Collective formed in Colrain poet’s memory

  • Late Colrain resident Carol Purington with a copy of her magnum opus, “Farm Song.” Fellow residents have established a poetry collective in honor of Purington, who died on Dec. 8. Contributed photo

Staff Writer
Published: 1/22/2021 6:35:40 PM

COLRAIN — The life of a well-known member of the community will live on in the form of a poetry collective established in her memory.

“The whole idea is just to share the love of poetry,” said Griswold Memorial Library Director Chelsea Jordan-Makely, who helped to establish the Carol Purington Poetry Collective — a group that will meet monthly to share poems. “It’s going to be very informal. Folks can read a (short) poem that they have written and would like to share, or a poem that another poet has authored.”

The Carol Purington Poetry Collective was named in honor of Carol Purington, a poet and longtime Colrain resident, who died Dec. 8. She was 71 years old.

Purington lay flat on her back and breathed with the assistance of ventilators since she was felled by polio as a first-grader in 1955. She graduated from Mohawk Trail Regional School in 1970, and continued her education through Greenfield Community College.

Her poems in a variety of forms appeared in many journals and won recognition in international contests. She self-published more than 10 books of poetry and prose.

Jordan-Makely said she first met Purington through the library’s weekly “dial-a-poem” (now known as the “poem of the week”) that came to be when the pandemic hit and Griswold Memorial Library was closed to the public.

“People could call the library on Fridays and we would read them the poem over the phone,” she said. “Carol was one of the folks who started calling regularly.”

Purington also frequently donated her books to the library, Jordan-Makely said. Her magnum opus, “Farm Song,” is available at both the Griswold Memorial Library and the Heath Free Public Library, where her brother Don Purington is the director.

“That’s partly what’s so remarkable,” Jordan-Makely said of Purington. “I was able to know her and have a relationship with her, despite the distance and not having met her. We shared a connection of poetry.”

Jordan-Makely said Griswold Memorial Library had intended to do something to honor Purington — an ardent supporter of the library — as did Purington’s close friends Tom and Anne Yeomans.

“I had — my wife and I — a collection of poetry books, and my mother’s poetry books,” Tom Yeomans said. “I got the idea that perhaps the Colrain library would like to have them.”

Before Purington died, Yeomans said he wanted to establish a poetry collection in his friend’s name.

“I thought it would be wonderful — since she was such a well-known person and poet in the community — that a collection could be named in her honor, and people could contribute to it,” he said.

Jordan-Makely took it from there, Yeomans said. She spoke with Purington as well as her family about also starting a collective.

“I think the collection and the collective in her name is a way of acknowledging what a fine person she was,” he said. “I hope it has that effect.”

Another longtime friend, Susan Todd, called the collective a “perfect” way to honor Purington.

“I’m just so happy to see that Chelsea and the library have undertaken this,” she said.

Todd recalls meeting Purington 25 years ago on Jan. 8, when they “started their friendship around poetry.” Todd was teaching in Colrain and had brought her class to sing for her.

“She was so steady and fun,” Todd said. “She was funny. We’d laugh and we’d gossip, and we just had this free-flowing conversation.”

The two regularly read poetry together — right up until just before she died. Even through the pandemic, Todd, Yeomans and Purington shared poetry via conference calls.

In addition to the Carol Purington Poetry Collective, people have also taken to donating to the Friends of Griswold Memorial Library in Purington’s memory.

“We are hoping to put those funds toward a pavilion at the library where we can have future programs and poetry readings, and dedicate that to Carol,” Jordan-Makely said, adding that she is appreciative of all the donations the library has received. “The donations will be another way her legacy is felt and lasting in Colrain.”

The first meeting of the Carol Purington Poetry Collective is scheduled for Feb. 5, at 6 p.m. by Zoom. To register in advance, email the library at griswold@colrain-ma.gov.

“I’m really excited,” Jordan-Makely said, “because I’m a big lover of poetry myself.”

An earlier version of this article had the incorrect date for the first meeting of the collective. The first meeting is scheduled to take place Feb. 5, at 6 p.m. via Zoom. 

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne




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