Poetry Express

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Our Neighbors | Our Library | Maine's Poetry

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What is it?

The Maine Poetry Express, originally designed by poet Wesley McNair during his time as the Maine State Poet Laureate, connects libraries and local poets in sharing Maine’s poetry with their community. The landscape of Maine’s voices is varied and valuable, addressing so many aspects of what it can mean to experience life in this state. Part of the goal of the Poetry Express is to bring a model to Maine’s libraries that allows community members, local poets, and libraries to get together and share in that history, often surprising themselves.

This poetic landscape is incomplete, as well as ever-evolving by the day. Maine has the invaluable resource of the Maine State Library, which houses a huge portion of those poems. For the purpose of this program, the Maine State Library will provide various resources, anthologies, and collections of Maine’s poetry—from the historical to the contemporary—for librarians and communities to draw inspiration from. To learn more, contact Leah Kuehn.

How it works

With Poetry Express, libraries choose one of two program models to bring to their community.

Model 1: Performance and presentation

How this works: In this model, the MHC finds a regional poet to work with community members through a 1.5-2 hour workshop in which:

1. The visiting poet guides participants in becoming more comfortable and confident in reading poetry aloud. Ideally, in order to maximize their workshop time, participants will have read through and selected pieces from the MSL’s collection that resonate with them.

2. The visiting poet will then be able to  talk with participants about why their selections are meaningful to them, share some of their work, and model what dynamic poetry performance looks like.

3. The visiting poet and community members will spend time together practicing dynamic poetry performance in preparation for the hour-long community event that follows.

4. This larger community event will incorporate workshop participant performances with discussion and be moderated by the visiting poet.

Model 2: Round-robin

How this works: In this model, the library suggests a theme that their community is interested in exploring, and the visiting poet curates a selection of poems using MSL’s Maine poetry resources.

1. In a workshop, community members then work with the poet to refine that selection, highlight pieces that resonate with and affect them, and then each choose a poem to practice reading in a dynamic way.

2. Community members will then prep a fishbowl/hat with a number of remaining poems that the broader audience can draw from to participate in the popcorn reading.

3. Following this is a discussion about the work that was read, facilitated by the visiting poet.

Logistics

  • Library completes application, selecting the model program of their choice by April 23.
  • MHC acknowledges receipt of application and awards program to library by May 4.
  • May 7-11: posters mailed to libraries
  • June 5 – August 31: programs scheduled
  • Evaluations submitted to the MHC by September 7.