Sharing the poetry of Maine’s unheard voices

with Gary Lawless

Back to Constance H. Carlson Public Humanities Prize

Follow Gary has he shares poetry from Mainers of all backgrounds.

Constance Carlson Luncheon 2017-55

Gary Lawless, who was awarded the 2017 Constance H. Carlson Public Humanities Prize on March 24, has long worked to bring poetry and the creative process to the people of Maine.

Over the next several months, follow Gary as his shares poetry from Mainers of all backgrounds. The poems will be released monthly in Notes from an Open Book, the MHC’s e-newsletter, and collected below.

1- Ellen Flewelling Holt


“This is the first poem in the first anthology of poems I helped put together from Spindleworks in Brunswick. We published that collection in 1991. I really was trying to learn what it was like for an adult not to be able to read, and Ellen (who has passed away since the book came out) helped me to really feel it.” – Gary Lawless


I would like to learn to read.

I know one thing I can’t do. Read.
It’s hard for me when I can’t read.
What would I do if I got lost?
I wouldn’t know where I am.
I wouldn’t know what street I was on.

That’s what I want. I want to learn
so I can read signs.
If I could read, I would know
what the signs say.
I could read a newspaper.
Read a book, read the Bible.
Read a cookbook, recipes in a cookbook.
I could put the right things in the recipe.

Tell what size my clothes are.
What size shoes I wanted.
Maybe if I wanted a teddy bear
I could find out how much it costs
or if I wanted a record
or a blouse.
I could find out when the movies are.
I could do that
if I could read.

Ellen Flewelling Holt
from Spindleworks Journey,
edited by Gary Lawless, published by Spindleworks, 1991