Robert Crawford is inspired by many things.
His poems spell out images of small-town New England, with inspiration coming from the local store, neighbors across a meadow, a snow-bound street, an abandoned garden in autumn or even a town road agent.
Crawford, 58, was recently named Derry's first poet laureate.
Town councilors honored Crawford at a meeting Jan. 24 with a proclamation. Afterward the poet read a poem for the occasion, "A Row of Stones."
Crawford has been a longstanding supporter of the arts and the literary word through his association with the historical Robert Frost Farm in Derry, serving as a trustee and also hosting many events as co-founder of the group Hyla Brook Poets, named for the brook running near the farm that inspired Frost himself.
He said he is honored to be named the town's first poet laureate.
Prior to moving to New Hampshire in 1994, Crawford worked in and around the Pentagon where, among other things, he provided support for worldwide command exercises.
But, he rediscovered his love of words and the New England landscape that helped inspire his poetry.
"When I moved here, I had no idea Robert Frost lived here," Crawford said.
He said he tries to write every day, but sometimes it's a simple bit of that inspiration that might spark the beginnings of a new poem.
"Poetry sometimes hits you when something happens," he said. "You have to be ready to write something down. I could have 200 poems in progress at any given time."
But other times he may sit and work hard on a poem. That led him to a unique opportunity to write and read a special poem for his daughter Maria's wedding day.
Derry Public Library director Cara Barlow, also a Frost Farm trustee, said the poet laureate program was something she hoped would take shape. She met Crawford and said he had many great ideas on how to develop a plan to bring poetry to the library to honor the history of Frost in this area, among other things.
"There's a lot of shared interest," Barlow said. "We at the library are interested in literature, literacy and also local history. The town of Derry was also trying to raise its profile in the state, through the Frost Farm, Hyla Brook Poets, etc."
That's where Crawford's role will be so key, Barlow said, bringing special events to the library, readings, book signings, a poetry contest, and other activities to spark interest in poetry.
Crawford's work has been published in a variety of publications. His first poetry collection is "Too Much Explanation Can Ruin A Man" with a second book that followed, "The Empty Chair."
He is already working on his third book and many of his poems have been published in various poetry journals and literary magazines.
Kyle Potvin has worked with Crawford since the beginning of the Hyla Brook Poets group, a gathering of local writers and poets that share their work while instilling support for the poetic verse through readings and other literary events.
"Bob Crawford is the perfect choice for the first poet laureate of Derry, Robert Frost’s former home," Potvin said. "Bob is an accomplished poet and devoted supporter of the arts."
Potvin, herself an accomplished writer and poet, said having Crawford named the town's official poet will do great things for boosting the community through poetry and history.
"He has created an international poetry hub at the Frost Farm through his work as director of Frost Farm Poetry, leading the Frost Farm Conference for metrical poetry, the Hyla Brook Reading Series, a monthly poetry workshop and initiating the Frost Farm Prize," Potvin said. "Robert Frost would approve whole-heartedly of this appointment."
The library will host a community reception in Crawford's honor on Thursday, Feb. 23, at 6:30 to 8 p.m. For information on poetry at the Robert Frost Farm, visit frostfarmpoetry.org.
A Row of Stones
In those December storms that start as rain
But end as snow, I try to count the flakes
As they begin to fall. But it's in vain.
I lack the dedication that it takes
To be a census taker of the snow.
I'll be distracted, as the snow squall breaks
Across the field, by a long gray narrow row
Of stones, a wall within a stand of birch:
A thousand stones at least, pried, grasped below,
Pulled up and piled. In this hard, springtime work,
The greatest effort spent to make the wall
Was lifting each the first inch off the earth.
I know when things get high enough they fall;
I'm struck in wonder that they're raised at all.
— Robert Crawford