July 12 – 18, 2019Vol. 21, No. 6

Three Maine Poets, or Four!!!!

by Martha F. Barkley

"This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks..."

From "Evangeline" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow came these words often repeated by my mom as we walked the woods together. The long evergreen needles turned golden and crunched beneath our feet. We walked together to the sound of this poetry. Try it by yourself or with a friend.

Portland has the museum childhood home of Longfellow in the center of town. Find his grand statue there as well, up the hill a block. Henry simply loved the walk from his home to Portland Head Light and back, quite the hike! I have not done that hike because of all the city traffic, but I have enjoyed seeing his home which was lived in by several more generations of Longfellows. Authentic original furnishings within.

We yearly spend a week on Little Lake Sebago and I discovered another poet's home in Raymond: Nathaniel Hawthorne vacationed there from Massachusetts in 1812 in his youth and commuted to Bowdoin College for those student years until 1825.

A lovely home remains in Raymond for museum visitors or strawberry festival lovers. He wrote poetically in his famed Scarlet Letter: "We dream in our waking moments, and walk in our sleep". Maine fresh air, scented by pine, inspires writing that we can walk to in rhythm with the words, like poets ourselves.

I discovered a third Maine poet this summer, when we went to the Belgrade Town Office to register our boats in May. A long line gave me time to chat and also skim Discover Maine, Western Maine Edition, 2019. Did you see it this summer somewhere, too?

"Livermore Falls' Louise Marie Bogan: Our nation's 4th poet laureate" was the article that caught my eye. Yes, she was born in our famous Washburn family's hometown. Like so many of the five Washburn brothers who moved away and made history elsewhere, so too did poet Bogan. Portland and Boston became her places of nurturing and literary development. Boston Girls' Latin School revealed to her a liking of Christina Rossetti, a favorite poet of mine, who wrote:

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

Try saying that as you walk through the breezes of summer by yourself or with a friend.

Our Maine-born poet laureate lived out her life in New York City after personal losses and traveling abroad and tragedy. Louise followed the well known Robert Penn Warren as our nation's poet laureate. Amazing to find more talent from little, rural Livermore Falls.

Jared, once again, borrowed for me through inter-library loan at Belgrade Library, a hand-stapled copy of Body of This Death Poems from the Maine State Library which houses all of Louise Bogan's works.

Her 1923 words were:

Build there some thick chord of wonder;
Then, for every passions sake,
Beat upon it till it break.

She died in 1970, not too long ago, in New York City, after a life of literary accomplishments.

How could I forget our neighbor in Gardiner, Edwin Arlington Robinson, winner of multiple Pulitzers? Robert Frost wrote that "[Robinson's] theme was unhappiness itself, but his skill was as happy as it was playful...His life was a revel in the felicities of language".

Thank goodness Laura Richards (from Merryweather Camp on Great Pond) helped Robinson through some rough patches and we have famous characters he created in "Richard Cory" et al., besides historic renditions of Lincoln and Rembrandt. I recommend the Penguin Selected Poems of "an unjustly neglected" Edwin Arlington Robinson.