Since 1996, April has been designated National Poetry Month, and Midcoast Maine takes it to heart. From Rockland to Belfast and beyond, poetry writing, reading and publishing are robust in these parts … and it’s a good time of year to emerge, poetically and otherwise.

Poets & Fools

The month kicks off Saturday night, April 1, with the annual Poets & Fools at Waterfall Arts in Belfast. From 7 to 10 p.m., revelers of all ages — many in homemade costumes — will gather to dance, eat and drink, visit the (temporary) tattoo booth and all-ages Hat Haberdashery and win prizes … for costumes, amazing feats and more. Live, gotta-dance music will be provided by Fan Jones and People of Earth.

The evening’s emcee will be City Councilor Eric Sanders; and the costume judges include Breanna Bebb of Our Town Belfast, Bangor Daily News’ Emily Burnham and Erik Klausmeyer of Belfast Community Radio. Costume prizes include goodies from Yo Mamma’s Home, gift certificates and more.

This years’ raffle baskets are Bucket o’ Booze (yep); and The Creative Collection (art supplies for all ages). Raffle tickets, $5 each or six for $25, can be purchased in advance at Waterfall Arts, 256 High St.; online at waterfallarts.org; or at the event. You don’t have be present to win, but why wouldn’t you be?

Poetry Month Rockland

Rockland dives into National Poetry Month big-time, thanks to an ongoing commitment by the city’s library and its poet laureate. This will be the first Poetry Month Rockland under Rockland Poet Laureate Joanna Hynd, who took up the mantle — a metaphoric garment, as opposed to Belfast’s gold cape — at the end of last April. This year’s theme is From Away.

First up is the annual Evening of Bilingual Poetry by members of the Penobscot Language School community Tuesday, April 4, at 6 p.m. in the Friends Community Room of Rockland Public Library, 80 Union St. Elizabeth Goodridge will read poems in French by Ronsard, Nerval, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Mallarmé and Éluard; and Billy Smith will read lesser-known poems from well-known Spanish-speaking poets, such as Machado, Neruda and Lorca. Both accomplished readers hold degrees in their respective languages; they also will read each poem’s English translation.

On Thursday, April 6, at 6:30 p.m., the library will host an evening with local poets Dave Morrison and Christopher Fahy (see the story linked below). On Tuesday, April 11, at 6 p.m., just-prior Rockland Poet Laureate Carol Bachofner will lead a workshop on Keeping the Writer’s Journal: What to do when you are “away.” On Thursday, April 13, at 6:30 p.m., Poetry Month Rockland will host the current Maine Poet Laureate, Stuart Kestenbaum. And on Saturday, April 15, Cushing poet Ellen Goldsmith will preside over an interactive Potluck Poetry: Celebrating Favorites at 1 p.m.

An integral part of Poetry Month Rockland since its inception in 2010 has been the annual contest, eliciting submissions from poets of all ages. Deadline for this year’s contest is Friday, April 7, for adults; and Friday, April 14, for all student categories. For full contest rules, visit rocklandlibrary.org or stop by the library. The winners and runners-up will read and be feted during two “swarms” of poets: Saturday, April 22, at 1 p.m. for the children; and the Poetry Month Rockland-capping teen and adult Swarm of Poets Thursday, April 27, at 6:30 p.m. In addition to the contest winners, the finale will include poets Dave Morrison, Carol Bachofner, Jacob Fricke, Alan Clark and Kendall Merriam, hosted by Hynd.

Also in Rockland, the annual “Poetry & Art VI, A Mail Art Exhibition” will fill the walls of the Good Tern Café Gallery. And on Monday, April 17, there will be another poetry slam at the downtown Rock City Café. Hynd is coordinating Third Monday slams with Oceanside High School senior Lili Bonnarigo, who would like to go to the National Poetry Slam this summer.

“There are a certain number of official slams that you need to participate [in],” said Hynd. “She needs eight slam participants to make it an official slam,” that counts toward her total for the national event.

Each participant gets to deliver a one-minute, two-minute and three-minute entry. To keep on top of upcoming poetry events in Rockland, Hynd is putting together an email list; to sign up, send an email to rocklandpoetlaureate@gmail.com.

Belfast Poetry Fest panel and Moore

The other poet laureate-totin’ city in Midcoast Maine reserves most of its poetry pushing for October; the 13th annual Belfast Poetry Festival is set for Saturday, Oct. 14. But last year’s fest was so crammed with events that organizers decided to move the popular poetry panel discussion to National Poetry Month. The free symposium is set for Friday, April 7, at 7:30 p.m. in the Gammons Room of Belfast Free Library, 106 High St.

The evening is titled "Bird & Bulldozer: Writing from Habitat" and will feature readings and remarks by Belfast Poet Laureate Thomas R. Moore; Camden poet Kristen Lindquist; Unity College Associate Professor Stephanie Wade; Gary Lawless, recent Constance H. Carlson Public Humanities Prizewinner and Belfast native; and Native American visual artist and poet Mihku Paul of Portland, followed by a panel discussion.

Moore, who was installed New Year’s Eve, keeps a weekly “office hour” up on the library’s third floor, Tuesdays from 10 to 11 a.m. And people are taking advantage of his presence.

“They are, actually, to my surprise; I haven’t been alone up there since I started doing it a month ago,” he said.

Also during his first months as poet laureate, Moore taught a workshop at the Belfast EcoVillage that is continuing at the library; and he is hoping to work with seventh-graders at the Drinkwater School in Northport.

Another National Poetry Month event, albeit not restricted to the well-versed, is in the works for Tuesday, April 11, at the library. Dubbed "Writers Persist," Moore said the program is “meant to give everyone a voice in these tumultuous times we’re in.” Those voices will be limited to three minutes apiece. Signup starts at 6 p.m. and the program begins at 6:30 p.m.

“It can be anything, though I think I’ll start it off reading a couple of poems,” said Moore. “People can read a poem, something they’ve written or something they like or prose or anything they’d like to read.”

Moore, who has three books of published poetry, said it’s harder to write “now that I’ve got all these commitments to the city, but some new poems pop up every now and then.” And he gets up every morning and tries.

“I write poems about loss, poems about clearing land and building houses — because that’s what we did; we lived in Brooksville for 20 years,” he said.

Living right in town is a big change for Moore and his wife, an artist, but he said they were very happy about the move.

“Whenever we went anywhere from Brooksville, it seemed to be Belfast! We used to come over to Chase’s and come to all the poetry events and come to the movies on Sunday,” he said. “It seemed like the logical place to go.”

Poetry readings in Rockport

Rockport Public Library, in long-term encampment on Route 1, is home to a very lively group of local poets that meets two afternoons a month. For a number of years now, The Poets’ Corner and the library have hosted poetry readings Thursdays in April, free and open to the public.

This year’s schedule is as follows: April 6, Ellen Goldsmith, see story linked below); April 13, Dave Morrison; April 20, Kristen Lindquist; and April 27, the Poets' Corner poets themselves. Founded by George Chapell and Jim Ostheimer, the current group also includes Lois Anne, Melissa Bryan, Catherine Dowdell, Bill Eberle, Trina French, Eileen Hugo, Ray Janes, Paul McFarland, Joergen Ostensen, Meredith Overstreet, Susan Taylor, Joan Vose and Dana Wildes.

The Poets’ Corner traditionally ends National Poetry Month reading from its latest chapbook; given the growth of the group, this year’s has two volumes. Each week’s reading will begin at 4 p.m.

Camden comes aboard

For many years, Camden Public Library has reserved April for its Maritime Month. This year is no different, but a few poetry events have found their way onto the schedule, as well. The new Grown Up Storytime series encompasses both: every Friday from 1:30 to 2 p.m., the week’s chosen librarian will read either poetry or a maritime-themed story, their choice.

Thursday evening, April 13, Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance will begin its first eight-week masterclass workshop on the Midcoast. Belfast-based poet, writer and scholar Arielle Greenberg’s Reaching New Heights workshop is geared toward experienced and serious poets; for more information, visit mainewriters.org. And on Monday, April 24, at 4 p.m., Camden Public Library will host readings by several members of the aforementioned Poets’ Corner.

And a little encouragement

Jackson Memorial Library, 71 Main St./Route 131 in Tenants Harbor, recently added a monthly hour of Encouraging Poetry — a time to share a favorite poem, one’s own or others’ — the first Thursday of every month at 5 p.m. April’s gathering is on the sixth.