Mix of familiar, new at 15th annual Belfast Poetry Festival

Oct 11, 2019
"The Entry of Pizarro into Cuzco" by Abby Shahn is featured on the festival poster.

Belfast — The Belfast Poetry Festival celebrates 15 years of being one of the few community-based poetry festivals in the country on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 18 and 19. This year’s offerings feature some new programs and some old favorites, including Maine State Poet Laureate Stuart Kestenbaum, a poetic walk through Belfast harbor, a zine fair, an open mic, and the collaborative showcase and multimedia extravaganza featuring poetry combined with performing and visual arts. Venues include Left Bank Books, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Belfast, the Belfast Harbor Walk, the Belfast Free Library, and the Troy A. Howard Middle School. All events except lunch are free.

On Friday, Oct. 18, at 7 p.m., Maine State Poet Laureate Stuart Kestenbaum will read at Left Bank Books, 109 Church St. Reservations are recommended, and those wishing to attend should email or call Left Bank Books at 338-9009. Kestenbaum is the author of five collections of poems, including most recently "How to Start Over," and hosts the Maine Public Radio program "Poems from Here" and the podcast "Make/Time."

The first-ever Harbor/Poetry/Walk will take place on the Belfast waterfront on Saturday, Oct. 19, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Ten poets and Belfast historian Megan Pinette will lead the procession along the Harbor Walk from the Armistice Bridge to the Boathouse, with stops at the former cannery, “Chicken Hill,” Steamship Wharf, and other places of local historical import. Poets include Carol Bachofner, Linda Buckmaster, Kathleen Ellis, Elizabeth Garber, Judy Kaber, Kristen Lindquist, Leslie Moore, Tom Moore and Karin Spitfire. In case of rain, the event will be held at the Belfast Free Library, 106 High St.

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Belfast, 37 Miller St., will be festival headquarters on Saturday starting with a zine fair from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., featuring Maine zines, comics, bookmaking, paper arts, interactive installation and more. A ploughman's lunch follows from 12 to 1 p.m. with a rousing performance by the Belfast Bay Fiddlers. Lunch will be $5.

From 1:30 to 3 p.m., there will be an open mic poetry reading next door at the Abbott Room of the Belfast Free Library. Any poet can sign up and read one poem; signup starts at 1 p.m.

The evening showcase and multimedia extravaganza at 6 p.m. at the Troy A. Howard Middle School theater, 173 Lincolnville Ave., will feature the collaborative work of poets with visual artists and performers interspersed with readings from the winners of the Maine Postmark Poetry Contest.

Featured artists and poets will include poet Timothy Liu with poet and musician Matthew Shelton, poet Arisa White with visual and installation artist Carolina González Valencia, poet Samaa Abdurraqib with visual artist Ashley Normal, poet Michelle Menting with visual and papermaking artist Christine Higgins, poet Lisa Panepinto with materials and installation artist Andy Mauery, poet Kristen Case with multimedia installation artist Ann Bartges, poet Alisha Goldblatt with visual artist Hilary Irons, and poet Mark Melnicove with visual artist Abby Shahn.

Winners of the 2019 Maine Postmark Poetry Contest include Jefferson Navicky of Freeport, First Place, "Other Fathers"; Matthew Bernier of Pittsfield, Second Place, “The Best Hay”; Laurence Anne Coe of Rockland, Third Place, "Sentencing"; Mark Raymond of Owls Head, Honorable Mention, "The End of July"; Alicia Fisher of Saco, Honorable Mention, "This One Goes Out To All The Cold Corner Girlz"; and finalists, Katherine Hagopian Berry, Bridgton, "Springback"; Charles Brown, Owl's Head, "Blast from the Past"; Kate Chadbourne, Lunenburg, MA, "No Means No"; Alice Haines, Auburn, "GREEN HAS STRETCHED"; and E. Whitman, Portland, "Deep February on Bennoch Road.”

Contest judge Anna M. Warrock of Somerville, Mass. says of Navicky’s winning poem, “Other Fathers”: “The emotion in this poem is carefully registered step by step. This work shows the depth of a so-called list poem and the skill with which the choices made can get it right. Likely the poet made discoveries as they worked to create a multidimensional portrait of the speaker’s inner life and relation to absence, a resonance that resolves into the actual father’s image. The reader can trust the masculinity as defined because the metaphors sharply mark out the speaker’s search, a voice looking toward relation.”

The annual event is made possible with support from The Maine Review, the City of Belfast, the Belfast Free Library, Belfast Hannaford, Eat More Cheese, and the office of the Belfast Poet Laureate. For more information and a full program, see BelfastPoetry.org.

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