Poets are often depicted as shrinking violets, souls enclosed almost painfully inside their own introspective worlds. Not so Esther Buffler. Even into her 90s Esther was still onstage, still swinging, still writing verse.
She will be remembered as the first of Portsmouthís poet laureates, a post created in many ways, in order to tie the city to her free flowing coattails. She is remembered for her floppy hats, her five books of poems, her warbling theatrical performances and her unquenchable love of life.
She died in August of 2002 at the age of 93. But in the dawning years of the 21st century she had continued to write. Susan Kress Hamilton, a close friend of Estherís, has collected her last 23 poems into a gentle paperback tribute entitled "Itís All Ahead." Susan and business partner Bill Hamilton have published the paperback through their company Phineas. New Hampshire poet laureate Marie Harris composed the Foreword.
"Before Ess died," Susan says, "we had been talking about doing a book. This collection of poems talks about illness and death in a very articulate way. I was getting them as she wrote them. The last poem in the book is the poem she wrote the day she died."
Susan sees great hope in these verses. Publishing them, she writes in
the book, was part of her grieving process. Now she sees their value for
hospice patients who can learn, through example, how Esther faced her last
difficult years with dignity, self discovery, humor and even joy.
Esther, of course, could never really die. Her "life force" was much too powerful. The local poets she mothered and cajoled during her 25 years in her adopted town of Portsmouth form the core of the cityís poetry renaissance. Last summer 100 of Estherís favorite hats were auctioned at the Rockingham Hotel where Esther had lived. "Hats Off to Esther" raised funds in cooperation with the Greater Piscataqua Community Foundation. The money goes toward poetry programs in the local schools.
Following are two selections from the book,
including Estherís final poem "Chill It", handwritten on her last day and
printed in its original draft form. -- JDR
POEMS BY Esther Buffler
home care Freda pulls as on
fantastic Bird Spirit swoops surround
flickers across the
the pill colony
the rains stopped
life slips away
From It's All
Poems | New | Site Map | Talk | Store | Read Mail | History Themes