September 18, 2019
Column

From poets to putts: Reading choices abound

Editor’s Note: Maine Bound is a column featuring new books written by authors or set in the Pine Tree State.

HEART SONG AND OTHER LEGACIES: POEMS by Linda Buckmaster, The Illuminated Sea Press, Belfast, Maine, 2006, 46 pages, trade paperback, $11.

“Heart Song and Other Legacies” by Belfast resident Linda Buckmaster is a compressed autobiography made of 26 short poems. The story is told chronologically, apparently, from memories of childhood through the death of a husband, the growth of a son, and a battle with cancer.

In some ways, these poems are standard contemporary fare. They derive from the “confessional” strand of American poetry made popular in the 1960s and ’70s by writers like Anne Sexton, and tread highly personal territory that has been covered many, many times in just this way over the last 40 or so years. Although treating mainly very emotional material, almost every poem renders the same subdued, usually somber tone – common in contemporary American letters – and concludes on the same artfully pensive mood.

What sets these poems somewhat apart are the precision and sharpness of the language. While spare sentences and flattened rhythms are widely encouraged by workshop instructors, few of our local poets consistently achieve the disciplined polish of diction and structure these poems have. They are a pleasure to read in this sense. The highly personal subject matter and frame of reference also will appeal to many readers who already know what they are looking for.

– DANA WILDE

CARTHAGE by Baron Wormser, The Illuminated Sea Press, Belfast, Maine, 2005; unpaginated, trade paperback, $10.

By the time this notice appears in the pages of the BDN, the midterm elections will have been decided. The voting, it has been repeatedly said this fall, has pivoted on people’s present disposition to the war in Iraq and to President Bush’s many other perplexing policies.

“Carthage” by Maine’s former poet laureate is, as it happens, a series of poems that imagine what the president, whose name is Carthage, thinks about. He likes airplanes, divides the world into categories (good, evil and bad), plays cards with his buddies, gets sick of his advisers, wishes he could shoot a few rowdy crows with his .22, looks on as his helpers send replies to ignorant letter-writers, appreciates a children’s book.

In Wormser’s imagination of the presidential mind, there are frequent moments of more or less weighty introspection:

… Carthage wondered

Why he was named for a destroyed city.

How could he be descended from something

That had been destroyed?

Why had Carthage made so much trouble for itself?

Myself, I wonder what the evidence is that this actually goes on. But in any case, the twists and turns of imagery, drama and psychology in these poems are understated, playful, and at points somewhat chilling, all of which is to be expected from Wormser, who for decades has been worth listening to for his angles on the subject matter itself, not just the sheen of his language.

The poems in “Carthage,” while subtle, are also mainly direct and accessible. They might have given you food for thought before you voted, or they might not, but anyway it’s a book that will tickle you, perplex you, or infuriate you, depending on your disposition to the state of reality. Or the reality of state.

Copies are available by writing to the author at baronw@gwi.net.

– DANA WILDE

Dana Wilde can be reached at dwilde@bangordailynews.net.

THE POET’S BASKET by Jennifer Armstrong, illustrations by Patrick Thompson, Wren Song Press, Belfast, Maine, 2006, unpaginated, saddle-stitched, large format, $10.

In “The Poet’s Basket,” a picture book by Jennifer Armstrong, a young girl speaks about her close relationship with her grandmother, and the way she teaches her to be a poet. The girl lives on the Chattahoochee River in Georgia. Her grandmother lives on the Passagassawaukeag River in Maine.

The grandmother teaches the girl how to be a poet, telling her different methods of becoming a better writer. She tells the girl she needs a poet book and pencil, a basket for her tools, and a special place to write. The girl writes her grandmother letters about how she’s feeling, and the different things that have happened to her that seem to be significant. Her grandmother responds each time, telling her how much of a better writer she is becoming.

The story ends on Christmas Day, when the girl and her grandmother exchange their own very special Christmas presents – a basket for the girl, and a poem for the grandmother.

I found it difficult to know exactly what was happening in the book. The events did not seem to be connected most of the time, and they jumped around. I think that had they been more connected, and the reader been more able to foresee them better, the confusion would be eliminated.

The other thing I found hard to ignore about this book was what Armstrong claimed a poet needed. The things that she seemed to think were vital for someone to be a poet did not really matter, such as the basket, or the special place to write. It could be a bit misleading to younger poets who do not know much about poetry. The only thing you really truly need to be a poet is a good imagination, and something to write about, rather than to write in.

A song with simple musical notation appears at the end of the book and clearly goes along with the events. The first verse says:

I’ve got my poet’s basket

I’ve got my poet’s basket

I’ve got my basket

I’ve got my basket

It’s a tool of the trade for a poet

It goes on like this for eight verses. Probably no further comment is needed.

This book seems intended mainly for younger children, maybe 5-10 years old, although the girl in the story appears to be a teenager. I thought that had the pictures not been there to guide the reader along, then the words would have been hard to make sense of and I probably wouldn’t have read it.

Jennifer Armstrong is a professional storyteller and musician. She has performed widely in the U.S., as well as in Canada and Hong Kong. She is also the author of “Giving Thanks for Grief” and “Late Afternoon.”

– JACK WILDE

Jack Wilde is a sophomore at Mount View High School. He can be contacted at breakingbenjamin665@yahoo.com, or on AOL instant messenger at PntBallAddict09.

OUT OF BOUNDS, by John R. Corrigan, University Press of New England, Hanover, N.H., 2006, 289 pages, hardcover, $24.95.

One of the hottest issues in sports today is performance-enhancing drugs. So it’s natural that Presque Isle author John Corrigan tackles the topic in the fifth installment of his mystery series featuring pro golfer Jack Austin.

As “Out of Bounds” opens, Jack is at something of a crossroads. His best friend, PGA Tour security consultant Darcy Perkins, has been crippled after being shot while protecting Jack in the last book, “Bad Lie.” It’s also been a while since Jack won his only tournament, and he finds himself in danger of falling below the top 125 golfers and being cut from the tour. He has been named to the PGA Tour Policy Board at roughly the same time that golfer Richie Barter begins to make claims that drugs have invaded the tour.

Then golfers involved with a failed golf equipment business start showing up dead. One was considered an aberration, two a coincidence. But, by book’s end, a conspiracy gets revealed. And Jack, his sportscaster wife, Lisa, and Perkins find themselves in the middle of trying to unravel it.

Again, Corrigan does a commendable job taking readers inside the pressure-cooker world of professional golf, where some will do anything to have a chance at the big bucks on the PGA Tour. Like Jack Austin, readers will be guessing up until the end whodunit, as one person after another gets scratched as suspects. “Out of Bounds” shows Corrigan’s power and finesse as well.

– DALE MCGARRIGLE


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