A Democratic Book of Poetry
"ROUTES: 20 Years of Tenants Harbor Poetry Readings" Limerock Press, Thomaston, Maine, 2016
Thursday, August 11, 2016 4:38 PM
“Routes” is the third book of poetry published by the steadfast group of poets with a connection to Tenants Harbor, Maine. This book marks the 20th year of their annual poetry reading on the peninsula, an August event that usually fills the large Odd Fellows Hall to overflowing.
This book includes not only the work of the core group, but the work of a few guest poets who have participated in the readings over the years. These wide-ranging poems, from a few lines to a few pages long, find beauty in humor, tragedy, or the mundane and focus on everything from the sublime to the somewhat ridiculous. Their topics are always viewed through the eyes of keen observers, reported now from the vantage of time.
“Routes” is a democratic presentation, with the poets appearing in alphabetical order. Still, it’s fitting that the work of Jonathan Aldrich, as one of the founders of the annual reading, is presented first. Aldrich, a lifetime, fourth-generation summer resident of Harts Neck, offers 10 poems covering many topics, from trolls to Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” In “Trolls,” Aldrich paraphrases Ibsen and conjures the role of the poet:
As always, the styles of these poets are diverse, from Christopher Fahy’s observations of emotional life moments writ large, to the rhythmic reflections of Elizabeth McKim’s poetry — meant to be read, sung or chanted, aloud.
- He said, the usual man
- fights trolls in the outer world;
- the artist or the great one
- fights the trolls in his soul.
The poems range from the tiny — observations of Japanese beetles on a plant — to broad topics such as the plight of refugees, and much in between. Twenty years after the launch of the annual reading, many of the poets are older and their poems are reflections on how life is lived or missed, on losses, or on the simple pleasure and treasure of observing nature in a beautiful Maine seaside setting.
David Riley, another founder and published poet, has summered in Tenants Harbor for more than 20 years. One of his seven poems is appropriately named “Tenants Harbor” and includes the lines:
Whatever our deeds may say, we’re short-term
as the moon shuttles seaweed past our window.
Former Tenants Harbor denizen, now Thomaston resident, Christopher Fahy writes of covertly touching a masterpiece in a Brussels museum, a pancake flipped onto a chandelier, and the strange detachment of flying above a war zone. But in “Memento,” he conjures up the dead:
In “Maybe Back in School,” teacher and poet Mary Burchenal conflates a student’s inattention in class with the possibility the head of BP oil had done the same in school, and that perhaps his failure to pay attention produced the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill 2010:
- The dead remember nothing
- until we unconsciously call them forth
- in dreams. We are happy to see them,
- they know who we are, but always seem
- less than thrilled.
Several poems, besides “Tenants Harbor,” focus on people or things particular to the town. Jean Frances Diemert, guest poet, writes of buying a bucket at a lawn sale that once belonged to the peninsula’s late Walt Anderson, fisherman and subject of an Andrew Wyeth painting. Several poems reflect on poetry itself or the act of being a poet, including both poems in the volume by guest poet Nan Carey, “The Poet” and “Staying With.” The former includes the lines:
- I am thinking that maybe back in school he put his
- head on the desk
- while the class was studying the food chain,
- Thoreau or vectors
- or maybe he was out back, studying how to unhitch
- a girl’s bra
As with its predecessors, “Summer Lines” in 2006 and “Branching Out” in 2011 — which marked the 10th and 15th anniversaries of the event — “Routes” offers a new collection of the poets’ work. “Routes” also contains work from Alice Bingham Gorman, Margot Anne Kelley and Antonia (Toni) Small. The cover painting is called “Fertile Ground,” done by Mimo Gordon Riley. This year’s annual reading will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 18, at the Odd Fellows Hall, Tenants Harbor. Admission is free, refreshments are served, donations are invited.
- When done,
- you step aside,
- the way a dream
- lets go of itself,
- leaving another small story
- awake on the page,
- waiting its turn.
The book will be available for sale at the event and at selected bookstores in Maine.