2014-04-18 / Community

Library Links

If it’s April, it’s about poetry
By Rachel Davis

You may be aware that April is National Poetry Month, a time when, according to the Academy of American Poets, “schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers and poets throughout the United States band together to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture.” I think it’s safe to say that for most people, poetry seems remote and perhaps a little intimidating. As a culture, we need a special time to highlight poetry like this because it is not necessarily a literary form that burns brightly in the American consciousness.

This seems like the perfect time to highlight the Thomas Memorial Library’s special collection of poetry and writing materials. The Gabriel A. Zimpritch Poetry & Writing Collection is named for Gabriel Adam Zimpritch, a member of Cape Elizabeth High School Class of 1996, who died suddenly on May 2, 1995. His passion for writing poetry prompted his family and friends to establish the Gabriel A. Zimpritch Library Fund. The fund has been used to support not only the purchase of books and other materials, but also poetry-related programs, including an annual poetry symposium for Cape Elizabeth High School students called the Gabriel A. Zimpritch Poetry Symposium.

Each year, interested high school students submit three original poems to the head of the high school English department. Twelve students are then selected to participate in the day-long symposium, which takes place at Thomas Memorial Library. Students spend the day working with a guest poet and then participate in a reading for the public in the evening. This year’s Zimpritch Symposium will be held Thursday, May 1. Students will work with poet Deborah Cummins from Deer Isle and Chicago. The public is invited to attend a reading that evening featuring Cummins and student poets beginning at 7 p.m.

I was an English major in college, with an emphasis in creative writing. The types of materials we have in the Gabriel A. Zimpritch Poetry Collection are a writer’s dream. The collection contains the work of well known classic poets such Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Emily Dickinson and W.H. Auden, and well known contemporary poets such as Richard Blanco, Sandra Cisneros and Maya Angelou. However, the true gems of the collection are the often hard-to-find works by talented contemporary poets, usually published by very small presses. Unlike blockbuster bestseller fiction, or provocative nonfiction explorations of intriguing topics, poetry is quiet, and the experience of reading poetry is intimate and personal. There is much to ponder and inspire to be found within the small volumes that make up the Gabriel A. Zimpritch Poetry & Writing Collection. There is also lots of encouragement to be found here for writers, not just in the form of inspiration, but in books on writing and publishing. If you are an aspiring writer of any kind, I encourage you to stop by and browse the shelves of this very rich and vibrant collection.

Thanks also to the Gabriel A. Zimpritch Library Fund, four talented poets will participate in a series of poetry programs here at the library this month and next. Award-winning poets Linda Aldrich and Gibson Fay-Leblanc will kick-off the series on Tuesday, April 29 at 6 p.m. Aldrich has published two collections of poetry, “Foothold” and “March and Mad Women.” Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, and her poem “Woman-without-Arms” won the Emily Dickinson Award in 2000 from Universities West Press. Gibson Fay- LeBlanc’s first collection of poems, “Death of a Ventriloquist,” was chosen by Lisa Russ Spaar for the Vassar Miller Prize and published by the University of North Texas Press in 2012. His poems have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, and he has received awards for his poems from the Bellevue Literary Review and UC Berkeley.

The series continues on Thursday, May 8 at 6 p.m. with two more outstanding poets, Christian Barter and Deborah Cummins. Barter is the author of three books of poetry: “In Someone Else’s House,” “The Singers I Prefer” (a Lenore Marshall Prize finalist,) and “Secret Evidence,” a book-length poem forthcoming from BOA Editions. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals, and has been featured on “Poetry Daily,” “Poets and Writers,” and “The PBS Newshour.” Cummins, who also will be working with students at the Zimpritch Poetry Symposium this year, is the author of an essay collection, “Here and Away: Discovering Home on an Island in Maine,” published in 2013, as well as two collections of poetry, “Counting the Waves” and “Beyond the Reach.” Her poems and essays have appeared in eight anthologies, more than 60 journals and magazines, and on Garrison Keillor’s “The Writer’s Almanac” multiple times. The recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, she was most recently the winner of the 2013 and 2012 Maine Literary Award in Short Works of Non-Fiction and was a finalist for the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance 2013 Book Award in Non-Fiction.

If you’re already an admirer of poetry, or if you’re just curious and would like to make poetry more a part of your literary life, I hope you will consider attending one or more of these upcoming readings. And whether you live in Cape Elizabeth or not, the wonderful volumes in our special poetry and writing collection are readily available to borrowed through interlibrary loan. If the idea of listening to or reading poetry intimidates you a little bit, just remember these words from T. S. Eliot, “Genuine poetry communicates before it is understood.”

Rachel Davis is assistant director/ children’s librarian at Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth.

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