Gordy Whiteman’s 'Home Town Guilford'
Gordy Whiteman has returned to the local publishing scene with another fascinating look at Guilford, as viewed by the author from boyhood to present day, with his new book, Home Town Guilford-New & Selected Poems.
Proceeds from Home Town Guilford will benefit Friends of the Guilford Free Library in much the way proceeds from Gordy's earlier book of original Guilford poems, Whitfield Crossing, raised money for Guilford's A Better Chance in 2000.
"This town has been very, very good to me," says Gordy, also a founder of Guilford's Community Nursery School as well as the Shoreline Unitarian Universality Society in Madison.
Born here in 1929 and a Guilford resident ever since, "I feel fortunate to have lived in the era I did," he says.
Gordy provides a mesmerizing window into that era through Home Town Guilford, often enhancing the view with accompanying pieces of his own art and photography-as well as that of his wife Andrea, his daughter Kim Stoddard, his granddaughter Brittany Whitfield, and others-and archive photos.
Gordy shares his wonderful color pencil rendering of a long-gone barn with a family history in "Hungry Hill (For My Five Children)"; he matches the color of his daughter's waterfront sunset photo with the claret poured in his poem about his first date with Andrea ("Geraniums at the Corner of Seaside and Whitfield").
For its wealth of personal and public views of this place, Home Town Guilford is a book residents will cherish for its ability to allow them to stand alongside Gordy as he revels in-and sometimes soberly reveals-pastimes and particulars which have seasoned the character of the author and his hometown. Of course, no one can describe the book better than Gordy himself does in his forward (see sidebar).
From childhood memories of Depression-era men vying to climb a cruel, greased pole on the Guilford Fair midway (to reach a $25 check) to his recollections of establishing and enjoying life at Guilford's famed 1970's-era commune, Gordy's Home Town Guilford poems often portray by-gone Guilford people and experiences.
"The home you live in is quite often the vehicle you use to explain how things work," says Gordy, adding, "because you write about Guilford, you inform people who weren't around at various times as to what Guilford was like and give that point of view."
Gordy's teenage years were informed by high school (Guilford High School Class of '50), as well as personal hard times. He lettered in four sports and writes in "Your Nickname" of stubborn-sticking youthful monikers (just ask "Twinkle Toes" Whiteman) as well as quitting sports to help his family make ends meet.
"My sophomore year, my family was stone poor, so I went to work right after school at Spencer's Foundry," he says.
Gordy's the schoolboy in "Pouring Time at Spencer's Foundry," describing the juxtaposition between studying Bach and Brahms and dodging burning iron and bronze. The schoolboy resolves education will lead him away from that "toxic, hellish place."
Gordy parlayed an MBA in marketing into a career with the former Brock Hall Dairy, while feeding his artistic interests as a hobbyist painter. In the late 1960s, Gordy says, "I started becoming serious about poetry. My avocation up to that time had been artwork. Then began a subtle change…Poetry really grabbed me."
Gordy was invited to join Shoreline Poets (now disbanded) in 1985 and then Guilford Poets Guild in 2001, with which he remains very active member.
About two years ago, Gordy and Andrea survived a horrific head-on motor vehicle accident. They're both doing well now, but Gordy says that incident "put a clamp" on publishing Home Town Guilford any sooner. He says he is humbled to be embraced so many residents, poetry aficionados, and others as Guilford's poet and promises there are plenty more Guilford-centric poems in him.
"I have enough already to fill half of another book and they're all Guilford-related," Gordy says, adding the town has always inspired him. "When we retired we bought an RV and traveled to all 48 states…and Guilford really hangs in there. Guilford is a very special place."
Home Town Guilford by Gordy Whiteman is available for $21.95 at Breakwater Books, 81 Whitfield Street, Guilford. Proceeds from book sales will be contributed to Friends of Guilford Free Library.
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