One of the owners of The Word Barn in Exeter has published a debut collection of poems and in them, she explores love, longing and loss.

We Hold On To What We Can is by writer and teacher Sarah Alcott Anderson. She says it took 12 years to pull all of the poems together and craft them into a 144-page book.

"Throughout all those years I have revised some of the poems many times, I've taken poems out, I've changed the title six or seven times. I finally had to commit to certain things like the title and the fact that it was finished," Anderson said in a recent interview.

Anderson said about half of the poems have been published in journals but creating a book is a different process. She is thankful for her editor and designer.

Anderson is also grateful she was able to use a photo of her daughter and niece for the front cover. Her daughter is in the green dress.

Courtesy Photo
Courtesy Photo

The photo was taken about four years ago after the two girls had wandered into a ballroom while with their mothers.

"Nothing was happening in it, it was at a hotel, and they just started twirling around and it was one of those moments, my twin sister and I were there, looking, thinking, should we be stopping this, cause it is kind of a fancy room, and we couldn't stop them. They were such joy," Anderson said.

Anderson said it worked out quite nicely with the title, too.

"The title actually comes from, it's the second to last line of one of the poems in the collection and I chose it because I do think it can have multiple meanings, we hold on to what we can, one of those being this joy of childhood, like that actual moment that girls shared," Anderson said.

Anderson said a number of people have asked if the title is related to the past 16 months and the global COVID-19 pandemic. She said it did not, and she wants people to make their own personal connection with the poems and explore what each one means for themselves.

Courtesy Photo
Courtesy Photo

We Hold On To What We Can is published by Loom Press and is available at Barnes and Noble in Newington and on The Word Barn's website.

Contact Managing News Editor Kimberley Haas at

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