West Tisbury poet laureate Emma Young hosts community poetry reading

Emma Young —Courtesy Emma Young

Poets and poetry lovers are invited to the West Tisbury library this weekend for a celebration of verse. For the past few years, the library has hosted biannual open readings where Islanders are invited to share their own work or read selections from their favorite poets.

This time around, the reading will be hosted by Emma Young, who is in the middle of her three-year tenure as West Tisbury poet laureate. Ms. Young will read a few selections from her new publication, “Book to Share” (Two Plum Press), then open the floor to any and all interested participants.

“It’s very approachable and very fun,” Ms. Young said of the event. “Nobody needs to feel nervous. We welcome everybody to read a poem or two. I’ll pass around a hat with numbers in it. Generally, people read for about 5 minutes. It’s very open; it never drones on and on. We get regulars and new people every time. It’s certainly an all-ages event.”

Ms. Young is the fourth town poet laureate, and at 29, the youngest so far. But she most certainly has the credentials, not to mention the talent, to occupy the role.

Born and raised in West Tisbury, Ms. Young returned to the Vineyard full-time in 2012, after a seven-year off-Island break. After graduating from MVRHS, Ms. Young attended Hampshire College, a liberal arts school in Western Massachusetts, and then moved to Maine, where she led the literacy program for the Portland Boys and Girls Club.

Ms. Young came back to the Vineyard to help her family out with their small West Tisbury farm, and ended up staying. “I came home on a whim,” she said, noting that the move was intended to be temporary. She wound up working for the Aquinnah library, and then the West Tisbury library. Eventually, she decided to focus full-time on her book-design and graphic-design business.

Using 19th century typeset presses, Ms. Young creates books and other print media. According to her website, “Emma specializes in 19th and early 20th century design and printmaking techniques. Type is set, oil inks are mixed, imagery is carved, and prints are pulled by hand.”

Since setting up her printing shop in a barn on the family farm, Ms. Young has created a series of charming little books, filled with her poems along with block prints. She does one a year, ranging in size from six poems to her work in progress, which will contain 32 poems.

Along with her own work, Ms. Young creates custom designs, including wedding invitations, stationery, logo designs, business cards, and book cover and album art.

Ms. Young wrote her first poems as a 9-year-old. “We had a poetry unit at the West Tisbury School. It seemed like the most natural thing for me, the way some kids take to art or other areas. Poetry is what I found that I loved. I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Her first non-self-published book came out on Nov. 11. On the publication date, Ms. Young and two poet friends hosted a small reading at a private home in West Tisbury. The book was also launched on the West Coast at a small book fair in Seattle. “Book to Share” can be purchased through Two Plum Press, or by contacting Ms. Young through her website.

Ms. Young is a member of the local Cleaveland House Poets group, and has been teaching poetry and bookmaking workshops for kids and adults for many years. She’s the perfect representative for an oft-neglected art. “I want to help give poetry a place in the community and to make it engaging and fun,” she said.

The young poet has been encouraged by the positive reception to readings on the Island.

“It’s really something to share,” she said. “It’s not just a private thing. It’s a piece of art that you’ve made that you should share. Writing is something you generally do in the privacy and quiet of your home. The community readings give people an opportunity to come out and share their work.”

“We’re very, very lucky here,” Ms. Young said of the Island. “I think the arts in general have a lot of support. There’s interest and involvement, not just patronage. Lots of year-round Islanders practice some form of art.” This Saturday, some of those artists will have a chance to share their work at the West Tisbury library. As always, listeners are equally welcome.

Community Poetry Reading at the West Tisbury Library: Saturday, Nov. 19, from 4 to 5 pm.

To see more examples of Emma Young’s work or find out more about her custom printing services, visit enyprintedwork.com.


By Emma Young

The birds are singing so sweetly

but you are stopped mid step

as a wild rose rips at one arm

and a wild raspberry catches

in the crook of the bare other.

In your pause you are forced

to hear the most optimistic song,

thinking of roses and raspberries.

In the euphony, you arc

your body in artful

disentanglement, soothing

the raised scratches on

both arms, evenly.