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Art Maker: Gary Metras, poet

  • Gary Metras, recently appointed as Easthampton's first poet laureate, works in the home studio of the small press he runs, Adastra Press, on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Gary Metras, recently appointed as Easthampton's first poet laureate, works in the home studio of the small press he runs, Adastra Press, on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Gary Metras, recently appointed as Easthampton's first poet laureate, sets type in the home studio of the small press he runs, Adastra Press, on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Gary Metras works in the home studio of Adastra Press. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • In the home studio of Gary Metras, recently appointed as Easthampton's first poet laureate, where he runs ties his own flys for fishing and runs Adastra Press. Photo taken on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • A block of hand-set type and the resulting print published by Gary Metras, recently appointed as Easthampton's first poet laureate, on his own Adastra Press. Photo taken on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Two copies of the poem by Gary Metras, "Seasons on Nashawannuck Pond". The print at left was made with hand-set type; the one at right is a computer-generated printout. Metras was recently appointed as Easthampton's first poet laureate and runs his own small press, Adastra Press. Photo taken on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Some titles by Gary Metras, recently appointed as Easthampton's first poet laureate. Photo taken on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING


Friday, June 08, 2018

As a poet and a publisher of poetry, Gary Metras has left a noticeable mark over the years, and earlier this spring his hometown of Easthampton recognized that by making him the city’s first-ever poet laureate. He just recently released his newest collection of his poetry, “White Storm.”

Metras’ publishing company, Adastra Press, which specializes in handset type and letter-press printing, has produced many chapbooks and collections, and he has another chapbook, for a Michigan poet,  scheduled this year. Working in the field has long been a labor of love, he notes. In the 1990s, he says, “I printed and published each year more poetry titles than did Doubleday, then the largest publisher in the world, but barely broke even with those books … Poetry is a hobby, whether as a poet or a poetry publisher.”

Hampshire Life: Talk about the work you’re currently doing. What does it involve, and what are you trying to achieve?

Gary Metras: I’ve recently assembled two book-length poetry manuscripts from poems mostly written over the past five to eight years, with a few older ones on similar themes. One is nature-related inspirations and the other is fly-fishing poems. I’ve been doing a lot of fly-fishing and fly-tying the past ten plus years, and I’ve been involved with the cold-water conservation group, Trout Unlimited.

It’s my passion these days. It’s safe to say that everything about wading in our wonderful local rivers inspires me: the trout I net and release, the eagles, ducks, kingfishers, otters, deer and raccoon I encounter, the sunrises, the sudden rains, the snow squalls. Each speaks to me in poetry, and I try my best to transcribe it.

HL: What do you draw inspiration from? Do you ever have any “Eureka!” moments?

GM: A few years ago, I stepped out behind our house and just started gazing at the night sky, lit by a full moon. Suddenly, a wispy cloud floated overhead, right toward that bright moon. The cloud was the shape of a river insect, a hellgrammite, a large, frightening-looking bug. So I wrote about that cloud, that bug swimming through the night sky in search of food. I submitted it and a couple other poems to The Common magazine at Amherst College; the poetry editor there accepted it right away. I think he, too,  could feel the eureka moment of that poem.

HL: How do you know when your work is finished?

GM: If an individual poem doesn’t finish itself, then it may take weeks or months or even longer to discover its true ending. Often it is in the tightness of the final line, or the aptness of the concluding image, and sometimes it is in a turn or leap of that final line or image that elevates the whole poem into a new revelation.

HL: If you weren’t an artist, what do you think you’d be?

GM: Poets cannot survive economically on their poetry. After all, who reads poetry in America? Who buys poetry books? We are fortunate here in the Valley that there are poetry readers and buyers, but that is not typical. I taught high school English for 31 years and college writing for six more, and the poets I’ve published all had other jobs: Merchant Marine, cab driver, high school teacher, college professor, factory worker, federal agency employee. 

HL: Dream dinner party: Who would you invite?

GM: Homer, Shakespeare, John Lennon.

HL: Do you listen to music while you’re working? What kind?

GM: Classical guitar — Segovia, Eliot Fisk, Julian Bream. But usually silence works best.

HL: What do you do when you’re stuck?

GM: Go for a walk in the woods. Watch junk TV or read detective novels. Re-read Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” Then just go about the routines of living as a husband, father, grandfather, home owner, until I get unstuck or something new comes along.

— Steve Pfarrer