and English language learner classes. Using children’s and adult books, New Hampshire Humanities facilitators enhanced literacy classes using writing, drama, cooking, art, music, and more to explore surprisingly sophisticated themes.

Across the state, Terry’s leadership and vision are admired by many, including Linda Graham, Connections facilitator and visual artist: “Terry helps make each session resonate, like the artist she is. She leads with deep determination and initiative but thoughtful appreciation for the individual skills of a facilitator,” said Graham. “Her focus stays on the importance of literature, art in our lives. I have benefited from my work with her as she values each program she works with and is generous with her support.” 

After a four-year hiatus, Terry returned to New Hampshire Humanities in 2017 and while continuing to lead Connections, imagined a new trajectory for the program.

“When I came here originally, it was purely for the love of reading,” she says. “I just wanted to bring the stories to people. Since then, I’ve learned so much from teachers, facilitators, and the students. It has become much more about building community.”

She conceived of “A Year of New Voices,” an initiative that encompassed new ways of working with English learners. Gathering a team of ESL teachers, facilitators, artists, and writers, she created a handbook of essays called Tell Me More: Encouraging and Developing the Voices of English Learners. Published by New Hampshire Humanities last year, the guide is a resource for teachers that includes tips for helping students discover their stories and write with clarity.

A more community-oriented component, New Voices, was a program in which ELL students and local writers worked together and presented their poems and stories at public readings. “The idea I was imagining for New Voices,” she explained, “was small, casual readings in local venues where U.S. born people might also come to listen and read.” 

New Voices invited new Americans to write, read, and hear reactions to stories. Writing gave refugees the chance to heal from unspeakable horrors and immigrants a way to adjust to a new home and a new language. They spoke of food, art, music, dance. About grandmothers, growing up, violence and death, and saying goodbye. An immigrant from China who participated in the Lebanon New Voices event marveled, “No one ever asked me to tell my story before.”

New Voices brought together new writers/storytellers with enthusiastic audiences this year at free public events in Manchester, Portsmouth, Lebanon, Keene, and Concord. Marianne Philbrick, Adult Education Director at Concord’s Second Start, shared: “Students, families, staff, and volunteers were thrilled to attend the New Voices poetry reading at Gibson’s Bookstore this spring. Audience members had a chance to realize the immigrant experience and they laughed and cried, both at the emotion and fun of the presentation.”

Farish believes the program’s success is because storytelling breaks down barriers and allows us to build empathy and understanding. “When you begin to write, you’re going places in your imagination you’ve never gone before,” she says. “Reading others’ stories provides a safe space for people to meet one another, to cross into unfamiliar territory.” 

We thank you, Terry, for living the work of New Hampshire Humanities in the deepest, most joyous sense of the word. 

Why We Write the Poems

Poets

Sarah, aged 13, and I, with the poet laureate of our city and all of us in the photo have been gathering on Tuesday nights to write together and be part of New Hampshire Humanities New Voices project. Sarah, her mom, and little brother are new Americans and bring their first language to the poems they’re writing in English. Sarah is a poet and and an artist. Here’s one of her anime drawings.

illustration by Sarah Cristina, grade 7

In the New Voices project, immigrant writers partner with local writers to write together and present together at a public reading. Thank you to teacher Carolyn Hutton who invited me to be the writer with her students. We’re gearing up to do our public reading. Here’s a poem I wrote about the magic that happened when we wrote together.

Why We Write the Poems

Because it stops raining and the dogwood tree finally

  relents and blooms,

Because it’s June and we can wear dresses off our shoulders

  and flip flops and our bodies can feel the sun,

Because, on the night Leidiane invites us over, the moon

  grows enormous and lights the expanse of the sea,

Because Tammi brings blooming azaleas and Carolyn brings

  miniature clipboards and pads she found at the Dollar Tree,

And because there are still people in the world singing love songs,

   we begin to write poems.

Because Pedro is two, his poems are giant circles on his Dollar Tree pad.

Because, combined, we speak Portuguese, English, Spanish, Music,

  Youth, Age and Indonesian coconut pancakes, we have

  immensity of imagination.

No one can stop writing the poems.

No one can stop remaking the world.

“Tell Me More”

“Tell Me More”

I have the great fortune to spend this year with New Hampshire Humanities. We’re working on a reading and writing project with  English learners.  The project is A Year of New Voices,  

In the Year of New Voices, professional writers meet English learners in Connections book discussion programs. Selected students will have an opportunity to work with the writer, read samples of each other’s work, look for ideas that each have as a thread through their writing. Then English learners, alongside professional writers, will read their poems, stories, and memoirs in “New Voices” readings in New Hampshire communities.

To support the writers,  we created a handbook, “Tell Me More” on Encouraging and Developing the Voices of English Learners.

The collage is by Linda Graham who allowed us to use her art on the cover and inside.  ESL educators and professional writers joined forces to write prompts, poems, and essays on the value of what bilingual writers bring to English.  The full handbook is available for English learners everywhere and their teachers.  You can download and printout. “Tell Me More” is here.