Join us to celebrate our biennial prizes for 2022
Thursday, April 7, 2022 | 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm

Constance H. Carlson Public Humanities Prize 

This prize recognizes a Maine resident who is involved in the public humanities in Maine and is using the humanities to: 1) foster agency, connection and engagement; 2) emphasize and/or increase diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and justice; and 3) represent or engage with communities that have traditionally had the least access to humanities resources. 

Photo: Jen Hoffer

 

Joseph Jackson is Director of Leadership Development at Maine Inside Out, an organization that uses original theater to build community, develop youth leadership, and create dialogue both inside and outside of Long Creek Youth Development Center, Maine’s juvenile correction facility. He is also Executive Director of Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, and Campaign Advisor of Maine Youth Justice. In 1995, Mr. Jackson was convicted of manslaughter, and served 19 years. During that period, he founded the Maine prison chapter of the NAACP, and earned associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, both summa cum laude, from the University of Maine at Augusta. When Mr. Jackson enrolled in the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program in Creative Writing, he was the first prisoner in the state to be selected for a graduate program. In 2015, he earned a Master’s Degree from University of Southern Maine. A published poet, Joseph Jackson was on the Advisory Board of Freedom & Captivity, a humanities project that examines the impact of incarceration and offers public opportunities to imagine alternatives. In a 2018 article for The Guardian, Mr. Jackson wrote: “I do this work because years of liberal studies and distance allowed me to make sense of the unfathomable world I experienced. It is a world in which abuse is relentless. It defies comprehension.” 

Carol Dana  was appointed the language master of the Cultural and Historic Preservation Department for the Penobscot Nation in 2002. This came after decades of her study and preservation efforts of the Penobscot language, which began in 1982 when she served as a research assistant to Dr. Frank T. Seibert, who created a written system and published a dictionary of the Penobscot language, which, at this point had been almost entirely destroyed by the impact of government-run residential schools. Ms. Dana’s work on the Penobscot Dictionary was the start of a decades-long mission to preserve and share the Penobscot language as a living language. Ms. Dana achieved a Master’s in Education, studied language immersion at St. Thomas College in Fredericton, New Brunswick, completed workshops from the Indigenous Language Institute, and received a certificate on Second Language Learning methods from the University of Maine. Today, she teaches widely in her community, especially in schools and to young children. Ms. Dana also collected and edited stories of Gluskabe, the legendary trickster, and published them as“Still They Remember Me”: Penobscot Transformer Tales, Volume 1—in Penobscot and English, with art from the tribal community. Ms. Dana and her extraordinary work were recently featured in a New Yorker article about the colonization of languages. 

MHC Facilitator Prize

The MHC Facilitator Prize celebrates a facilitator who demonstrates depth and excellence in their facilitation practice and in their commitment to engaging and supporting Maine’s communities through that practice. 

Wendy Allen, a coordinator for the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, has been an MHC facilitator since 2020, starting while in residence at the Southern Maine Women’s Re-Entry Center. She continues to facilitate now from her home in the Bangor area. Ms. Allen has facilitated MHC Discussion Projects with NextStep Domestic Violence Project in Washington County, Restorative Justice Institute of Maine, the Freedom & Captivity Coalition, and with women incarcerated at the Southern Maine Women’s Re-Entry Center. Ms. Allen embodies the MHC’s core priorities: She fosters agency and empowerment among the participants in her Discussion Projects; helps participants develop and voice complex feelings, ideas and reactions to texts; ensures that every participant’s voice is heard and valued; and works with care on every assignment she receives. During the past two years, she has helped to lead facilitator trainings with MHC staff, has mentored new facilitators, and has hosted and designed her own Discussion Projects for women incarcerated at the Re-Entry Center. Ms. Allen is also an MHC speaker. She writes about herself, “I’m passionate about helping others by sharing my experience, strength, and hope from active addiction into recovery.” 

MHC Program Partner Prize

The LVFSC Book Discussion team “Community Connect” (left to right): Sara Beech (staff), Elizabeth Cooke (volunteer), Matilda Holt (board member and participant), Barbara Averill (staff). Photo: LVFSC.

 

The MHC Program Partner Prize celebrates an organization—a program partner or grantee—that has stretched itself by seeking audiences in new ways/seeking new audiences, including the humanities in its work and its mission, and engaging with communities to determine needs and program design; and is fulfilling MHC priorities of engaging with and bringing resources to people under-resourced in the humanities.

Literacy Volunteers of Franklin & Somerset Counties (LVFSC) is a Western Maine community of adult learners, volunteer tutors, and a small two-person, part-time staff. For over 30 years, they’ve been an MHC partner, creating opportunities for meaningful connection and discussions about books, new ideas, and new worldviews in their community. LVFSC’s participants are often very isolated from one another and from their rural Maine communities. During the pandemic, LVFSC went above and beyond expectations in their efforts to include these participants in MHC Discussion Projects: They took books to participants’ homes, offered transportation, and deftly facilitated hybrid virtual and in-person conversations, ensuring that every participant’s voice was heard. During this period, as the MHC transformed and sought to embody principles of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice in its work, LVFSC took that as an opportunity to grow and change as well. LVFSC has shown innovation, creativity, and curiosity in our relationship, one that the MHC values for its length and the ways that it has grown and developed during the past two years. 


 

Constance H. Carlson Public Humanities Prize Selection Committee

  • Tam Thanh Huynh (Executive Director, Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine)
  • Darren Ranco (Chair, Native American Programs; Director, Native American Research, University of Maine)
  • Maya Williams (Portland Poet Laureate)
  • Samaa Abdurraqib (Associate Director, Maine Humanities Council)
  • Diane Magras (Director of Development, Maine Humanities Council)
[caption id="attachment_11204" align="alignright" width="300"]Constance Carlson Luncheon 2017-55 Photo by Dan D’Ippolito[/caption] Gary Lawless, who was awarded the 2017 Constance H. Carlson Public Humanities Prize, has long worked to bring poetry and the creative process to the people of Maine.  

Follow Gary as he shares poetry from Mainers of all backgrounds. Poems will be released monthly in Notes from an Open Book, the MHC's e-newsletter, and collected below.

 

 

March, 2019 - Lily-Rebecca Mitchell

 

"Lily-Rebecca Mitchell is nine years old and lives in Lincoln, Maine, with her parents and four siblings. She is a champion loon caller, a lover of animals, and wants to be a military vet and astronaut when she grows up. These poems are from her poetry collection called Family."

  I love the library I love the library Every day I love the library when we are there I love the library You love the library I love the library We all love the library Every day I Love I love the wind that blows through the trees I love the pretty flowers, they smell oh so fresh I love the river I love all the life in the World Lily-Rebecca Mitchell

 

 

February, 2019 - Eero Ruuttila

 

"Eero Ruuttila is a poet, photographer, and farmer living in Morrill. He guest edited the recent Winter 2019 issue of The Café Review."

  Hojos de La Pastora in memory of Richard Evans Schultes Sitting with plants the air begins to change. I don’t see Spirits I see molecules (Shultes said.) beans feed squash atmosphere charges seed. metal rusts nails let go barn falls down. or it rains again & the toilet bowl fills. along cultivated fields children who come they play with it. a man dead 3 days he revives. he revives immediately when leaves green leaves the leaves are laid on him. Eero Ruuttila  
 

January, 2019 - Linda Buckmaster

 

"We begin the New Year at ground level, with this poem from Linda Buckmaster, former poet laureate of Belfast. Her new hybrid memoir Space Heart- A Memoir in Stages was released in November of 2018." – Gary Lawless

  Stonework (After Dudley Zopp’s Geologics) I. It’s much quieter now. Boulders lie peacefully. A gentle wash of slate litters the hillside. Tree roots caress granite outcrops like old lovers, while igneous and metamorphic sleep together in erratic lineage, allowing lichen decades to creep across their backs. Lumpy ridges, glacial till dotted with ponds and marshes, eroded roots of volcanic chains -- permeable or impermeable, but all waiting for exactly nothing. II. Dappled across each individual stone, and together spread out in pattern, speckled tableau, three shades of gray, maybe a pink, some brown or tan—dappled memory. III. Throw them farther, farther, each satisfying plunk or plink its own music, song of boys and the bored, the nervous conversation, the rocky frustration. Throw another stone, a composition complete and pleasing. IV. What stories laid here, this northern wall fitted to keep out or in some something, or maybe just to get the damn things out of the way, or maybe no stories at all, only the stony work of hard silence. V. Go deep enough, you run into a stone. VI. We didn’t have stones there. Florida sand, coral reef, coquina rock, limestone not too far beneath the surface: porous, all porous. Something was missing. VII. So basic. So useful. So often in the way. VIII. Every spring a new crop, winter gifts, glacial rubble, tumble and heave. Linda Buckmaster  
 

December, 2018 - Julia Bouwsma

 
“This month’s poem comes from Julia Bouwsma’s book Midden – a collection of poems rising out of the historical account of Malaga Island, Maine. Julia Bouwsma is book review editor for Connotations Press and Library Director for Webster Library in Kingfield, Maine.” – Gary Lawless
  I Walk My Road At Dusk "The hour of metamorphoses, when people half hope, half fear that a dog will become a wolf." - Jean Genet, Prisoner of Love   Now is the hour between: light dances animal-eyed among the trees. Every bending branch becomes a torso. Every mouth opens into another running tooth, woods stripped naked as a fleeing child - what leaps the downed logs, what sudden antlers clatter the brush heap? I walk to the clear cut, discarded limbs,silvered softwood. I trace this trail of quartz crystals, vertebrae - morsels dropped from a torn pocket and blazed to bone dust.The road curves toward and away. The road spines the stone walls. My feet stumble inside ruts my feet have worn. All I ever wanted was land: something to press my fingers into, a flat weight to pin my breath into the sockets of my hips. What body doesn’t hide secrets from itself? I strain to see the path, stones sleeping in the road like fallen dogs - the sun drops its animal rush into my throat, and I call out to you, the erased, the in-between, islanders, whose bodies still wear your moment of dusk as a skin of rusted dirt you cannot crawl out of, you touched and turned, tossed by the phantoms others saw as they gazed from the mainland, the white eye of the sun falling into the dark mouth where river meets ocean, a rupture of self from self, our otherness a shadow that pitches us into the blue hour from which there is no escape - the dog rising from its bed of dust to take the wolf’s heart in its mouth. Julia Bouwsma  
 

November, 2018 - Doug Rawlings

 
“Doug Rawlings is a poet, teacher, husband and father, peace activist, Vietnam Veteran, and co-founder of Veterans for Peace.”  – Gary Lawless
  Giving Silence For my son Josh and his best friend David turning thirteen   If 'namvets were ancient shamans now would be the moment we’d choose to give you shelter from the coming storm But we are merely survivors of suburbs and cities not forest nor mountain Modern men offering you our silences our words to guide you going out on your own Yet we have known for years now that the silences of our fathers will not do And we have known that words alone cannot bleed you free of your raging doubts So listen up to what we have found between silences and words: Open up your fists Watch women move Scorn uniforms Don’t march Dance Doug Rawlings  
   

October, 2018 - Isaac Kinzambi

 
Isaac Kinzambi came to Portland, Maine, from Angola in the fall of 2017. This poem is taken from his book The Impossible is Possible and will be included in I Have A Word, an upcoming collection of his poems."

  Show Me the Cold Show me the cold! I didn’t know what tis all about as we say “I feel cold” you say “I am cold”. I didn’t know how cold can hurt Until I became one of them; I became homeless among them. Show me the cold! Don’t show it to my mother She always fancies winters abroad, she doesn’t know how it hurts her son. Because she said “send me the snowy pictures”, Then I slide, falling upon it and broke my screen; I became homeless, the cold became my blanket Show me the cold! Show it to my buddies from the shelters When we faced the below zero to be heroes, When Fahrenheit and Celsius became allies, That moment you need just a cup of survey. I didn’t know what winter is all about Until I landed here homeless but not hopeless. Isaac Kinzambi  
 

September, 2018 - Mary Dowd

 
“Mary Dowd is a poet and doctor in southern Maine. This poem comes from her collection “The Heroin Diaries,” a collection of 72 poems published by The Permanente Press and written over a decade of treating people with substance abuse disorders in Maine.”
  Feral Their faces are thick and red, coarsened by drink and weather, their eyes, wide and wary. Their hands are rough-cut boards, their feet unmentionable. Walls and windows hem them in, chairs and beds don’t fit. Even sober, they can’t live in a house. Even in winter they come to the shelter only on the coldest nights. Once inside, they start to pace. They prefer a blue tarp in the woods, a sleeping bag stuffed with newspapers. It’s the proximity they can’t abide, so they keep a steady level of whiskey in their blood to keep from lashing out like tomcats over territory, over insults misperceived, over voices saying things only they can hear. Whiskey blunts the edge, the edge of exposure, the feeling every day that comes from having no doors on your heart, no roof on your mind. Nothing between you and the sky. Nothing between you and the dirt. Nothing between you and the knowledge your final bed won’t be much different. Mary Dowd, MD  
   

August, 2018 - John Joyce

 
"John Joyce passed away this July. He had been an artist at Spindleworks in Brunswick for almost 40 years. He had lived with Down Syndrome for 63 years, but was not defined by it. He was a weaver, painter, sculptor, poet, singer, clown, mime, and a great friend to everyone. John and I created poems together for decades. He loved us all, from the bottom of his heart."

  If I could be anyone right now I would be Stevie Wonder. Well he sings good he plays the piano he’s got good hair not really twisted hair but he’s got black hair and his whole body is all black. I can’t remember when his birthday is - he’s got nice clothes and he writes love songs - “I just called to say I love you I just called to say how much I care I just called to say I love you and I mean it from the bottom of my heart.” That’s a real nice song. And he’s blind. That wouldn’t bother me. I’d like to read his mind. John Joyce

Originally published in “Spindleworks Journey," Spindleworks, 1991

 
   

July, 2018 - Elizabeth Coatsworth

 

"Elizabeth Coatsworth came to Maine in the early 1930s and lived at Chimney Farm in Nobleboro until her death in 1986. During that time she published over 125 books of children’s literature, poetry, adult fiction, and memoir. Here is a poem of hers, for July."

  And July Days when the loons fly and the farm hands hasten at their haying, watching the sky and the fields sway and blanch to the currents of the wind and the cowbells sound and die in the juniper pasture, and the lake is fanned into darkness and the women hurry to dry bright clothes on the line, their skirts whipping, Days when the swallows fly and the grapevines are ruffled to white My soul remembers It is Maine, and July - Elizabeth Coatsworth  
   

June, 2018 - Jure Detela, translated by Raymond Miller of Topsham

 
Since the fall of the Tower of Babel, we have relied on translators to bring us each other’s stories. Ugly Duckling Presse has just published Moss & Silver – a collection of poems by the late Slovenian poet Jure Detela, translated by Raymond Miller of Topsham, Maine. Here are two sections from that book. Number 18 was first published in the British magazine Poem, and number 19 was first published in the U.S. by Paper Bag” 
  18. In quiet music a sleeping head leans into me and awakens herds of stars that spray like droplets as a horse runs across a stream. 19. Spinning in my thoughts are valleys laden with rocks rolling down with rivers in their beds. Jure Detela

 
   

May, 2018 - Reza Jalali

 
“Reza Jalali, a writer and educator, came to Maine as a political refugee. He has published poetry, fiction, plays, children’s books, and non-fiction, and is the online editor for Incomer, a new Maine magazine from Maine’s immigrant communities.” 

  My Indian Aunt Call it luck, call it fate I have known this for a fact I’m related to a dragonfly born in Africa or maybe a lizard seeking, in a Calcutta shantytown tracing my origin to a bug was so much fun until I ate one at a food-stand in Hong Kong Eating the crunchy relative, I felt bad. That wasn’t the first time. When a child I ate fistful of ants to see if they’d make me fart. I might be related to the moon the stars or the loud thunder in the monsoon I know I’m not alone in this galaxy I’m connected to the living, the dead, and the in-between I once saw an elephant taking it easy chilling listening to the frogs on a full-moon night in a forest in South India We’re in this together I remember saying to the big creature She said nothing. I still can’t figure if it were just a dream or the moonshine arak that made the moon, peering through the open window, to find me in the dark room to shake me out of sleep, whispering: Come out and see the elephant! She might be your aunt the moon helped me to find a pair of sandals, wearing a lungi What a fat aunt, I said at once Hush! My Child! Don’t be so rude. Listen. The frogs are singing tonight, my fat Indian aunt said. Reza Jalali  
   

April, 2018 - Zainab Almatwari

 
“April is National Poetry Month, and we celebrate it with a poem from Zainab Almatwari. Zainab came to Maine from Basrah, Iraq and is a sophomore at Westbrook High School. This poem was first published in the Telling Room’s 2017 anthology, Sparks. On April 10, Zainab will be reading at the State Theater as a part of the Telling Room's Show & Tell: A Literary Spectacular.” 

  The Transform Plate Between LA and Sacramento 1. Transform Plate Mrs. Fernald taught us in our Earth Science class that there are three different kinds of plate tectonics The transform plate, or the transform fault, is one of the three That plate is between LA and Sacramento Where two lands move apart and the result is a new land That is what happened to me 2. A Rock and A Hammer The big rock that was in my way between Iraq and the U.S. was my grandma The hardest thing was leaving her behind. She was the rock but she was also the hammer She said:”I trust you. You can do it. Just go.” 3. A Small Fox I used to be a small fox I always had that sneaky part of me that sneaks into the serious one that part that told me to leave my goals and do whatever I like to do but after a while I realized that building a better life does not happen by doing whatever I like to do but by everything I want to do I can do it like a lion be brave independent and go right for what I want 4. Maps I expect from myself to draw the roads that I want to walk on all the cars, even the O2 that I breathe I expect from myself to see, hear, touch, feel, and smell I feel the reflection of myself as I can touch it My new self gave me the pen to draw a street that connects London, LA, Tokyo, and New York In my fox self I thought those cities weren’t mine I thought each city was for its people only My fox self was like a city in Antarctica No name, no people, no feelings 5. Expectations My parents pictured me as the recycling of their hopes but with the goals of a mind independent and trusted They saw me as the finder not the searcher of their lost moments but I expect from myself more than people do High dreams but I believe and I know that I am going to reach the top even if I am short 6. The transformation I left the small fox in my backpack She was the dictionary of my life She was my Google Translate and my bad words She was the hand that touched me through the continents 7. Altitude 39,000 Feet I came with a heavy mind full of dreams goals and thoughts literally I thought about the Latin numbers the Greek government the top of a triangle the pictures of the tracks the scary swarms of bees I tried not to think about anything while I was thinking about everything Everything was pretty important for me 8. The Lion I love my lion self even if I close my eyes and walk in the main street even if I say no while everyone says yes even if I tell my sister “Don’t talk to me for ten minutes!” but I come back and give her my favorite highlighter I love myself I love me as a lion Zainab Almatwari  
   

March, 2018 - Joseph Coleman

 
"Our March 2018 poem takes us onto the ice, to the smelt shacks. Author Joseph Coleman is from Augusta, and divides his time between Maine and New York. This poem is from his first book of poems 45 degrees North Latitude. His poetry can be found on his website, where you can hear this poem read by actor Jeff Daniels.”
  Smelt Shacks The frost-heaved road lined with cord on cord of wood weaved down to River Bend Smelt- Camps. The office had a roaring fire; sixty dollars to fish the tide in a little tin smelt shack. An old man held out two packets of bait; sea-worms sprinkled with seaweed rolled loosely in wet mud- stained paper towels. “The key”, hacked a toothless woman hunched in a corner, taking deep drags off a Doral Gold, “is to cut the bait into tiny pieces; change the bait when the bait turns white; change the bait, that’s the key!” Ignoring her, the old man said, “Start with two turns up from the bottom and stagger the lines. Try one six feet below the ice. Did you bring a knife to cut the bait?” “The key is to change the bait”, the old fish hag cackled. “Change the bait,change the bait!” echoed from her corner as we made our way out onto the ice. A row of twelve smelt shacks, with steep peaked tin roofs and walls of torn black tarpaper, followed the natural bend of the river. At the base of each shack, hay bales, cut in the golden salt marshes of late summer, rotted into relentless mood shifts of the ice. Pulsing inside each shack, rusted iron wood stoves crackled hot with dry white pine and beech. Each side of the floor had a trough of open water, emerald-green water, like the brackish water off Porters Landing in summer – diving deep into cold black, arching spines to a sun-shafted surface.... Hung above each trough, a row of six strings and sharp hooks wrapped neatly around wooden pegs. I cut the bait. Not your dignified earthworms used for catching brook trout in the excited waters of early spring, but filthy mud-worms from the flats, with hundreds of squirming legs. The rusty knife the old man lent me tore them into small chunks, squirting blood everywhere. I baited the tiny hooks, staggering each one with different turns on the pegs. Drunk men down the way yelled “Smelts! Smelts on! Smelts on! they’re runnin’ boys! They’re runnin’!” followed by hoots and yelps.... but there were no smelts running, there was no action, there was nothing but deep booms and moans from under an aching ice, bruised ice heaving from a rising tide, anxious ice from a nervous breakup of a tilting earth. Joseph Coleman  
   

February, 2018 - Spindleworks poets

 
“February’s poem, a Valentine poem, is a group poem by the poets at Spindleworks, a wonderful community of artists at the Spindleworks workshop and gallery in Brunswick. This poem is from their book ‘Spindleworks Journey’.” 
  Magic Medicine Draw an apartment house and paint it blue and white. Give it yellow shutters, open them and see better. See the flowers growing. We give you a yellow parrot with a green beak singing “Beak! Beak!” Feel happy with it and cuddly and warm. We give you ginger tea with a little bit of milk. We give you the Rockettes, the singing dancers. We send you to Hawaii and have you take it easy. Go swimming with hula dancers, dance with a mermaid and wear a straw dress. Get married! Get married to your honey. If your honey won’t marry, go to Hollywood, be a singer, a singer like Texas Red or Johnny Cash. We give you a red rose.  
   

January, 2018 - Karin Spitfire

 

"Karin Spitfire is a poet, dancer, and book artist in Belfast. She currently runs a letterpress studio at Steel House in Rockland. This poem is printed, with permission, from 3 Nations Anthology: Native, Canadian & New England Writers, edited by Valerie Lawson and published by Resolute Bear Press in Robbinston."

   Allegiance I tried to lie on the crumbly red granite of Passamaquoddy Bay to listen, to join the great flowing currents, rip tides, whirlpools, to embrace the St. Croix, Cobscook, reversing falls lean into the curves thru Sipayik, longed to paddle the grand lakes, around Motahkomikuk, Spedneck, undo the arbitrary lines between homelands. But the pink granite of Penobscot Bay, the resonant slow thunk pulled me back to the high rounded nubs leapfrogging across it, Schoodic, Cadillac, Megunticook, my hips molding more easily around the archipelago protecting the Passagassawaukeag, Naskeag and Brooklin, my blade recognizing the Upper West Branch rills, Chesuncook, and the long flow out to Isle au Haut. Karin Spitfire  

   

December, 2017 - Mike Hicks

 

"In the early 1990s I spent two years co facilitating, with Julie Johnson, a weekly drop-in writing group at the Preble Street Resource Center in Portland. We published a book of writing from that group, called 'Words from the curbs,' and this poem is from that book." 

 

Billy

When Billy turned five and started school the teacher asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and these are the things that Billy didn’t say: I want to be a junky and a dope addict. I want to get married too young and beat my children and my wife. I want to sell my body to perverts in the park for twenty bucks or crack cocaine. I want to live on welfare, food stamps, and be a burden to my fellow man. I want to beg for quarters so I can buy some beer. I want to sleep under bridges and have young punks call me a bum. I want to stay in shelters and slowly go insane. I want to drink cheap wine and puke and piss my pants. I want to eat in dumpsters and soup kitchens and smoke cigarettes that I find. I want to be called lazy and be shunned by so-called gentlemen. I want to smell of unwashed skin and grow to hate my fellow man. I want someone to kill me for the things that I’ve become. I want to be called a loser, a vagrant and a bum. The things that Billy did say are irrelevent, because he’s dead, killed by the hero of the town. Mike Hicks Mike Hicks is a poet and artist, now living in the Pacific Northwest.  
   

November, 2017 - Terry Grasse

  Uncle Sam! Uncle Sam! Do you know who I am? I’m one of your veteran sons. You sent us to a war in Vietnam, a war that could never be won. Uncle Sam! Uncle Sam! Do you know what I need? I’m home from the war but my wounds still bleed. Uncle Sam! Uncle Sam! I’d be better off dead. The battles are over, but rage on in my head. Uncle Sam! Uncle Sam! Do you know, do you know who I am? Terry Grasse  Terry Grasse is a visual artist, poet, and a veteran of the Vietnam War. He lives in Lisbon Falls, Maine.  
   

October, 2017 - Robert Gibbons

 

"Robert Gibbons is a widely published poet, currently living in Waterville. For twelve years he lived and wrote in Portland  where one critic wrote that he was “in the process of sacralizing Portland, lodging it in the imagination of readers, as Williams did for Paterson, Cavafy for Alexandria, Joyce for Dublin.” This poem is taken from his collection “Animated Landscape”, published in 2016 by BlazeVox"

  “Moose was Whale Once,” Said Old John Neptune In this way I’ve been out to sea the past couple of months recording imagined travels across Atlantic, Aegean, Mediterranean, Pacific, & Adriatic waters, ports as diverse as Heraklion, Nantucket, Okinawa, Venice, & Boston. Hard to fathom the years-long whaling voyages Ishmael alludes to, or the five-long years father spent his youth on military transport. No, hard as Hell to fathom that. When I do contemplate it, it’s the difference in the scent of distant ocean, & smell of air above earth comes strangely to mind. The longing there. In the distinction. So it comes as a surprise here near the end of the Logbook that Thoreau steps in as a guide back home. In his posthumous publication, The Maine Woods, he records a trip up to Old Town, meeting the Penobscot Governor, eighty-nine-year-old, Old John Neptune, who recalled when moose were much larger than in Thoreau’s time, that in fact, according to legend down near the Merrimack a whale swam in, & as the tide went out, stranded, the whale stood up & walked on land, “Moose was whale once,” said Old John Neptune. Were I to identify with that mythological transmogrification it’s again the distinction of the scent of the air in the distant sea, for whale & sailor alike, & air above land for moose & his trek from the Merrimack, which I’ve trekked along, & his migration all the way up to the forests of Maine. I take a deep breath, where both earth and sea air circulate, give thanks to Thoreau for recording that story, & guiding me back to Port. Robert Gibbons  
 

September, 2017 - Mihku Paul

 
“Mihku is a Maliseet writer and visual artist who grew up on the Penobscot River. This poem is from ‘Look Twice: The Waponaki in Image and Verse’-  a one-woman mixed media installation she mounted at the Abbe Museum in 2009. The poem is also included in her book ‘20th Century PowWow Playground.’ A StoneCoast MFA, she lives in the Portland area.”
  The Water Road All journeys begin here, Madawamkeetook, home, beside the good river, rocky at its mouth. Stone shards, bone stratum buried deep, our ancient cenotaph, Old Meductic Fort, traceless memorial. on the shores of Wolastoq. Now St. John. The naming taken, baptized in ink and parchment. They say he knew water transformation; it gives life. A thousand years and more, we paddled the Old Meductic Trail; the water road. Nomads, they called us, citing “most ancient evidence” of our passage; “the solid rocks have been furrowed by the moccasins of the native tribes.” A signpost, our chalcedony flesh. Blue veins you call Nature’s highway, the map flowing inside our bodies, the Thoroughfare; Chepneticook lakes to Mattawamkeag and onward to the Penobscot, where a girl became a woman. Her body craves the past. Its water seeking the cool flow, ancestral memory, where tributaries meet, flooding undernourished roots that cling to her edges, eroded year by year with forgetting. Remember Meductic and the Water Road. Birch bark, chert and bone melded with riverbank clay, merging in the rippling shallows where canoes slide, silent, among water lilies and pickerel grass. Mihku Paul-Anderson  
   

August, 2017 - Ekhlas Ahmed

 

“Ekhlas Ahmed came to Portland from Darfur at the age of 12. She attended Casco Bay High School and the University of Southern Maine. She now teaches at Casco Bay High School while working on a master’s degree. This poem is from a longer series of poems about her journey.” 

  It’s quiet in Darfur. It’s not  the silence of peace, but it’s the silence of death. My homes that once carried histories of generations are now burned ashes on the ground waiting for the wind to blow them to their final destination. My mothers that were once leaders of their communities are now used as war weapons. My sisters that once had chances to be future leaders are now afraid to see the sun. So I speak for them. I speak for the thousand mothers who have been speaking forever but there is no-one to listen. I speak for the thousand girls who want to speak but don’t have a voice. I speak for the thousand children of Darfur because they can only speak in silence. I speak so they can be heard. Because I feel their pain. When I was a little girl I used to cry but only in silence never showing my parents my tears not even my siblings, or peers because they told us if you showed people your tears, it meant you were afraid it meant you were weak, it meant you were powerless Yes I was young, but I knew I wasn’t weak, and I knew I wasn’t powerless I had and still have a weapon A Voice A voice that once it’s heard, demands attention A voice that doesn’t only speak, but repeats So I will speak so they can be heard. Ekhlas Ahmed  
   

July, 2017 - Sharif Elmusa

 

“When Naomi Shihab Nye gave a reading in Augusta in April, she was asked who her current favorite Arabic poet was. Her answer, immediately, was Sharif Elmusa – a poet originally from Palestine, but now from Arrowsic, Maine. Sharif has twice read at Gulf of Maine Books for our ‘Hummus and Poetry’ evenings. He says that I am turning him into a Maine nature poet, and this poem is from a ‘poetry walk’ I lead at Beech Hill Preserve in Rockport.”

 

Poetry Walk As I walked up the path of Beech Hill Preserve I kept thinking of the snail of Issa climbing Mount Fuji, till a sharp stone warned my left foot Don't step on me, else you will trip. As far as the eye could roam the land was many shades of green flecked with red and yellow, white and blue, was countless kinds of trees and shrubs, pine and oak, spruce and maple, raspberries, blueberries and honeysuckle; with their mouths pressed to the ground, they blossomed and multiplied, without gadgets, despite the pompous popish names, Populus grandidentata, Pinus strobus, Quercus prinus. Lichen is the language of granite, said the guide. Only the trunks of trees seem to grasp this tongue. This is why I was overjoyed to hear the whispers of the little wood-lily I am in full bloom, therefore I am, or the fog that crowned our walk and veiled the lake and mountains declare, as if it were an oracle After I lift, and I lift when I please, don't think what you SEE is what you see. The future stirs where the chipmunk hides in the secrets it hoards. Sharif S. Elmusa First published here and in Mizna: Prose, Poetry and Art Exploring Arab America, vol 17.2.2016

 

June, 2017 - Kifah Abdulla

 
Kifah Abdulla is a poet and artist living in Portland, Maine. Originally from Iraq, he served in the Iran-Iraq war and was a prisoner of war for over eight years. This poem comes from that experience. It is reprinted with permission from his book of poems: Dead Still Dream.
  Dream 1 I dreamt of a small window Through it flows clean air Looking over a blue sky White clouds travel through it Flocks of birds pass by like air I dreamt of a small window The size of my hand Overlooking a sea My eyes travel in it Into distant waves of blue The yellow sun comes Awakening the morning And the night comes, inlaid with light A window into which the snow whispers Suspend in it, the moon and the rain Into it flow the colors of autumn And in spring, the fragrant buds A small window, in which I count My mornings and my evenings Nesting in it are my memories I cultivate in it lush dreams I dreamt of a small window The size of my hand I look from it to see my sweetheart When she comes from afar She waves to me That she is coming soon, Carrying between the folds of her heart Happy news A small window overlooking Onto the rest of a new age I dreamt in a place where My one and only dream was, And all that I wished for Was to have a small window The size of my hand I dreamt Kifah Abdulla   
 

May, 2017 - Ellen Flewelling Holt

 
"This is the first poem in the first anthology of poems I helped put together from Spindleworks in Brunswick. We published that collection in 1991. I really was trying to learn what it was like for an adult not to be able to read, and Ellen (who has passed away since the book came out) helped me to really feel it." 
  I would like to learn to read. I know one thing I can’t do. Read. It’s hard for me when I can’t read. What would I do if I got lost? I wouldn’t know where I am. I wouldn’t know what street I was on. That’s what I want. I want to learn so I can read signs. If I could read, I would know what the signs say. I could read a newspaper. Read a book, read the Bible. Read a cookbook, recipes in a cookbook. I could put the right things in the recipe. Tell what size my clothes are. What size shoes I wanted. Maybe if I wanted a teddy bear I could find out how much it costs or if I wanted a record or a blouse. I could find out when the movies are. I could do that if I could read. Ellen Flewelling Holt from Spindleworks Journey, edited by Gary Lawless, published by Spindleworks, 1991