Poet Esther Buffler
Written by Susan Kress Hamilton
To know her was to love her. She was Portsmouth’s first poet laureate and continued to write in her 90s. Broadway actress, mother, children’s author and queen of the arts in Portsmouth, Esther Buffler was a burst of positive energy. If you were even in a room with her, you knew it. This loving tribute is by her friend and publisher.
Poet, actress, teacher, wearer of hats
READ: Last Poems of Esther Buffler
What a sweetness touch
in the sucking up Time
of being Old.
-- Esther Buffler
Esther Buffler always lived as if life was "all ahead." Ask anyone who knew her spirited use of words, her profound delight in living life fully, with verve and colorful hats, shouting out this joy to anyone who cared to listen. For over twenty years, she wrote poetry, always with passion and for an ever- expanding audience in her beloved coastal community of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Esther Mary Rogers Buffler was born in 1908 in Pennlyn, Pennsylvania and grew up in farm country near Philadelphia, studying drama at the National School of Theater. She worked in theater in Austin and went on to New York City, appearing on Broadway for a two year stint in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. She didn’t miss a performance.
She moved north from New York City in 1974, settling in Portsmouth as the first occupant at the Rockingham, an historic hotel that was being converted into condominiums. She later wrote about her experience being alone there one night with a ghost in a poem entitled "The White Lady of the Rockingham."
Esther had published three children’s books and adapted one as a play in Austin, Texas in the 1950s. In her new Seacoast community, she was inspired to begin writing again. Encouraged by a group of writers at Skimmilk Farm in Brentwood, NH she grew interested poetry. Group members met regularly to critique each other’s work.
Known for her theatrical presence on the streets of Portsmouth, as well as in her poetry readings, Esther inevitably appeared in a dramatic hat, no matter what the occasion. Often decorated with feathers, "Ess" wore might wear a baseball cap, Van Gogh straw, red felt cloche or purple beret—all with equal aplomb. Her collection of over 200 hats was auctioned off by her family after her death to support the Esther Buffler Poetry in the Schools Fund at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.
Appointed as Portsmouth’s first Poet Laureate in 1998, when she was 90, she gathered fellow poets during her tenure to produce a CD called "High on Poetry." Previously, she had staged a touring production about American women poets, was poet-in-residence at the annual Star Island Conference on the Arts at the Isles of Shoals and taught poetry in the schools in New Hampshire.
She published six books of poetry — String of Beads, Grandmother’s Quilt, Nine Children, Unflappable Women, Only Now and It’s All Ahead, Poems 2000-2002 and three children's books — Mary, Rodrigo and Rosalita and The Friends.
Esther never tired of writing and rewriting a poem until she was satisfied, sharing revisions with friends, collaborating on ideas. "Not to worry" was a phrase that sustained her, and many of her friends, through tough times. She lived and breathed poetry until the very day she died in 2002. In her last unfinished poem, so very Esther, she told us in the title to "Chill It." All she wanted on her tombstone was Esther Buffler, Poet.
MORE on Esther Buffler
Please visit these SeacoastNH.com ad partners.