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Gibson Fay-LeBlanc visits Stone Boat Poetry on Peaks Island

Writer, teacher, and former Director of the Telling Room

"Pete" from Dryhead Ranch in Montana

“Pete” from Dryhead Ranch in Montana

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc visited Peaks Island’s Stone Boat Poetry gathering this week. Although I was not fortunate enough to join the group and hear him read, I took a moment to read a few of his poems. Having devoted years of my life to all things equestrian, I found “Rider Unhorsed” captivating. Preparing this post gave me the excuse to revisit the photos I took on a ranch in Montana. This looming horse muzzle seemed appropriate.

After you enjoy it, keep in mind that Stone Boat Poetry meets the first Wednesday evening of every month to celebrate a featured poet and host an open read.

Rider Unhorsed

First reeds at the pathside became vocal
then the dunes’ curve met the curvature
inside my eye. I saw Polaris become

five-pointed, and red pines closed the sky
as bluebells opened it. This is vision country.

As to where my horse is, my steed of good
deeds and satchel of bad lemons, or how

my head became a tuning fork in a thicket,
I’m too busy to answer. The alder’s summer

is speckled and short-stalked; the blackbird
parades its reds; nuthatches dangle down.

Linger with me; step out of your swivet.
Be mind-muddied a while, and temple-robbed.
Be lullabied by the music of far-off bells.

Copyright © 2006 Gibson Fay-LeBlanc All rights reserved
from Backwards City Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

Peaks Island Press offers behind-the-scenes glimpses of a vibrant, literary community perched on Peaks Island, two miles off the coast of the beautiful and award-winning city of Portland, Maine. If you haven’t already, you may subscribe in the upper right corner at http://www.peaksislandpress.com.

Can we understand the past? Tip #5 of writing historical novels

sheets“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
― L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
― William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

Barring the invention of a time machine, we can never truly inhabit the past, perhaps never truly understand it. Tip #5 of the 5 Tips for writing a historical novel considers: how can we presume to write about it? Do we seek to understand the past as a “foreign country,” understanding it for its own sake and on its own terms? Or, do we wish to view history through the lens of the present, as though it is still with us, still informing and informed by our present point of view?

I would say that both are true. On some level, we must accept and respect that the past is a foreign country. Unless we’re working in a fantasy genre, we can’t write tomatoes onto the table of an early Roman banquet, nor can James Cameron get away with a reference in the movie Titanic to a man-made reservoir that did not yet exist. The past really was different. People spoke differently, experienced life differently, and had different resources available to them.

On the other hand, repercussions from the past continue to shape our world. An author can find, with great care, analogy in the present that can inform writing about the past. In writing about soldiers’ experiences in World War One, Peaks Island author Nicole d’Entremont reflected upon the war veterans who attended her Sudden Fiction* classes in Albuquerque. A story shared by one veteran from the first Iraq war found itself come alive in a scene about WWI. Nicole explained:

I remember a vet from the 1990 Gulf  War who wrote a reflection drawn from a Sudden Fiction prompt. He remembered the dust, heat, and hot wind of the desert.  Then, one day back home in New Mexico, he saw his mother’s freshly washed sheets hanging on the line, flapping and drying in the sun, catching the breeze.  He buried his face in those sheets for their clean smell, their coolness and freshness– burying his face in all of it. Reflecting on his writing now, I remember thinking that his feeling was almost like a cleansing, some kind of baptism. I had my character, Elzear, (back from the WWI trenches in 1919 having survived the war) do this same thing in A Generation of Leaves.  I thank that student whose name I have forgotten for such a lasting image.

While language, technology, and national boundaries change from the past to the present, there are aspects of our humanity that endure across generations. As long as we respect that the past is a foreign country, we can still cross the border and find common ground.

If you would like to meet Nicole, then come to her book launch event for A Generation of Leaves this week, Tuesday, February 25th at 7 PM in the Doug MacVane Community Center on Peaks Island.

*Here, Sudden Fiction refers to workshops, facilitated by Nicole and others, that encourage writers to respond to a prompt by writing for one unbroken hour and then reading aloud to share with the group.

Peaks Island Press offers behind-the-scenes glimpses of a vibrant, literary community perched on Peaks Island, two miles off the coast of the beautiful and award-winning city of Portland, Maine. If you haven’t already, you may subscribe in the upper right corner at http://www.peaksislandpress.com.

Somewhat Annual Valentine Poetry Reading

As the moon waxes toward full, the somewhat annual Valentine Poetry Reading coalesces with Stone Boat Poetry’s February meeting for a Wednesday, February 12th event. ValentinePoster

Thanks to Suzanne Parrott, Jesse Mantsch, and sponsor Peaks Island Branch of the Portland Public Library, islanders will enjoy the opportunity to share poetry, decadent desserts, and the holiday of love. Bring a poem and something yummy and come to the Community Room at 7 PM.

valentinetypewriterPeaks Island Press offers behind-the-scenes glimpses of a vibrant, literary community perched on Peaks Island, two miles off the coast of the beautiful and award-winning city of Portland, Maine. If you haven’t already, you may subscribe in the upper right corner at http://www.peaksislandpress.com.

Making Sense of Madness: Julie Fisher Talks about Democracy

Author Julie Fisher event

From riots and imprisoned journalists to dictators and free elections, Julie Fisher’s scope manages to make sense of what at first appears to be sheer madness globally – a march toward democracy. As Peaks Island Press published in July, the struggles in Turkey, Egypt, and other countries that have inflamed international news have also spotlighted the most recent book published by Peaks Island scholar and author Julie Fisher. Fisher’s hot-off-the-press Importing Democracy: The Role of NGOs in South Africa, Tajikistan, and Argentina (Kettering Foundation Press, 2013) illuminates the nature of struggles for democracy internationally with a clarity that should make Americans sit up and take notice. While much U.S. foreign policy tries to export democracy militarily or by fostering free elections, Fisher advocates for a fuller understanding of what’s required for democracy to “stick,” one that would support countries engaged in democratization.

Now it’s your opportunity to hear her speak and ask the questions that trouble you every time you read the newspaper. The Friends of the Peaks Island branch of the Portland Public Library are hosting Julie on Tuesday, November 19th at 7:00 PM in the Peaks Island Community Room.

“Darkness First”: James Hayman takes us into the long nights with a good read

Author James Hayman

Author James Hayman

All across the island, residents are chopping and splitting wood or carrying it inside to stoke their stove again the November chill. And with crime fiction author James Hayman living among us, the chills are bound to keep coming. The last time I wrote about fellow island author, Jim, he had banded together with many others to raise funds to help Longfellow Books recover from storm damage of the blizzard, Nemo. Since that time, Hayman has been busy penning (or should I say keyboarding?), the third in his series of McCabe/Savage thrillers, “Darkness First.”

Islanders conduct a lot of business on our shared ferry ride, and that’s where I caught up with Jim to ask him about “Darkness First.” I was curious to know more about why Harper Collins has released it first as an e-book, rather than the traditional release as an expensive hardcover. The first “imprint” sells for the introductory price of only $2.99. Jim explained, “When Penguin U.K. offered an e-promotion on my second book, The Chill of Night, they sold some 10,000 downloads in a day. That helped me realize that e-books have more than 50% of the genre fiction market and that I should consider going that route.”

True confessions here. I don’t read e-books. You can call me a luddite, but it wouldn’t be true. I’m an aggressive and avid technology consumer, but that inclination has not invaded my nightly escape to bed where I like to hold a book and turn pages when I read voraciously. I’m sorry. I just haven’t gone there yet. I’m sure it will happen.

Newest thriller Darkness First

Newest thriller Darkness First

For those of you who do read novels digitally, you can download Darkness First to your Kindle, Nook, or iPad from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or any other e-book source. You can even read the first chapter for free at Amazon or at Jim’s website. The reviewers are saying that this is his best one yet. For insight into Jim’s process of writing a thriller series, don’t miss Bob Keyes’ interview with Hayman, splashed across the front page of today’s Portland Press Herald Audience section.

Come for Stone Boat’s last summer cruise through poetry

Peaks Island ferry

Peaks Island ferry

It’s September 1st and islanders are starting to find each other again as the throngs of tourists begin to thin. Recovering the ability to greet folks on the ferry whose name you actually know feels rather like sighting a rare bird that has shown up in your yard unannounced.”Oh, my goodness, I actually know you! Where have you been?” And then we share how gardening, hosting guests, traveling, and picking berries have kept us out of sight for months. Not only do we rediscover each other on the ferry, but also over words.

From epic book sales and discussions to author talks to literary walks, Peaks Islanders enjoy an active literary community out here on The Rock. The creative buzz wouldn’t be complete, of course, without poetry! As you may have heard, the Stone Boat poetry events invite writers to bring their own poem — or that of a favorite author — to read aloud.
This month, Stone Boat gathers at Lawrence and Jani’s “pump house” at the top of Elizabeth Street. (Any good Mainer calls a place by what it used to be long before they were born). See you there!
September 4th, 6 PM
Contact:  Jesse Mantsch jmantsch@maine.rr.com

“Stone Boat” poetry event sails into late summer on Peaks Island with Betsy Sholl

Betsy Sholl offers her view on the importance of the arts to Maine

Betsy Sholl offers her view on the importance of the arts to Maine. Photo by Erikson, Peaks Island Press

Guest post by event organizer Jesse Mantsch (jmantsch@maine.rr.com)

Valued poetry aficionados & devotees:
Stone Boat Poetry Reading on Peaks Island.
August 7, 2013 at 6 PM

Eighth Maine Regiment Memorial and Lodge
proudly featuring former Maine Poet Laureate Betsy Sholl
& your poems! (open reading)

Betsy Sholl has published seven collections of poetry, including Rough Cradle (Alice James Books, 2009). Don’t Explain won the 1997 Felix Pollak Prize from the University of Wisconsin, and her book The Red Line won the 1991 AWP Prize for Poetry. Her chapbooks include Pick A Card, winner of the Maine Chapbook Competition in 1991, and Betsy Sholl: Greatest Hits, 1974-2004, Pudding House Publications. She was a founding member of Alice James Books and published three collections with them: Changing Faces, Appalachian Winter and Rooms Overhead. Among her awards are a fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts, and two Maine Writer’s Fellowships. Her work has been included in several anthologies, including Letters to America, Contemporary American Poetry on Race, and a range of magazines, including Field, Triquarterly, Brilliant Corners, The Kenyon Review, The Massachusetts Review, Beloit Poetry Journal. She has been a visiting poet at the University of Pittsburgh and Bucknell University. She lives in Portland, Maine, and teaches at the University of Southern Maine and in the MFA Program of Vermont College.

Come show our honored guest some island hospitality at one of Peaks Island’s historic sites, the Eighth Maine Regiment Memorial and Lodge

Annie O’Brien’s “A Path of Stars” at “I’m Your Neighbor” event

Guest post by Annie O’Brien (asob45@aol.com)

A Path of Stars – A Celebration of Cambodians in Maine

Anne Sibley O'Brien's "A Path of Stars"

Anne Sibley O’Brien’s “A Path of Stars”

Thursday, August 8 - 10:30 a.m.-12:00 noon – Portland Public Library

I’ll be sharing my most recent book, A Path of Stars (ages 7 and up), and engaging young readers in activities to learn about Cambodia including drawing the lotus, writing in Khmer, and sharing Cambodian food. Hopefully, the event will also include a performance by some members of the Portland Cambodian Dance Troupe.

Thanks to a generous donation from Joe and Debbie Bornstein, every child who attends will receive a free copy of A Path of Stars.

And I’m told that the Bornsteins plan to help promote the event with the Time & Temperature Building sign; that week, instead of “CALL — JOE,” it will say “PATH — STAR”!

Here’s more info on “I’m Your Neighbor, Portland”:

In the midst of a national conversation about immigration and assimilation, Portland  is debating, not policy, but which book to read first. “I’m Your Neighbor, Portland” is a year-long, city-wide read and series of public events at the Portland Public Library designed to promote a sense of community among the city’s diverse communities.  The city-wide read features nine books whose immigrant and refugee subjects made Maine their home in the last several decades and in doing so transformed Portland into a vibrantly multiracial and multicultural city.

Read more about the books and events at www.ImYourNeighborPortland.org.

Scott Nash takes Blue Jay the Pirate to South China, Maine

Blue Jay the Pirate

Blue Jay the Pirate, Scott Nash

Scott Nash is preparing for the next book event with his usual genius. Nash’s rendition of a Blue Willow transferware plate – with his protagonist of The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate at the center – took my breath away. The daughter of an antiques fanatic, I grew up surrounded by things like Blue Willow plates, pewter tankards, and spinning wheels. The detailed setting and character of these plates, inspired by 18th century Chinese ceramics, is a perfect choice for getting us to think about ships, pirates, and South China, Maine, of course!

The South China Public Library, the oldest continuously operating library in Maine, is hosting this author-illustrator whose interactive talks are always a big hit. Here are the details:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

10:30-11:30 AM

South China Public Library, South China, Maine

According to the National Park Service, "The Blue Willow pattern was introduced in England by the Spode factory in the late 1790s. During the 18th century Europe was fascinated by all things Chinese and especially their beautifully hand-painted china with scenes of Chinese landscapes. The Blue Willow pattern is not an exact copy of a Chinese pattern but rather based on several traditional Chinese designs."

According to the National Park Service, “The Blue Willow pattern was introduced in England by the Spode factory in the late 1790s. During the 18th century Europe was fascinated by all things Chinese and especially their beautifully hand-painted china with scenes of Chinese landscapes. The Blue Willow pattern is not an exact copy of a Chinese pattern but rather based on several traditional Chinese designs.”

Come aboard for Sailing & Seamanship book events with Twain Braden

Boats on Peaks IslandA few months ago, Peaks Island Press caught up with Twain Braden to talk about his newest publication, The Complete Guide to Sailing & Seamanship. Now that we’ve had what may be the hottest day of summer and this finely-illustrated and -narrated book has hit the docks, it’s time to turn out to hear Braden and illustrator, Sam Manning, speak at Longfellow Books on Monument Square this Wednesday, July 17, at 7 p.m.

If your barbecue schedule conflicts with the event this week, then don’t despair, Braden will also speak at the Peaks Island branch of the Portland Public Library next week, Monday, July 22, at 7 p.m. This talk will entail more of a hands-on discussion of navigation techniques. Feel free to bring charts and navigational tools if you’re interested in learning coastal piloting skills.

sailingseamanship

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