Have you heard about Stone Boat, a poetry reading group on Peaks Island that meets monthly? It’s wonderful to see poets pooling together in this island’s amazing literary community. Stone Boat is a group that encourages open readings, but also features a poet each month. Participants may use up to five minutes for reading their original work or that of a favorite poet.
The June event, scheduled for 6:00 PM on Wednesday, June 5th at Jones Landing, will feature Portland, Maine’s first Poet Laureate, Martin Steingesser. An award-winning poet published in a broad spectrum of national magazines and anthologies, Steingesser is also a seasoned performer of poetry and music, sometimes involving stilts.
About poetry, Steingesser writes, “Writing and presenting poems is a way I touch and make present a sense of grace I want in my life. I remember once being intrigued by Wallace Stevens saying poetry was a sacrament in his life. It has come to that. There are moments I love in poems I have made when they are given, when windows, doors, walls blow off, and I am in a warm, boundless space with whoever is listening.” He’s both playful and inspiring, so don’t miss it! Questions? Call Jesse Mantsch 207-831-7354
Who is Patricia Erikson? – I’m an author, educator, and consultant who lives on Peaks Island in Casco Bay, Maine and blogs at Peaks Island Press to keep up with the many writers whose talent and joie de vivre make this island community an amazing place. I’m also a history geek who blogs at Heritage in Maine.
Peaks Island Press doesn’t review books written by fellow islanders because the pretentiousness of that offends me. Instead, I like to feature the authors themselves and their writing process, sometimes even my own writer’s journey. What inspires us to write? How does writing fit into – or spill out of – our lives? So, although this entry may look like a book review, it’s not really. I have just finished reading a book, pressing it against my chest and holding it there as though its wisdom would slip between my ribs. It left me struggling to take my next breath and inspired me to pick up a pen.
You know those e-profiles on Facebook and Linked In, the ones that ask you to list your favorites of this, favorites of that – music, movies, and so on? My finger always taps at the blank prompt for “favorite books.” Favorite is a demanding adjective, one that I only deploy when that something makes me gush. The Help (Kathryn Stockett), Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen) and Chocolat (Joanne Harris) have achieved favorite status for me because they transported me to extraordinary, authentic emotional landscapes. Now that I’ve turned its last page and intend to read it again right away, I list The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey as one of my rare “favorites.”
Ivey is neither Mainer nor islander, but rather an Alaskan writer; however, the ragged, furred-and-clawed setting that she conjures should feel familiar to those of us who maneuver deep snows, burning cold, chronically-shrinking woodpiles, and the pursuit of wringing our blink-like summer of all that it promises. The Snow Child offers a brave, lancing portrait of love and pain and empathy. An aged couple homesteading in Alaska realize that their anguished loneliness may have breathed life into a simple snowman – a snowgirl, really; they then wrestle with fear, chase their hope, and tentatively learn to embrace a more expansive understanding of family and life itself.
Like most people, I have lost loved ones – some unborn and unnamed, others present, yet bent and vacant with illness. Like the main characters of The Snow Child, Jack and Mabel, I dread the fierce love that can make the simple passage of a child out the door turn into an unexpected moment of raw and crippling fear too big to comprehend. But it isn’t the book, it’s Eowyn Ivey, who inspires me as a writer; she beckons her readers into the bitter, toothed Alaskan wilderness to witness the beauty in the sheen of a swan’s feathers and she holds our hand as she shows us the courage it takes to live a fairy tale life whose ending is already known. Reading The Snow Child made it difficult for me to pull in my next breath; it is that moment, that moment of breathless wonder and desperation in life that leaves me no choice but to write.
If you’re intrigued by this book, I point you to the video trailer and an interview with Eowyn Ivey below.
A year and a half ago, Peaks Island Press caught up with Twain Braden when he and his family migrated back to “the Rock,” back to living on Peaks Island like so many other families who have left and then returned, including my own. The 2011 post talked about his Ghosts of the Pioneers and hinted that his next book was in production. Now, “The Complete Guide to Sailing & Seamanship” (Skyhorse Publishing 2013) is hitting the market just in time for the intended audience – beginner and expert sailors alike – to grab a copy before they give up leisurely reading for hauling sails. Although Twain practices law, he’s also known to be the kind of guy who clings to a bowsprit in 30 knot winds, if that’s what the situation demands. Suffice it to say, Twain is not your average island author. A Complete Guide to Sailing & Seamanship joins a long list of Twain’s maritime publications – Wooden Boat and Ocean Navigator articles, The Handbook of Sailing Techniques: Professional Tips, Expert Advice, Essential Skills (2003) and the non-fiction thriller In Peril: A Daring Decision, a Captain’s Resolve, and the Salvage that Made History written with Skip Strong (2003.
Unlike most encyclopedic manuals, The Complete Guide to Sailing & Seamanship animates instructional methods with stories of maritime adventures and beautiful illustrations. Everything from knots and lines to sailboat anatomy to anchoring, mooring, and berthing has its own chapter. By interweaving stories from his experience as a mariner with hands-on techniques, Twain makes clear the critical importance of good seamanship.
Readers of this newest book will be delighted to see that Twain has partnered with world-renowned marine illustrator Sam Manning who Mainers know from his over 30 years of illustration for Wooden Boat Magazine. Over 100 black and white illustrations enhance this guidebook.
Looking over the page proofs of the book, Twain pointed out one of Manning sketches that illustrates the story of a particular journey by the schooner, Bagheera, from Maryland to its new home in Maine. Twain has described the experience of the Bagheera losing its propeller and getting hammered by a storm front.
Navigator, Jan./Feb. 2003, “
“At some point on that cold, miserable night, I made the choice to turn back for Gloucester. Twenty to 25 knots and a few breaking waves was one thing. Thirty to 40 knots and green water washing down the decks of an old boat that deserved better – and a seasick crew – was no one’s idea of a good time…We ultimately limped into Portland, Maine, feeling more like whipped dogs than conquering heroes (see Ocean Navigator “It’s hard to go home again”).
You’ll have to grab a copy of The Complete Guide to hear more of these stories. And with the renovation of a 20 foot Small Point One Design yacht under way (see above) with Lawrence Mott, more adventures are sure to follow.
Stories build understanding.
Understanding builds neighborhoods.
Neighborhoods build a strong city.
Support the sharing of stories of Maine’s “new arrivals” and the cultural fabric of the City of Portland.
Peaks Island children’s book author/illustrator Anne Sibley O’Brien has made an important contribution to the upcoming city-wide read of books supported by the Maine Humanities Council called “I’m Your Neighbor, Portland.” When she’s not crossing the globe by plane to visit fans, crossing the harbor by ferry or the island by bicycle to go home, she’s adding to her impressive list of children’s book publications.
Mostly recently, Anne has authored “A Path of Stars” (Charlesbridge Publishing), the story of a Cambodian immigrant grandmother, Lok Yeay, who tells her granddaughter about her homeland and how her family would sit in their yard and watch the stars that glowed like fireflies. To write a picture book that captured the Cambodian American experience here in Maine, Anne explains,
“I started by reading every survivor memoir I could find, until the outline of life in Cambodia before 1975, the Killing Fields, the escape, and life in a new land became familiar. I talked with several scholars about trauma survival and the sociology of Cambodian Americans. Most significantly, I listened to my friends Veasna and Peng Kem, who spent hours sharing their own memories with me. Many of the details in this story come from their accounts, or were inspired by them.”
A Path of Stars has been named a Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2013 by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and the Children’s Book Council (CBC); it has also been named an Honor Picture Book of the Asian Pacific American Award for Literature 2013 based upon its literary and artistic merit, as selected by the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association.
Anne illustrated another one of the nine books chosen for this city-wide read: Moon Watchers, an inside view of daily life in a modern Muslim family during Ramadan. A launch event for the city-wide read of books set in Maine’s new arrival communities will occur on May 25th from 3-6 p.m. at the Portland Public Library.
The island poetry event will feature Portland Poet Laureate Bruce Spang. About poetry, Bruce Spang has said he liked how “a poem could encapsulate an experience, could traverse the landscape of my feelings and thought, going from the highs to lows, in a short compact form. It was a tiny epiphany, a way of seeing experience from a new lens.” Spang is author of To the Promised Land Grocery (Moon Pie Press, 2008), I Have Walked though Many Lives: Young Voices—Scarborough (Moon Pie, Press 2009), The Knot, (Snow Drift Press, 2005), and Tip End of Time (Snow Drift Press, 2004). In addition to being the city of Portland’s Poet Laureate, Spang is a facilitator for the Maine Humanity Council’s Let’s Talk About It poetry series.
April 7, 2013 at 2:56 pm · Filed under Events and tagged: Eleanor Morse, Leslea Newman, Peaks Island, Scott Nash, The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate, things to do in Maine, writing a book
It may be a small island and small literary community, but authors on Peaks Island make up for it with a flurry of activity. Tomorrow, April 8, 2013, two island authors will be involved in events – one on island and one off.
As published earlier, Scott Nash’s wildly popular The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate will be on stage at 7 p.m. on the mainland at Portland Stage Company. Come meet some dramatic renderings of Nash’s beloved avian characters. For more information see Affiliate Artists Events.
At the same time, island author Eleanor Morse will introduce award-winning writer, Lesléa Newman, at an event sponsored by the Peaks Island Branch of the Portland Public Library. Lesléa has written over 60 books, many of them for children and adolescents, including the children’s classic, Heather Has Two Mommies, the young adult novel, Jailbait, the middle grade novel, Hachiko Waits, and the adult poetry collection, Still Life with Buddy. Her latest book, October Mourning, is a cycle of poems about the death of Matthew Shepard, the gay twenty-one-year old University of Wyoming student who was lured from a bar by two young men, savagely beaten, tied to a fence on the outskirts of Laramie, and left to die. The book, a searing and beautiful tribute to Shepard, has recently been named an American Library Association 2013 Stonewall Honor Book. This event will be 7.00 p.m. at the Doug MacVane Community Center, Peaks Island. The book will be on sale after the reading and talk. Refreshments will be served.
An open discussion and book signing will follow the actors’ readings.
April 8th 7 p.m. at Portland Stage Co., Forest Avenue, Portland.