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Maine’s poets tackle the times in new book, ‘ENOUGH!’

By Daniel Dunkle | Oct 16, 2020

Bob Dylan wrote in the turmoil of the 1960s, “Come writers and critics, Who prophesize with your pen, And keep your eyes wide, The chance won't come again...”

Times of struggle and protest have come again, and here in Maine, 27 poets and a documentary photographer have answered the call to capture the moment in a new book, “ENOUGH!” published by Littoral Books in Portland. The volume takes on the issue of racism in America, the Black Lives Matter protests and the feeling of life in the pandemic of 2020. It includes photographs of Portland protests by documentary photographer Nicholas Gervin.

Among the poets featured in this book are some of our own Midcoast neighbors.

Laura Bonazzoli, of Rockport, contributed “At the George Floyd Memorial Protest, June 19, 2020, Rockland, Maine.”

In the poem she describes the sensation of lying down in the street, something she had never done before this protest, and the emotions it stirs.

“It feels like fear, feels like humiliation, like being a child when your father takes off his belt...”

During this event, the participants spent eight minutes and 46 seconds face-down in the street, remembering the amount of time a police officer knelt on George Floyd's neck, killing him, in Minneapolis. The murder sparked protests across the country and even in other parts of the world.

“I had such an unexpected response to it that I felt compelled to try to capture the experience,” Bonazzoli said. “...The transformation that seemed to occur to us, as a group, the way the experience of lying in the street transcended our individuality and, I believe, enabled us to experience for 8 minutes and 46 seconds our shared humanity – including our shared grief, love, and resolve.”

In August, she read the poem in a virtual event sponsored by the Poet's Corner, and Claire Millikin, one of the editors of the book, sent her an email, inviting her to submit.

“I was one of those naive Americans who believed that the election of Barack Obama meant we were entering a post-racial era,” she said. “But the disparities in health, income, housing, education, etc. continued, and so did the killings: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice... just a few of so many we must never allow ourselves to forget.”

Ellen Goldsmith of Cushing contributed multiple poems. In one, she talks about a time when she did not speak out when ordered as a teacher not to present a “rabble-rousing” essay to her students. In another, “Changing the Metaphors,” she addresses the reasons for toppling confederate statues.

“It is shocking that it hasn’t been shocking, the treatment of black people in America,” she said. “Let’s hope this wake-up call spurs poetry and action.”

Former Rockland Poet Laureate Carol Bachofner also submitted poems to the book including, “We’ve been too long asleep in the graveyards of our history.”

“The world is at the window,” she wrote, “watching, ear cupped to the sound drowning out the lies at last.”

The poem continues, “What I sought on the bridge in Selma, chained to the fence at Seabrook Nuclear Plant, what I sought from my small town in Maine and what I seek still is the absence of absence.”

“What I hope people will take away from this collection – an understanding of why protests for racial justice and economic equality are necessary,” said ENOUGH! editor Agnes Bushell, “what it feels like to participate in such a protest, what it feels like to be a Black or Brown or Indigenous person living in Maine, what it feels like to live through a pandemic, what living here has been feeling like for these 27 poets since the pandemic and protests began in the spring.”

“I actually hope that the world will change so much for the better soon that another book of protest poems inspired by the murder of a Black man by the police and a pandemic won't actually be necessary,” Bushell said. “...Our other important book focusing on social and economic justice is ‘A Dangerous New World: Maine Voices on the Climate Crisis,’ which we published last December.”

Learn more about “ENOUGH!” and the work of Maine’s poets at littoralbooks.com.

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