Go to sea with community read series

Feb 25, 2020

Searsport — Carver Memorial Library is pleased to offer the community read series “Going to Sea: a Variety of Voices.” Carver has been selected by the Maine Humanities Council to offer this “Let’s Talk About It” program, a free reading and discussion series. The events are free, and the public is encouraged to attend. The library will have multiple copies of the books available to borrow so that everyone will have a chance to read them ahead of time. This program is provided by the Maine Humanities Council’s Maine Center for the Book in cooperation with the Maine State Library.

Discussions are on Wednesdays every three weeks at 5:30 p.m., with the first event on March 4. Patricia Bixel, Dean of the College of Science and Humanities at Husson University, will facilitate the discussions. “Exploring ideas and issues through literature has a unique and fun way of creating community,” said Nicole Rancourt, director of Let’s Talk About It. “We find that there is great interest among adults in getting together to discuss what they’ve read with others. Having discussion leader Patricia Bickel, who is both excited about the readings and skilled in facilitating, can help to deepen this experience.”

What is going to sea really like? People from all walks of life, although mostly male until the late 20th century, have crossed the divide between the land and the sea to accept the challenge of living in an environment alien to human bipeds. Their experience has often inspired them to see their lives differently, for the sea experience can offer lessons — often lessons in humility, cooperation and compassion for our fellow beings. Some of these individuals have written about their learning experience. Other writers, who are not drawing on experience, nevertheless use the sea voyage as a way of separating their protagonists from the ordinary ways of life and values that prevail on shore. They often use their imagined experience of being away from the land to express some of their concerns about human nature, life and its meaning.

Views of seafaring were often views from the quarterdeck — those of a captain of a cargo or naval vessel. These selections give us the opportunity to listen to voices other than those of captains in order to get a perspective on what the experience of a sea voyage may have been like. Therefore, participants will be listening to accounts of “sea experiences” from other voices: a 10th-century trader, a late 19th-century second mate, a young schoolboy fishing on the Grand Banks, a “greenhorn” making his first trip around Cape Horn, a captain’s wife, and an old man fishing alone. In what ways do their sea experiences differ? Does their perspective differ from that of a captain? What is the author’s role in revealing these people and their sea experience to us? Along the way, we will read some fine short stories, a diary, and two poems, and meet some rather different “seafarers.”

We will read the works of six authors (among them a British Poet Laureate and a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature) who have taken their characters away from the safety of the land for a sea experience. We start off with four English views. The Anglo-Saxon poem “The Seafarer” is the earliest “English” version of what it was like out there. Joseph Conrad’s “Youth” is the view by the former second mate of an ill-fated passage on a cargo vessel sailing around the Cape of Good Hope (Discussion: March 4). Rudyard Kipling’s "Captains Courageous" takes a young American boy to sea (accidentally) on a Gloucester fishing schooner a century ago (March 25). John Masefield takes a young farm boy, who would be a painter, to sea on a cargo vessel rounding Cape Horn (April 15). Dorothea and James Balano, mother and son, present us with the diary of a Maine sea captain’s wife while sailing on a cargo schooner in the Brazil trade in the early decades of this century (May 6). Finally, Ernest Hemingway presents the tale of an old fisherman’s fishing trip away from the safety of the land to catch the big one (May 27).

Please call the library at 548-2303 to register and come in to pick up the first book of the series. The library is open Mondays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (open until 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays) and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Carver Memorial Library is located at 12 Union St., on the corner of Union St. and Mortland Ave. For more information, contact the library at 548-2303. For more information about “Let’s Talk About It” and the work of the Maine Humanities Council, see mainehumanities.org or call the office in Portland at 773-5051.



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