A standing-room-only crowd turned out at the Gulfport Public Library for Sam Henderson’s first appearance as the 2017 Gulfport Poet Laureate on January 26, hosted by the Circle of Friends of the Gulfport Public Library. Henderson was introduced by Gulfport’s first poet laureate, Peter Hargitai, who read his most recent poem, “No Selfie at Seventy,” commemorating his upcoming birthday.
Hargitai called Henderson’s work “cerebral” and “polished” with “original energy and imagery.”
“No matter what other hats he wears, Sam is a poet first and foremost,” said Hargitai, a nod to Sam’s other official position as Gulfport’s mayor.
Henderson thanked Hargitai for his role as the inaugural poet laureate, calling it “a hard act to follow.”
“Poetry has always expressed our outermost and innermost thoughts through language. It is a way to make sense of the world,” Henderson said. “If the need to write is in us, we have no choice but to write. Writing something that translates my experiences into something I can read later has been a blessing.”
Henderson said one of his goals as poet laureate is to encourage the act of writing and promote the literary arts. He introduced other poet laureate candidates who were in attendance: Rob McCabe, Karen Maeby, Stone Handy and Molly Ellowis, who took turns reading their work that was in turn political and experiential. Henderson then read three of his poems.
The 2017 Poetry Anthology that includes Henderson’s poems and that of all the other poet laureate candidates can be purchased from the Gulfport Public Library for three dollars.
Prior to the reading, the Circle of Friends held a brief meeting. Co-chairs Angela Herritt and Phyllis Rosenblum announced that the Circle of Friends Book Shop sales totaled $9,958 in 2016, almost double the amount raised the prior year. The library offered 354 programs to the public in 2016: 189 children’s programs and 165 for adults. Total attendance at all events was 6,094, up from 887 in 2015.