Our Neighbors | Our Library | Maine's Poetry
What is it?
The Maine Poetry Express, originally designed by poet Wesley McNair with support from the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, 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.
How it works
- MHC partners with a library and a local poet who identify important community themes.
- The Maine State Library provides curated resources, anthologies, and collections of Maine poetry—from the historical to the contemporary—that touch on the community’s themes.
- Community members select Maine poems, learn to perform those poems in a workshop with a local poet, and host a community poetry reading and conversation event at the library, an event for the public to come together and celebrate Maine poetry.
As an example, in 2018 Lincoln Memorial Library convened a Poetry Express to grapple with the closing of their paper mill and the community’s moment of emergence. Participants chose Maine poems curated by MHC and MSL about the lumber industry, lumberjack ballads, poems about deer, moose, and the natural landscape of the Lincoln area by poets living in around Lincoln over the past 200 years. Participants were amazed to find their lived experiences, history, and culture reflected back at them in the poetry. They grieved, laughed and imagined together. They were reminded of their own capacity. They gave words to feelings they hadn’t been sure how to communicate. As a result, the library has launched new weekly writing and poetry groups.