Poet laureate seeks to bring verse into town's civic life

CARL RUSSO/staff photo   Mark Bohrer was recently named the new poet laureate for North Andover. 

NORTH ANDOVER — Mark Bohrer has designed satellite-tracking software.

He has run marathons, written and preached sermons and served as a church deacon.

He is also passionate about reading and writing poetry and was recently chosen to be North Andover's poet laureate. He will serve a two-year term in this unpaid position and he said during a recent interview he intends to bring more poetry into the town's civic life.

Bohrer, 61, said he hasn't quite figured out how to achieve this goal but he appears to be off to a strong start. When he was introduced to the Board of Selectmen on June 18, he read his poem, "A Good In-Land Town," which is about North Andover.

He borrowed the phrase from Judge Samuel Sewall, who in 1702 described what is now North Andover as "a good in-land town, and of good prospect." Sewall, by the way, was one of the jurists who presided at the Salem Witch Trials. He later expressed regret for his role in the executions of innocent people.

An excerpt from Bohrer's poem follows:

"A good in-land town,

she shares her name with her British twin.

But no ruler here wears the crown, 

for we are home of the citizen king.

Her citizens, now or years ago,

famous or not yet so,

share in her renown."

The poem mentions Anne Bradstreet, America's first published poet, who lived in North Andover nearly four centuries ago; the Davis & Furber company, which manufactured machinery for the textile industry; and the many local men and women who served the country in time of war.

The selectmen, who unanimously approved Bohrer's appointment as poet laureate, and others at the meeting gave "A Good In-Land Town" generous applause. He was nominated for the position by the town's Poet Laureate Committee.

Bohrer succeeds the husband-wife duo of Ken and Nadine Delano, also known as Kenadine, who brought theatrical panache to their performance of poetry. While they are no longer serving as poets laureate, they will continue to offer Poetry Night every fourth Tuesday night at 7 at the Stevens Memorial Library.

Bohrer has already created a Facebook page titled North Andover Poets Corner on which people can share their poetry. Bohrer usually posts a couple of poems each week on the page.

He has also started a poetry blog, accessed at www.MarkBohrer.US.

One of his favorite poets, he said, is Walt Whitman.

"Walt Whitman saw Americans as connected," Bohrer said. "We're all in this together."

Poetry already has a place in the civic life of North Andover and other communities. For example, the poem "In Flanders Fields" is often read at Memorial Day observances.

"In Flanders fields, the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row," are the opening lines of this famous poem, written by John McCrae, a Canadian Army lieutenant colonel who fought and died in World War I.

"Poetry can remind us of something bigger than ourselves," Bohrer said.

The English poet Matthew Arnold wrote about "something bigger than ourselves" in his poem "Dover Beach" 150 years ago. The theme for this well-known work of 40 lines could probably be summed up in the its phrase "the turbid ebb and flow of human misery."

Bohrer admires Arnold's poem – but "I couldn't disagree with it more," he said.

So he penned "The Sea of Faith," which offers a more optimistic view of the existence, the "something bigger than ourselves," that everyone shares. This poem includes the exhortation "Ah, love, let us be true To one another!"

Bohrer, originally from Pennsylvania, has lived in this "Good In-Land Town" since 1997. A graduate of Cornell University with a degree in electrical engineering, he works for Doble Engineering, a company that provides testing for the electric power industry.

He and his wife Debbie are the parents of Jillian, 20, a college student; and Nick, 17, who will soon begin his senior year at North Andover High School.

Bohrer published two chapbooks of poetry, "A Crowd of Joy at the Door" and "High Tide," in 2016.

"Poetry is like my bowling night," he said.