National Poetry Month

In honor of National Poetry Month (April), I would like to honor poets who write books – not of poetry, but prose. These are some of my favorite books. I just read Simon Armitage’s Walking home : a poet’s journey. Published in 2013, this book details his walk along the Pennine Way in England, which is much like America’s Appalachian Trail. Armitage exchanges room and board at various venues for reading his poems, to a variety of audiences, including appreciative, at times. Not only did I learn about this trail, but I enjoyed Armitage’s wit and honesty about himself.

England - Lanteglos Church

This book brought to mind another wonderful book, by Baron Wormser, The Road washes out in spring: a poet’s memoir of living off the grid. Baron Wormser was the Poet Laureate of Maine in 2000, and at the time of his book, lived in Madison, Maine, where he was a librarian for the local school district. Anyone who lives rural in Maine (and experiences mud season) will appreciate and enjoy this book.

So, here’s to poets everywhere, especially those who write prose!

A poem for spring

spring on Long Island 10In the heart of Westbrook College (University of New England), a quintessential New England college campus, lies a treasure: The Maine Women Writers Collection.

Founded in 1959 by Grace Dow and Dorothy Healy to honor, preserve, and make available the writings of Maine women who have achieved literary recognition, the Collection has over 8,000 volumes on more than 500 Maine women. The Collection also includes correspondence, photographs, personal papers, manuscripts, typescripts, artifacts, and audio recordings that provide insight into the lives and writing of both well-known and obscure authors.

(from the MWWC website:

When I worked at Westbrook College’s Abplanalp Library the poet May Sarton had recently died, and her entire library, along with sound recordings and photographs came to the college library. I was able to sort through all her library, many of which had a bookmark or something similar tucked away in each book, linking May to the author.

For more on May Sarton’s collection at the Maine Women Writers Collection see:

In memory of May Sarton, as well as celebrating the first day of spring on Thursday (although we’re still in the midst of cold and snow), I offer to you this poem by May Sarton:

Always it happens when we are not there–

The tree leaps up alive into the air,

Small open parasols of Chinese green

Wave on each twig. But who has ever seen

The latch sprung, the bud as it burst?

Spring always manages to get there first.
Lovers of wind, who will have been aware

Of a faint stirring in the empty air,

Look up one day through a dissolving screen

To find no star, but this multiplied green,

Shadow on shadow, singing sweet and clear.

Listen, lovers of wind, the leaves are here!

Book repair workshop

Ever wonder what to do with your old but tattered treasures? Here’s an opportunity to take care of them. A book repair workshop will be held on May 8, from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at the York Public Library. Kary Bath, Regional Manager for KAPCO, will show you how to repair your damaged books. Bring your broken spines and torn pages and use KAPCO’s materials and expert guidance to make them whole again. Light refreshments will be served. There is no charge to attend. You can register for the event at the Main State Library calendar at
.books and magazines

Quilt exhibits in libraries

There seems to be a plethora of quilts being exhibited in libraries this month. What a wonderful way to brighten up winter in Maine! I stumbled on the first one at the Falmouth Public Library – such beautiful quilts, including one made with old handkerchiefs. These quilts were made by the Cobblestone Quilters, a group of over 85 members who are interested in quilting, fabric art, and sewing.  Cobblestone quilters are active in the community donating quilts to Maine veterans, Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, the neonatal unit at Maine Medical Center, and Meals on Wheels.  They make raffle quilts to support Habitat for Humanity, Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Boys and Girls Club. Over 25 quilts by Cobblestone Quilters are on display during the month of February.  These quilts represent a variety of quilting styles, techniques, and fabric choices.

Then I read about an exhibit being held at the Portland Public Library downtown branch:

This is a traveling exhibit: Members of Art Quilts Maine, a statewide guild chapter dedicated to the exploration of contemporary quilt art, respond to an annual challenge with diverse and colorful results. This year’s challenge, issued in October 2013, is titled, “By These Words . . .” Quilts were to be inspired by Words—poetry, quote, idiom, saying. Eight members met the challenge, and the collection went on view in July at Maine Quilts 2013. Since then they have been on exhibit in Farmington and Skowhegan, and will travel to Waterville when they leave Portland.

Finally, I just came across this exhibit, held at the Wells Public Library, of quilts by Ernest Nason, a local artist who worked as a carpenter for many years. When an injury took him off his feet for a while, he decided to take up quilting.

I leave you with a picture of one of our island quilts, exhibited this summer at the Long Island Historical Society space:Quilt at the Long Island Historical Society

Seed libraries

Here on Long Island we’re still in the midst of winter with cold temperatures and lovely snowfalls. It’s a winter wonderland. But it seems like the sun is getting stronger and the days longer, so we can start dreaming of spring. With that comes the idea of planting seeds. In the library world there is a new movement to add “seed libraries” to the concept of the library being a place where all sorts of things are available, beyond the traditional books and media.

community garden harvest
At a seed library, patrons can check out seeds for free. They then grow the fruits and vegetables, harvest the new seeds, and “return” those seeds so the library can lend them out to others.

What a great idea! If anyone is interested in taking this on, I’m sure our library director would love to talk with you.

Spring is coming!

Strong women, great memoirs

This past year I read four books written by strong women who have overcome some adversity, and then written about it, beautifully and eloquently.

The first was “Blood, bones, and butter: the inadvertent education of a reluctant chef” by Gabrielle Hamilton. Feisty and scrappy, Gabrielle survived an unconventional childhood to eventually open her own acclaimed restaurant in New York City: Prune. Her writing is amazing and provocative – and she really made me laugh.

Then there is “Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed. Cheryl also had an unusual upbringing, in the rural northwest, led a life of sex and drugs in her early 20s, and to clean up her act embarked on the hike of a lifetime: a thousand mile journey from the California desert to the Oregon border. Her book is a page turner indeed.

Another beautiful blonde, Piper Kerman (who looks a lot like Gabrielle Hamilton), had a middle class upbringing, attended Ivy League Smith College, but then was seduced (literally) into the drug trade – 10 years after walking away from it she served a 13 month stint in a minimum security prison in Danbury, Connecticut. She writes about her experience in her book, “Orange is the new black : my year in a women’s prison,” in a winsome and articulate way, which makes you really have empathy not only for her, but for the amazing women incarcerated with her. Piper is using her experience there to help incarcerated women today, offering various sources of information at the back of her book. This book has been made into a series on Netflix.

Finally, there is the classic, “The Glass Castle: a memoir” by Jeannette Walls, which is the ultimate in a tale about overcoming poverty and being raised by mentally ill parents. One is amazed that Jeannette turned out as well as she did, and that she was able to write about it in such a humorous and memorable way. This book will soon be a movie, which will hopefully inspire everyone to read the book.Phoenix wall

All four of these books, which can be found at the Long Island Community Library, have similarities in the author, as well as being warm, humorous, entertaining, and above all, well-written.

Cookies, cookies, cookies

Happy New Year! It’s been a wintry year so far, with bitter cold, snow, wind, and even some rain. Perfect time to do some serious cookie baking, and eating. In order to celebrate the fine art of this culinary pleasure, we’ve installed a new exhibit in the library
to inspire you.  This exhibit of cookie cutters, collected by Nancy Noble throughout the years, has been installed in the glass case between the library and the small meeting room. These include not only Christmas cookie cutters, but also other holidays, from Presidents Day to Thanksgiving, as well as animals, teapots, fish, boats, and even Mickey Mouse. Come visit the exhibit, if you can, and pick out your favorites! A few cookie recipe books are also displayed (so, yes, there is a book connection)cookie exhibit at LICL


Favorite books of 2013: a top 10 list

BooksHappy last day of the year! Most people reflect on their year, and while I do too, I also like to review the books I’ve read. It’s hard to decide on my favorites, but here are a few that I particularly enjoyed:

Gone with the wind / by Margaret Mitchell.

Several years ago I picked up a copy of “Scarlett” a sequel written Alexandra Ripley over 50 years after the classic by Margaret Mitchell. Before I could read the sequel, however, I decided that I really needed to read “Gone with the wind.” Given the length I knew I would want to own a copy, instead of renewing it from a library over and over again. I found a copy at a used book shop in Rockland on my birthday, and this fall I plunged in. Despite the length (over 800 pages), it was a really good read, with humor and passion. I always think that one can learn a bit of history from reading fiction, and this is a good case in point, if you want the perspective of the South after losing the Civil War, and how it affected the people, no matter who you were before the war. In this anniversary year of the Civil War, with all sorts of events going on, this is my kind of Civil War reading.

Good poems / selected and introduced by Garrison Keillor.

I’m not usually a serious poetry reader, but I have enjoyed a variety of poetry books this past year, such as ones I’ve written about in this blog. This is a wonderful anthology of poems – I read one every night. First I read through the poem, then I read the biographical note about the poet, and then re-read the poem. Great stuff.

Pub theology: beer, conversation, and God / by Bryan Berghoef.

Pubs and coffee shops are an excellent place for folks to gather to talk about God and religion in a less intimidating and casual atmosphere. I liked this book so much that I e-mailed the author afterwards and received a very nice note from him. Bryan and his wife, also an author, lead a faith community in Washington D.C.

White dog fell from the sky / by Eleanor Lincoln Morse.

Morse, a Peaks Island author, has written novels that take place in various places such as Poland, Vinalhaven, and now Botswana. The characters, including a white dog, are unforgettable, and the writing mesmerizing.

Daphne du Maurier at home / by Hilary Macaskill.

My friend Jane, in England, is a du Maurier scholar and gave us a wonderful tour of Cornwall’s du Maurier sites several years ago (see earlier blog), and continues to update my Daphne du Maurier library, including this latest addition. Great escapism into Daphne’s world, including gorgeous Fowey, Cornwall.

Language of flowers: a novel / by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

The setting (San Francisco Bay Area), the characters (including flower sellers and foster care parents), the story (including young love and finding home), and mostly the writing really drew me into this novel.

Celtic prayers from Iona / by J. Philip Newell.

This slim volume contains beautiful prayers and liturgy from the Iona Abbey on the island of Iona in Scotland, a pilgrimage site. I read some of these prayers at night before I go to bed, to put me in a higher plane and erase the cares of the world away.

People of the book : a novel / by Geraldine Brooks.

Geraldine Brooks is turning into one of my favorite authors. I loved Caleb’s Crossing, and this is another lyrical book, written about a Haggadah throughout the ages, up to modern day Australian conservator, Hanna’s voice, as she restores this mysterious codex.

The dog who wouldn’t be / by Farley Mowat.

Farley Mowat is one of our most loved authors – we have many of his books. This very funny story is about Farley’s childhood in Canada, and the family’s pet dog, Mutt, the hero of this story.

Help, Thanks, Wow : the three essential prayers / by Anne Lamott.

Another writer I am drawn to, Anne Lamott, writes of religious topics on a human scale. This one is a short and accessible book about the three prayers that help us get through this messy world of ours.

What have been some of your favorite books this past year? We’d love to hear from you! In the meantime, Happy New Year to everyone, especially those fans of the Long Island Community Library! 

MHS Book Group: Making Sense of the American Civil War

For all you Civil War buffs, here’s a great reading group to join in the new year!

MHS Book Group: Making Sense of the American Civil War

Tuesday, January 21 – Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Presented in partnership with Maine Humanities Council

Facilitator: Candace Kanes, MHS Historian and Maine Memory Network Curator

Join us this January through May for our fifth annual MHS reading group–a great opportunity to engage in discussions about history and connect with members of the MHS community.

Created and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of its We the People initiative, “Making Sense of the Civil War” is a Maine Humanities Council “Let’s Talk About It” program designed as a succession of five conversations exploring different facets of the Civil War experience. Each session will explore a different topic informed by reading the words written or spoken by powerful voices from the past and present.

Books will be provided on loan by Maine Humanities Council and include March by Geraldine Brooks, Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam by James McPherson, and America’s War, an anthology published by the NEH expressly for this series. There is no charge for this year’s group.

WHEN: Tuesdays 1/21, 2/18, 3/18, 4/15, 5/20 @ 6:30PM
WHERE: MHS Lecture Hall
BOOKS: On loan from Maine Humanities Council
REGISTRATION DEADLINE: Friday, January 10. Registration is required; space is limited and the group has traditionally filled up fast. To sign up, Download the Flyer, call 774-1822, or email with “book group” in the subject heading.

Winter Harbor

Pemaquid LighthouseI tend to gravitate towards books written in the 1940s and 1950s, such as Daphne Du Maurier’s books, and the Bennett Island Trilogy by Maine author Elisabeth Ogilvie. I recently read another book from this period, a non-fiction book by another Maine author, Bernice “Bunny” Richmond: “Winter Harbor.” This book has been on my bookshelf at home for many years before we bought the house in 1996, as evidenced by the silverfish eaten cover. Published in 1943 the book tells the tale of Bernice and her husband Reg buying a lighthouse from the U.S. government, and then enjoying their summers on the island where it is located, Mark Island. Bunny starts the book:

“Reg and I are little people. No one ever heard of us, we have no names, we have no wealth, yet something wonderful, exciting and full of adventure happened to us.” Reg inherited $1500 and said to his wife, “Well, Bunny, what would you like to do with fifteen hundred dollars?” Her answer? “I want a lighthouse on the Maine coast.”

Throughout the book you can feel Bunny’s complete joy of exploring Mark Island, where the lighthouse is located, near Schoodic Peninsula down east. So, if you’ve ever dreamt of living in a lighthouse, this is the book for you! (and you can find the book in our very own island library)

[Photo not of Winter Harbor Lighthouse, but of Pemaquid Lighthouse]