New England College is committed to the arts, the open exchange of ideas, and international connections,” states Maura MacNeil, Professor of Creative Writing at New England College. “Hosting this meeting of poets allows us to share those values with our friends in China and raise awareness of New England College.”

New England College’s Creative Writing degrees give students the tools to express themselves through the craft of writing, attain their individual and professional aspirations, and become influencers through their writing.

The Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing allows students to explore creative development in preparation for a wide variety of career fields. The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing takes writers to the next level and offers four tracks: Dual-genre, Fiction, Non-fiction, and Poetry. Faculty of these creative writing degrees are as accomplished in creative writing as they are teaching, and they guide students through the transformation from good writer to literary artist.

The writing life, as MacNeil knows, can be about so much more than putting words to paper. Whether it’s poetry or prose, the written word can inspire change and influence cultures.

Learn more about Poetry Bridging Continents IV. This event is free and open to the public.

A Call to Action

“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” ― Robert Frost

An awakener, indeed. Robert Frost could not have known that his works would be the focus of a symposium on new pastoral poetry, a symposium that seeks to awaken people to the relationship between humanity and nature in the 21st century.

Pastoral poetry has always, from its beginnings in ancient Greece, told of the simplicity and peace of rural life. What, then, is New Pastoral Poetry? It shifts its focus from humanity in nature to humanity’s impact on nature. The New Pastoral Poetry of the 21st century speaks to the current time period, the Anthropocene, in which human activity marks the greatest influence on climate and the environment.

This human influence on the natural world serves as the backdrop of the fourth annual Poetry Bridging Continents, a four-day symposium bringing together New Pastoral Poets, scholars, and cultural ambassadors from America and China.

“They’re two distinctly different cultures—America and China,” MacNeil states. “We’re bringing them together to find common ground in the crisis of what humans have done to the environment and to discuss the artist’s responsibility in preserving the natural world. We want people to think in different ways and then act.”

As an example of humanity’s connection with nature, the symposium will highlight the poetry of Robert Frost, who holds special meaning in both cultures. Frost, along with fellow American poet Henry David Thoreau, deeply influences China’s environmental poets. And he is counted as one of New Hampshire’s favorite adopted sons. Attendees will visit both Frost properties in New Hampshire, The Frost Place in Sugar Hill and The Frost Farm in Derry.

A Meeting of Two Worlds

With these two cultures being so different and literally a world apart, how did these pastoral poets connect in the first place? It all began in 1993 when Zhang Ziqing, one of China’s foremost translators of English poetry, visited a small group of American poets in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire, one of whom was Rodger Martin. After returning to China, Martin explains, Ziqing realized his path crossed with these New Hampshire writers for a reason: they were all connected by landscape and nature. He christened the American writers the Monadnock New Pastoral Poets.

“Ziqing’s translation and publication of a collection of American poetry in 2006 coincided with a resurgence of Chinese poets who focused on the effects of industrialization on China’s landscape,” Martin adds. “And so, the New Pastoral Poets were born on both sides of the Pacific.”

In the years since, the New Pastoral Poets in New England and China have been translating and sharing poetry. Their collaboration led to the first Poetry Bridging Continents gathering in Kunshan, China. The symposium has alternated between the United States and China, and New England College is honored to host this fourth meeting of Poetry Bridging Continents.

A Friendship in Bloom

In 2018, MacNeil attended the symposium in China, and she and her Chinese colleagues discussed how they could continue this relationship between cultures. As she explains, Chinese culture revolves around personal relationships, which move everything forward, and “we want them to think of New England College as a friend.”

To strengthen this growing friendship, New England College’s Division of Humanities, with the support of several local writers’ groups, decided to host the fourth Poetry Bridging Continents meeting. And it was a natural fit.

“New England College is committed to the arts, the open exchange of ideas, and international connections,” MacNeil adds. “Hosting this meeting allows us to share those values with our friends in China and raise awareness of New England College.”

This year’s event welcomes seven New Pastoral Poets from China, and all of them, MacNeil points out, are important cultural figures. “We hope this will be the start of a more formal exchange between our two cultures. Perhaps our faculty in other fields will travel to China and their faculty will travel to New England College. It’s wonderful when we can learn from each other. We have so many preconceived notions, and when we spend time with people from other cultures, we realize that we’re not that different.”

A Labor of Love

Like so many creative endeavors, poetry is a labor of love. Frost himself said that “poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”

Poetry Bridging Continents IV brings together those who delight in poetry, share concern for the natural world, and seek to build bridges between cultures. Robert Frost would be proud.