Poems abound, all around town
Rockland — While some were out pulling April Fools Day pranks, Rockland Poet Laureate Carol W. Bachofner spent April 1 setting the stage for the fifth annual Poetry Month Rockland. Designed to coincide with National Poetry Month, the city’s celebration is based at Rockland Public Library but spreads out to downtown and beyond.
“April first is always a day I’m all around town,” she said after delivering a handsome wood and acrylic glass “poetry box” to the library’s front desk.
The boxes, eight in all, are new this year and can be found at downtown banks and book stores; the library; City Hall; and a couple of other locations. Designed to display and protect a page of paper — Bachofner will be switching out the poems they contain all month — the boxes were built by Eric Fleury.
“They’re custom-made. He remodeled our bathroom, so I knew he’d do a good job,” said Bachofner.
Poetry in public places has been part of Poetry Month Rockland from the start. Every April finds poems of all kinds appearing in shop windows and often on the pillows of guestrooms in local B&Bs. Bachofner said she likes the idea of Random Acts of Poetry and her term as poet laureate thus far has included flash mob handouts to people on Main Street and sitting in tour buses. She also is a fan of magnetic poetry boards; one in the library gets a real workout every year.
“I have so many magic magnetic poetry kits! I take one with me when I travel, with a baggie of letters. It’s a great conversation starter, especially at a bar … I’ve gotten a lot of free drinks,” she said, joking about “the secret life of a poet laureate.”
Poetry Month Rockland is about anything but being secretive or elitist about poetry. In addition to the board, the library’s popular Poet-Tree is back, encouraging people to write an original or favorite poem on a “leaf” and attach it. The annual poetry contest, open to all with several age categories, will be judged by Bachofner and other local poets Alan Clark and Mary Jane Martin; the winners will be announced and will read their poems at the Thursday, April 24, Swarm of Poets event, which starts at 6 p.m. There are several workshops on the full schedule, as well as the 3 p.m. Wednesday Fireside Readings — students from Oceanside East and West will read April 16; and community members are invited to read their or their favorite poems, or bring them in for a local poet to read, April 23.
Bachofner will present a hands-on workshop titled Make Your Poems Rise Like Warm Bread Saturday, April 12, starting 1 p.m. in the library’s Friends Community Room (space is limited; pre-register by calling 594-0310).
“It’s about how to enlarge poems without making them ‘bigger’ but by expanding content,” she said, adding it is a workshop she has offered many places and has always been well received.
This year’s Poetry Month Rockland’s theme is Windows, Doors & Mirrors, and Bachofner said she and the committee have really focused on bringing the theme into the poems displayed around the library as well as in the shop windows, poetry boxes and poems-to-pickup for April 24’s Poem in Your Pocket Day. It also informs the art show that runs through the month and the poetry contest, as well. While the theme’s subjects are concrete items, they also serve as metaphors.
“Really, they’re ways of seeing,” said Bachofner.
Ways of looking will be put to the test in the Poetry Month Scavenger Hunt, new this year. The one-sheet challenge combines poetry questions with ones about the community and its library and may be picked up at the front desk. Completed sheets must be returned to the library no later than Sunday, April 20. Sheets with the highest scores will be part of a drawing during the Swarm of Poets evening, with the winner receiving a prize.
Bachofner said when she proposed Poetry Month Rockland in 2010, she was not at all sure people would go for it but “it gets better every year.”
“All kinds of credit go to the library. Amy [Levine], Patty [King] and Mary Jane [Martin] give so much of their time, far more than their job requires,” she said, also thanking committee members Carol Brand and Ellen Goldsmith and art show coordinators Sandy Weisman and Diane Green Hebert.
She added that this year’s Swarm of Poets is dedicated to Steve Donoso, who served as the library’s programming director for 12 years before he and his wife departed for Ecuador last year.
“It fits the theme: he closed a door and opened a window to a new life,” she said.
As a member of the beleaguered RSU 13 school board, Bachofner was not able to attend April 3’s Band of Bards reading at the library, but she did deliver poems to her fellow board members, as well as those in attendance. And as she has done every April since being appointed the city’s second poet laureate, Bachofner will deliver a report on the state of poetry to the City Council.
“I think they need to know what the poet laureate does … I’m really hopeful that poetry and the writing arts can be involved in the arts council they’ve been discussing — the poet laureate should be on that council! That’s something I’ll be talking about on the radio,” she said, referring to her Thursday morning, April 10, appearance with former Belfast Poet Laureate Elizabeth Garber and Beatrix Gates, on WERU’s “Writers Forum.”
For those who wish to interact with the city’s poet laureate one-to-one, discussing their own work or poetry in general, Bachofner is holding “office hours” Mondays in April from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the library (which will be closed April 21 for Patriots Day). The final planned event for the month is the annual Bilingual Poetry Reading Tuesday night, April 29, at a location yet to be announced, co-sponsored by Penobscot School.
As she did last year, Bachofner offered a Poetry Month Rockland talk, a short discussion April 7 about the work of Dorianne Laux.
“Last year I did May Sarton, which was well received, and I thought I’d do a living poet this year,” she said.
Laux lives in North Carolina but was born in Augusta, giving her a Maine connection. She is one of three nationally known poets who will be part of a Poetry Month Rockland weekend next year, likely the first weekend in April but still in the works. Laux will be joined for a Friday night paid-admission event by Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco of Bethel and Patricia Smith, who lives in New Jersey but is on faculty for the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine; and all will participate in a series of Saturday workshops and readings.
“It’ll be a big deal! I’m hoping for some national recognition of the event,” she said, adding there will be fundraising done in support of the event “so we can transport, house and feed” the visiting artists.
Bachofner has done readings with Laux, Blanco and Smith and is looking forward to welcoming them to Rockland.
“I love these three poets, they are amazing! And their poetry is really accessible, even if you’re not a ‘poetry person,’” she said.
Rockland has a lot more “poetry persons” these days, thanks to five years of celebration. For a complete schedule of Poetry Month Rockland events, visit rocklandlibrary.org.