A Graph Review: 55 with highlights 75
Selected by Maine Poet Laureate, Wesley McNair
978 1 60893222 1
Publisher: Down East.
2013 (March 2014 in UK)
Into my hands, fresh from the USA comes a brightly-covered hardback called ‘Take Heart‘ with variously coloured heart-shaped stones on a natural wood background. The cover tilts toward being mbs (mind-body-spirit) but ‘Poems from Maine‘ is loud and clear and, anyway, the sight of the cover did lift my spirit so no fault there. It is good to see such an uncomplicated and happy cover on a poetry book.
Wesley McNair, current Maine Poet Laureate and author of twenty books of poetry has a regular column ‘Take Heart’ which features a poem each week from around Maine, by poets current and late. It is syndicated across thirty newspapers and reaches a quarter million readers. Several authors in the collection belong to the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance which supports the Maine Laureateship. Wesley McNair has run the column since May 2011 and this selection is from the first two years. Do read the introduction as it puts flesh on the collection and the popularity of poetry, also highlights the ranging opportunities for its use. As you would expect there is a contents list at the front and an index of poets and titles. There is also a list of the contributors with each having a few lines of biographical detail; the last being slightly longer giving notes on the editor, Wesley McNair. The acknowledgment section is also useful to seek out some publications, though availability may be a problem if from magazines or short runs.
It is refreshing to read such a selection. A collection by 69 poets of 118 poems; all had been previously published before appearing in his column. I must also give credit to the production and cover, it feels good to be reading a book that is light in weight but a firm hardback with a matt cover, smooth to the touch. Quite substantial for a good price. For me, the freshness is from reading an assortment of poems by different poets from an area that I have had no sight or sound of except via film. I have to admit that many of the poets are new to me. Most are currently or until quite recently, writing. Edwin Arlington Robinson, and Edna St Vincent Millay are two that I have come across previously. Longfellow too, from decades ago but Edna St Vincent Millay pleasantly recently. She is definitely a poet I would recommend for further reading and study.
I think I must be getting old, or started old, as I have a hankering for verse that rhymes, at least to a small degree, at times. It is found within this volume though free-form style proliferates but the reader is carried forward by the variety of subjects and style. Straightforward, descriptive, enigmatic with twists and also humour; the selection is good and the poetry is too. There is much to read and many that have lines or verses that strike a chord or raise an image that matches one’s own experience or sets a tangential thought on its own journey. Much to enjoy and consider.
All poetry is personal to the reader; covering a selection like this I found many to like, some to re-read and several to file away as new personal favourites, both poems and authors. I kept my choice to twelve poems though could have suggested more, but look at this book and choose your own. Here I offer a few suggestions, though tomorrow my choice could well alter: starred are current best ofs…
Louise Bogan: Musician P129
Edwin Arlington Robinson: The Clerks P169
Annie Farnsworth: Spaghetti Western Days P21
Edna St Vincent Millay: Love’s Not All*** P34, Inland 98
Patricia Smith Ranzoni. If you should die before I do P45
Richard Foerster: Garden Spider 82***
Mary Sarton: The Geese, A Parrot p161
Bruce Guernsey: The Hands, p121 Night Patrol*** P139
Elizabeth Tibbetts: Coming Home*** P172
Elizabeth McFarland. Feed my birds P123
Henry Wandsworth Longfellow: Nature p150
*** was not sure whether to mark my current ‘best of’ as they change frequently, but have.