Some literary history from Maine
Books received
mostly from Maine
Kathleen Ellis will be reading poetry and leading a roundtable discussion on poetry and ecology at the 12th annual ESTIA Deep Ecology conference starting Friday morning, Oct. 23, at The Hutchinson Center, Route 3, in Belfast, Maine.

Bucksport Poet Laureate Patricia Ranzoni is seeking submissions of poems, stories and recollections from people with close, human ties to the Bucksport paper mill, which is closing after decades of central importance to Bucksport and the surrounding community. She will be producing an anthology of writings titled “STILL MILL: Poems, Stories & Songs of Making Paper in Bucksport, Maine, 1930 to 2014, a documentary from around the world.” Please send submissions, typed or handwritten, along with a few lines describing your relationship to the mill, its people and/or place, by emailing or writing to Patricia Ranzoni, 289 Bucksmills Road, Bucksport, ME 04416, enclosing a self-addressed stamped envelope for a reply.

Dave Morrison's Amazon-topping track "Best Poem" is available for free download at

Maine's WERU 89.9 FM Writers Forum with host Ellie O'Leary airs at 11 a.m. the second Thursday of each month. Streaming archives.

Maine Poetry Express

The Cafe Review

William Hathaway's Poetry Drawer
. Not for the faint of art. "Given a choice between lucky in love or with parking places, it’s startling how many choose the latter."

Events overheard of & etc.
More reviews
Contact: or write Dana Wilde,474 Bangor Road, Troy ME 04987.
Donald F. Mortland: Homage to a Modern Man of Letters
Robert Creeley: A Mainer at heart
C.F. Terrell: The most important figure in Maine letters you've never heard of.
Leo Connellan and Sandy Phippen talk on MPBN
Detritus No. 2
Marilynne Robinson: On Edgar Allan Poe
Brain Pickings: Maria Popova's interesting ruminations on literature, art & culture
Off Radar
On Radar
Nighthawks / Edward Hopper
Dave Morrison / "Being a Poet"
More reviews
More reviews
A Parallel Uni-Verse
Poetry from Maine, and worlds elsewhere
"It seems to be"
By X.Z. Shao
It seems to be
a quarry of broken concrete
crooked steel beards
pointing out in disorder
you will live in time
in it, a mansion
echoing your soft whisper
and your gait
in every mirror.

X.Z. Shao is a poet, philosopher and teacher of English language and creative writing at Xiamen University in Xiamen, China. His blog is A Poetic Voice from China.
Can we take your car
I can drive.
I was too unassuming
and agreed.
His insensitivity
not yet hitting me,
his eyes couldn’t look at me
while his hands gave me half.
He waits, reading hollywood gossip
While I lie on a cold table
Fix my eyes on the dull ceiling
While a nice nurse tells me about a
relaxation method.
I remind my conscience
this would be a mistake.
We stop at a fast food place
on the way home
Surprisingly I eat although numb.
the tears come later.
Now no regrets
and the anger is gone.

Teresa Lagrange of Portland, Maine, is a graphic artist.
Waiting Room
By Teresa Lagrange
poems by and/or reviews of:
Murray Carpenter
Cafe Review
Richard Grossinger
Tess Gerritsen
Steve Luttrell
Beatrix Gates
Peter Welch
Robert Chute
Stephen King
Bruce Holsapple
Sanford Phippen
Kenneth Frost
Carolyn Gelland
Lee Sharkey
Richard Sewell
Wesley McNair
Bruce Wallace
Kathie Fiveash
Carolyn Locke
Dave Morrison
Arthur Rimbaud
Glenn Cooper
Leonore Hildebrandt
Raymond Fowler
Larry Thomas
Thomas Lequin
Maureen Walsh
Teresa Lagrange
John Holt Willey
Edward Lorusso
Wesley McNair
George Danby
Lindy Hough
Gordon Theisen Nighthawks
Alfred DePew
Robert Stevens
Stephen Cowperthwaite
Dirk Dunbar
Chris Peary

When I was five, believed
He lived up there, and saw
Benevolence surrounded
By baby angels
Waiting to be born.
I told my mother:
"Before I was born I was an angel."

Mother asked, "Well, where are your wings?"
I said: "Stored in the attic."

Ted Bookey lives in Readfield, Maine, and is an organizer of the poetry series at the Hallowell Gallery in Hallowell. His books include Lostalgia and Language as a Second Language.
By Ted Bookey
Fighting South of the Wall
By Li Bai Translation by Taylor Stoehr
Last year we fought where the Sang-kan flows,
this year it was Onion River Road.

We’ve washed our swords in the Eastern Sea,
grazed our horses on T’ien Shan’s snowy side.

A thousand miles are not enough for this war,
our armies grow old in their armor.

Husbandmen of slaughter, the Huns
have sown the yellow desert with our bones.

Long ago the Ch’in built the Great Wall,
now it’s the Han who light the signal-beacon.

All night long the flames flicker,
year in year out, the war goes on.

Bright swords flash, brave men fall and die,
riderless horses whinny at the sky.

Kites and crows pluck out the guts,
hang them high on the withered trees.

Soldiers smear their blood on the dry grass
while generals map the next campaign.

Wise men know winning a war
is no better than losing one.

Li Bai (701-762) was one of China's most revered poets of all time.
Here is a handsome paper
Grey, black and white
Styled like the Guggenheim
Formed like a human head
A hole at the mouth drooling black insects
Like a madman spitting lies
Watching them
My stomach churns
Like the hornets working
Inside their orderly paper nursery
Beings in black uniforms with cinched waists
Like efficient SS officers tending the eggs
Swaddled neatly in white cocoons.
It has an awful beauty.
I stand at a distance
Thinking there goes the neighborhood
They are my tenants
On my porch window
I have come to evict them
Without notice
I shake my can of “Shoo-Fly.”.

Esther Taylor lives in Orono, Maine. .
Hornets Nest
By Esther Taylor
It was a scorching night in Saigon in 1970.
I turned quickly, the way that young men
Turn quickly. Not because I felt a need
To do anything important. Rather, I turned
Quickly because of a sense of nervousness.
A sense of sorrow and impending failure.
As soon as I made contact, I saw a stream
Of tracers light up the lobby of the theatre.
I turned to my right and saw nothing there.
An air-conditioned theatre in the middle
Of a war zone, and there was nothing there.
My eyes lowered, as an act of deference,
And counted four gold stars on a khaki
Field. ONE TWO THREE FOUR and on
I lowered until I read the nametag: ABRAMS.
I had knocked a bucket of popcorn out of
The general’s soft hands, and it littered the
Green carpet like thousands of young men.
The horrible war was coming to an end.

A.H. McLean taught English for 36 years at Orono High School.

Instrument of God
By A.H. McLean
Half human, and half machine.
Oils running dry in this smoky scene.

Jackson Wilde is a short order cook, occasional thrash drummer and near-dormant poet living in Augusta, Maine.
By Jackson Wilde

We hitchhiked America. I
still think of her.

I walk the old streets thinking I
see her, but never.

New buildings have gone up.
The bartenders who poured roses
into our glasses are gone.
We are erased.


Minook, Illinois,
one street out of nowhere through cornstalks.
Winter clutched the cornfields into Chicago.
Cold, we couldn’t get in out of the cold.

But a lonely filling station owner risked
letting his death in out of the night.
I lay on his gas station floor and let her
use me for a bed.

I will never forget the cold into
my kidneys or lying awake bearing the
pain while she slept like a two month
old child on the hill of its mother’s tit.

It was on that stone floor
that I knew I loved her.

Leo Connellan (1928-2001) grew up in Rockland, Maine, and went on the become poet laureate of Connecticut. This poem is section IX of Crossing America, excerpted from Poetry Scores website.
Crossing America I and II
By Leo Connellan
Cardboard and paper foil, a fully furnished house
and stacks of gold and silver bars and nuggets burn
for Song Yong Hua, whose mound of earth resides in shade
cast by a single row of trees that parts two fields
on a slope in the far southeast of Heilongjiang.
Green crops fill furrows in low mountains all around.
Quick, the late morning’s breezes flap a cape of flames
between the mourners and interred, who died five days
before her youngest child’s return. Miranda’s one
year in America has proved too long. Our hopes
for Gram to hold our baby fly with cinders flung
away to airy states by summer solstice winds.

Michael King is a graduate of the University of Maine and now lives in Wenzhou prefecture, China.
Late Mourning
By Michael King
A.H. McLean
Fighting South of the Wall.
Listen to the Chinese.
The Szechwan Road (Hard Roads in Shu)
By Li Bai Translation by Arthur Waley
Eheu! How dangerous, how high! It would be easier to climb to Heaven than to walk the Szechwan Road.

Since Ts’an Ts’ung and Yü Fu ruled the land, forty-eight thousand years had gone by; and still no human foot had passed from Shu to the frontiers of Ch’in. To the west across T’ai-po Shan there was a bird-track, by which one could cross to the ridge of O-mi. But the earth of the hill crumbled and heroes[20] perished.

So afterwards they made sky ladders and hanging bridges. Above, high beacons of rock that turn back the chariot of the sun. Below, whirling eddies that meet the waves of the current and drive them away. Even the wings of the[14] yellow cranes cannot carry them across, and the monkeys grow weary of such climbing.

How the road curls in the pass of Green Mud!

With nine turns in a hundred steps it twists up the hills.

Clutching at Orion, passing the Well Star, I look up and gasp. Then beating my breast sit and groan aloud.

I fear I shall never return from my westward wandering; the way is steep and the rocks cannot be climbed.

Sometimes the voice of a bird calls among the ancient trees—a male calling to its wife, up and down through the woods. Sometimes a nightingale sings to the moon, weary of empty hills.

It would be easier to climb to Heaven than to walk the Szechwan Road; and those who hear the tale of it turn pale with fear.

Between the hill-tops and the sky there is not a cubit’s space. Withered pine-trees hang leaning over precipitous walls.

Flying waterfalls and rolling torrents mingle their din. Beating the cliffs and circling the rocks, they thunder in a thousand valleys.

Alas! O traveller, why did you come to so fearful a place? The Sword Gate is high and jagged. If one man stood in the Pass, he could hold it against ten thousand.

The guardian of the Pass leaps like a wolf on all who are not his kinsmen.

In the daytime one hides from ravening tigers and in the night from long serpents, that sharpen their fangs and lick blood, slaying men like grass.

They say the Embroidered City is a pleasant place, but I had rather be safe at home.

For it would be easier to climb to Heaven than to walk the Szechwan Road.

I turn my body and gaze longingly toward the West.

Li Bai (701-762) was one of China's most revered poets of all time.
Hard Roads in Shu.
Listen to the Chinese.
A Hill in the Country
By Henry Braun
It isn't far in Maine
to the end of the past,
the quiet pipe, the random arrowhead.
The mountains are alone
with Thoreau's sun
in their ranges
and evergreens carpet all the peaks.

While on a moonlit night I fumble
to unlock the farmhouse,
the skyline of an old key
moves like a lost city.

On this hill whose curve
traces an indecipherable longing,
let me build my city,
the layer of all I saw and felt
a close cover on the naked rock
of Maine,
and in its hidden park
let me now closely learn
the mushrooms, the trees, the birds, the stars.

Carolyn Gelland sent along this poem by Henry Braun, who lived in Weld, Maine. His last book was Loyalty: New and Selected Poems.

All that’s amiss, stiff clutch, broken ankle,
inherent brain deficit, no cash to speak of
The truck bouncing down a muddy road
field mustard, raggedy yellow
nasty swerve to the left
I mean the absolute catastrophe

you are, the way rainwater drains
thru that field, pours into the road
cutting a graveled wedge
such that the road drops, clunk
ditch & tunnel bypassed

& where the road’s washed out
the sandy twist of your steering wheel
that squishy feeling
like you’re draining away, bereft,
without compensation—

or as it gathers in ditches, those ditches
cut in, puddle, wash out
altering how—no, make the road
disappear into the landscape
without trace, save
for crumpled beer cans

the story of your life ha

but the force of the rain—
where water sluices thru the road
becomes the road unloosens washes out
(actually it’s an arroyo—
the path water takes
become the most gradual)

can spread a brown foamy wave
down this canyon
bumpity bump
eating the jagged berm
that’s what you need guard against
threat of lightning

I Ching trigram K’an, passion & danger
& the hexagram doubled K’an, the Abysmal
misfortune at the bottom
misfortune at the top
danger within danger

I mean, this froth you pursue
thoughts bouncing about
without scope, no dimension
the sense of unfolding
the truth of who you are
the balance of forces
split sense of yourself as other
as the person watching
the person watching

on the defensive, okay
the way you slur & slide
splash your way home

specific recognitions locating what else
but when & where this instance of “you” is
establishing here & there
points of insight, boundaries
that’s what you reflect from
cross examine, reflect on
a system of reference
that is self-consciousness
bodily awareness
that’s what constitutes
in a fundamental way
who you are

distinguishes thinker from thought
knows the inside as out
puts you behind the wheel
(rather than under it)

you need to keep the show
going forward, get down the road
the needle bouncing back & forth
relate road truck & mud

negotiate your own difficult terrain
not simply opposed to
you need slow, know different

What you take & what you create
make happen, a murky swirl

I mean, odd isn’t it the dichotomy
between what you perceive & what “you” wants
insinuating itself
inside all your thoughts

consequently dealing with garbage all day!
sexual fantasies, fatigue, skewed reactions
nothing of particular interest
even to you—the level of triviality
almost monstrous at times!

as if whatever motivated you
a paycheck, pain, pretty new friend
there’s no distinguishing—
water outside, water within

as if there were some corrective
& you could attain higher ground
as if desire could determine a life
as if desire weren’t already
determining your life!

you can’t get what you’re not open to give
those are intimately related
& when you start to let go
participate, however poorly
push yourself aside somehow
no point or purpose
the opposite of what motivates you
declare, nothing to declare
& it’s that conflict
you pushing you aside

Bruce Holsapple grew up in Dexter, Maine, and now lives in Magdalena, N.M. His recent book of poems is Wayward Shadow.
Muddy Road
By Bruce Holsapple
Plumb the depth of time
Sitting by shore of moving water
Deep in the crowded forest of memories
Dredging up the glorious past
That’s now soggy and devoid of life
Like the drowned beaver pulled from trap
Dead animal sell the pelt
Waste the meat, pocket the money
Honor the totem animal?
They snicker and laugh
Grandfather worked the wood camps
Other grandfather worked the mill
Three generations cut wood
Families worked the mills
The mills were our families
Always beside the rivers
Small towns surrounded by forest
Part Mic-Mac we’re born to water and trees
Worked twenty four hours sometimes
Keep the machines running, they got a sound
Then a sound came from New York and Boston
From Men wearing gray suits
Heard them snicker and laugh
It echoed up the eastern seaboard
Way up the rivers in Maine
Close the mills, Smokestacks crashed
Like trees we used to fell
Defaulted scam loans fill gray suits with cash
Broken contracts shattered lives
Bulls of Wall Street in the china shop called Maine
Hundred million dollar paper machines, sold for scrap
Politicians say service economy, tourism, retraining
They snicker and laugh
Send us to hamburger school, can’t wait
In season serve a hamburger to tourists, smile, Minimum Wage
Funny thing happened on the way to poverty
They increased our taxes
Saw some suicides too
Gray suits, fancy dresses at parties
Dancing to the wisdom of greed, didn’t save one mill
What got saved?
We live in the woods, cut firewood
Can’t afford to burn oil, heat with wood
Neighbors and friends buy the extra that’s cut
Sometime I see hard times in their eyes
Read between unspoken lines give them an extra half cord
They helped me plenty when I needed
Forty five year old tractor breaks down, Henry fixes it
We give him raspberries when they come in season
Bill visited gave me five fresh caught trout
When I raised pigs we shared the meat
Snowstorm, not even light yet
Kenney’s plowing my lower driveway
Must be five people give us deer meat, moose, wild turkey
Years ago I cut meat up for them, they remember
Let a neighbor graze his sheep my field
My bush hog broke down can’t afford to fix it
He bush hogs my other field, I’m thankful every gift
My wife sews beautiful quilts, gives them away, family
We make our own Christmas cards, send them
Give them away, she worked the mill once
Don’t have much money
All this giving made us all rich in the soul
We’re sewn together like my wife’s quilts
Not a writer but I know what’s real
It ain’t torn down mills or greed

John "Bubba" Campbell of Dedham, Maine, submitted this poem for Patricia Ranzoni's anthology of writings recalling the paper mill in Bucksport, which was recently closed for reasons not clear to those who worked there.

Maine Real
By John Campbell
More --->
My snow blower drive wheel
Found tasty by summer mice,
I shovel the front steps,
Then settle in the sun porch,
Bright and warm, next
To the dog dozing, read Heaney,
Just laureled, and listen
To my heart, waiting
For the plow.

(December 1995)

John Holt Willey lives in Waterville, Maine. This poem
is from his recent collection, Observed from a Skin Boat.

By John Holt Willey
“Red, come help me with my girdle,”
called my stepmother Rita,
a great person in every way,
and the last woman I knew who wore a girdle.

My father got up and said, “Come with me.”
So I went. Rita was in the bedroom.
Her girdle was the old-fashioned kind
you stepped into and pulled up.
The two of us, one on each side, with Rita helping,
pushed and pulled.

The girdle put up a valiant fight.
We wrestled it on,
laughing so hard we fell on the bed.

That girdle brought us all together,
more than Playtex ever dreamed.

Thomas Lequin lives in Starks, Maine. .
My Stepmother's Girdle
By Thomas Lequin
Looking At Him
By Carolyn Gelland
She saw her own
image in his eyes

looking at him

not simply herself
but herself in him


dazzled out
by her star.

Carolyn Gelland lives in Wilton, Maine. Her most recent book is Dream-Shuttle.
The New York Times places it all in perspective for us here in Maine. For antidote, see Kitchen Boy by Sanford Phippen.
From the dock, squinting in August’s last shine,
loons, kayaks, and problems are the same size.
All floating as if to slow summer’s leave.

Along the cove, car doors bang behind 5 generations.
Elders who used to walk here to swim as children,
returning with theirs, theirs, and theirs in arms or running
to the water with tubes for one more carefree chance.

Around the point New Yorkers play.

But the new owners of the next camp over are back
in Kansas, leaving echoes of painting and tossing logs
on the fire spraying sparks, splashing off the rocks
and laughing. How they’ll come earlier next year,
stay longer, maybe through fall. Out in Salina,
their neighbors hear the same through the shrubs.

But the turtles, with luck, are sure to be where they’re
expected to be, when. Summer after summer, freeze
after freeze, thaw by thaw. They are larger than life,
even the hand size they are, to those adoring them
slipping off the boggy log sensing human invaders
appearing huge through watery eyes and depths,
loud and dangerous even if not, so many are.

The last of the pond lilies for all the world Mexicano
hair flowers, Tristan’s vision, for this year’s American
Folk Fest from upriver over WERU, “cheering
our immigrant brothers and sisters” under sky-high jets
and their trails leaving Bangor International, tinier than
our shore dragonflies going nowhere but where they’ll die

Patricia Ranzoni lives in Bucksport, Maine. Her collections include Hibernaculum, Settling, From Here, and Only Human: Poems from the Atlantic Flyway, among others.
from a mountain pond
By Patricia Ranzoni
Denied permission to drape a banner
off Olin Library, a placard protesting the rebuff
pronounced, “Down With The Paper Tiger,
Running Dog Lackey, Capitalist Roader Librarians.”
The only pants we could buy that year
were bellbottoms. Mao’s moon-faced head
poked out of the Yangtze, colorized the green
of dyed pistachios, along with the heads
of two minions who’d had to jump in
with their clothes on. Endless revolution
was Mao’s mantra (we said mantra a lot
back then) from the barrel of a gun,
not unlike Thomas Jefferson who said blood
should water liberty, somewhere far off
from his arcadian plantation and his line
of credit. I myself managed a wispy mustache,
though I eschewed the page boy hair
and rose-tinted wire rims. The Fab Four
were sing-songing they wanted the world
to change, but they wouldn’t donate
to anyone’s revolution anyhow. “Allright,”
they warbled, “it’s gonna be allright,”
like we cajole cancer patients. But then,
what’s to say? At least pot’s now legal.
The true Yangtze was a yellowish-green
like the Kalamazoo before it caught fire,
and only heroes or terrified lackeys
would swim in it.

William Hathaway recently moved from Surry, Maine, to Gettysburg, Pa. His most recent collection in a long, distinguished career is The Right No.
Mao and the Mischievous Mopheads
By William Hathaway
Book Lover / Brassai