Poetry day at Northampton Community College (NCC) is a highly anticipated event that honors the life of Len Roberts and his valued contributions to both poetry and education. For more than 30 years, Roberts taught English at NCC and was recognized as teacher of the year, among several other honors.  

Additionally, Roberts was an award-winning American poet. His work received a multitude of awards, such as the Fulbright Scholar Award, the National Poetry Series Award, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Award. NCC honors his legacy by inviting some of the most respected and inspiring poets in the country to share their work during an Annual Len Roberts Poetry Day. 

This year NCC was proud to welcome Poet Laureate, Airea D. Matthews, as a guest speaker. Matthews is known for her innovative use of language and form, and her work has been praised for its wide display of identity, race and gender. Matthews is an assistant professor and director of the poetry program at Bryn Mawr College, where she was presented the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award. Matthews’ first collection of poems is the critically acclaimed Simulacra, which received the prestigious 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. She’s also the author of Bread and Circus, a memoir-in-verse that combines poetry, prose and imagery. Matthews earned the 2020 Pew Fellowship Award as well as the 2017 Margaret Walker for My People Award. In 2016, she received both the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.  

During her visit, Matthews shared some of her poetry with NCC students and staff, and discussed her creative process and the themes that inspired her work. Her reading style expressed throughout her poems were powerful and motivational. She also took questions from the audience, engaging in thought-provoking conversations about where her passion for poetry stems from, how she continues to grow as a poet, and how she comes up with such powerful work. One compelling response Matthews shared was that she feels “the work of artistry is to see the beauty in the monstrosity.”  

NCC’s Poetry Day is a wonderful opportunity for the community to engage with talented artists and gain a deeper appreciation for the power of poetry.