Poet Carol Bachofner is a member of the Abenaki tribe who also carries recognition papers from the Penobscot Nation. A resident of Rockland, Bachofner sits on the School Administrative District 13 Board of Directors. She writes in traditional form as well as in open form (free verse). The founding editor of Pulse Literary Journal, Bachofner teaches poetry in Rockland and at workshops and conferences. She was a featured speaker at the Winter Wheat Conference at Bowling Green University in 2007 and at the Maine Literary Festival in 2009. Bachofner was the founder of the annual Poetry Month Rockland in 2010, a city-wide celebration of everything poetic. She is now writing a novel.

Q: What’s your primary inspiration?

A: Place. I write about place as it existed in culture and people in the place. I am of Abenaki heritage. The new book is about time and place as seen through the Native American concept of time. It’s always about place. Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas were inspirations.

Q: How did you start writing?

A: I started when I was about 6. I used to write things in the sand with sticks. The summer before first grade I wanted to impress the teacher. The waters took the words away and I was upset. My father said, “Do you remember?” I did. I wrote heavily in sixth through eighth grade, and secretly in high school. It wasn’t cool. I wasn’t cool, but I thought if I didn’t write, I would be. I started writing again in college and got serious about it, with an eye to publishing, in my 40s.

Q: Why did you choose poetry?

A: Poetry is image-driven and concise and dramatic and I think it’s an essential human art. I see myself more as an artist than a writer. I used to paint watercolor. I could only paint when I was miserable. When I got untied from my first husband and I got happy, I stopped doing watercolors. Now I paint on the page. Poetry is all about timing. You have a certain space and a certain issue you want to address. The timing has to be impeccable. Otherwise, you leave your reader feeling cheated or you leave your reader feeling dumb.

Q: How do you balance writing, teaching and travel?

A: I write every day. I have a writing practice. I get up in the morning and write for 15 minutes before I get my day started. Quite often, that turns into all day and I find I haven’t eaten. That’s OK. I write book reviews. That can take me out of my comfort zone. People pay me to edit. I have an online magazine, an almost daily blog. I fit everything else in around that. Now I’m on the school board. It’s about four evenings a month. I’m enjoying that. I am focusing part of my lens as a school board member on student writing with a hope that we will continue to see student writing improve. My grandchildren have taken poems to show and tell. I think it’s great that they think it’s important.

Q: How do you connect with other Native Americans?

A: I’m really connected through other Native writers. I belong to a group called Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. It came out of a thing called Returning the Gift that was started in the 1980s by Joseph Bruchac. I joined in the 1990s. So I have a network. We find each other. It’s part of my travel. In the fall, I will teach a workshop at the Traditional Ecological Knowledge conference at the University of New Hampshire. I’m really interested in language. The Abenaki language is being vigorously revived. That’s the work of Jesse Bruchac [Joseph Bruchac’s son]. My publisher, Bowman Books, only publishes Native American authors. This book is Volume 7 of their Native New England Authors series. The poems circle around the native world. “Native Moons, Native Days” is all about the concept of time. I can always go to Old Town to connect, but I find my native connections have pretty much settled into writing contacts.

Q: Is there a difference between short prose and poetry?

A: There is a difference. Maybe talking about process is the way to explain it. To me, poetry is embodiment and prose is description. A professor who was my undergraduate mentor said poetry and prose play different language games. Prose is about something; in poetry we experience the thing itself. Poetry is not prose, cut into lines. It lives both in the ear and on the page. It’s more metrical and has a deeper music. You only have to read Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Fish.” She doesn’t tell you about the fish. She gives you the fish. I write a lot in form. Sonnets, etc. That helps with the structure. You don’t get that in prose. In 2000, I attended a talk at the Iowa Summer Writers Workshop in which Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander, said she and her fiction friends in her own graduate program used to mock their poet colleagues until the fiction folks realized that poets hold the language. She apologized to poets everywhere for not understanding they hold language.

A book release event for Bachofner’s fourth book of poems, “Native Moons, Native Days” will take place Thursday, Jan. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the Rockland Public Library. The public is invited to participate in a conversation about Native American literature in the 21st century. Topics will include: mainstreaming Native America, what Indians think about when they write and the difference between Native writing and other writing. Personally signed books will be available for purchase. Light refreshments will be served.

Bachofner’s other books of poetry are “Daughter of the Ardennes Forest,” which tackles post-war PTSD and its legacy passed on to soldiers’ families, “Breakfast at the Brass Compass” and “I write in the Greenhouse” about the space where nature and humanity meet.

Polaris

On our January porch, hands

open to starshine, we are pierced

by Polaris. It’s a stigmata I feel

as my right palm presses

your right palm, fingers laced.

It’s a burning, a covenant. Later

in our bedroom, some shine

on your shoulder where I touch

as you drift into your own night

sky. We have been pierced

by starpoints, filled with light.

We sail on it, I your compass, true

North, and you my lantern

and flame, tower and beam.

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