The areas at my house where writing takes place (yes, there are at least three, contrary to creative-writing industry wisdom — “maintain A comfortable space to write”) are not libraries exactly, but they do have literal stacks of books in them. Some of them are books sent to me for review, and kind of like pancakes, these can be in short stacks or tall stacks, according to I have no idea what cosmic forces possess editors and authors to think of the Off Radar column or my other venues. Lately the stacks have been getting high enough to teeter. So I want to mention a few titles before an editor starts asking bothersome questions about why old books are getting new notices.

. . . . .

To contradict myself right up front, I recently received a contributor’s copy of the Spring 2018 edition of The Cafe Review, produced by Steve Luttrell and associates out of Portland. It’s another skillfully made collection of poetry, reviews and art (on glossy color insert pages). Robert Breen, of Brunswick, Carolyn Locke, of Troy, and TCR poetry editor Kevin Sweeney are represented, among others, including the well-known Alan Shapiro. The artwork is typically accomplished, and of note are paintings by former denizen of Portland’s off-the-radar art scenes, Matt Blackwell, who now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Greenhut Galleries in Portland is showing his works through June 2.

. . . . .

Meanwhile, Diane Schetky, who lives in Topsham and had a long career as a physician and psychiatrist, published her third collection of poems, “Taking Flight,” last year through Just Write Books. Many of her poems reflect on natural beauty and perennial themes (“My friends are departing / like autumn leaves”), and she offers insightful “Portraits” of, for example, “Wounded Warriors” and a troubled girl “Finding Her Voice,” along with topical poems such as “Vigil for Victims of the Newtown Massacre.” These are heartfelt poems, containing some sharp Maine imagery.

. . . . .

From Polar Bear & Co. in Solon I received a copy of “A Writers’ Compendium,” which is a lengthy collection of pithy quotations about literature and the writing life gathered by freelance journalist Peter Bollen, of Bridgton. There are nuggets, offered in contrasting typefaces, by everyone from Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway, to Stephen King (“We are writers, and we never ask one another where we get our ideas; we know we don’t know”), to Carolyn Chute (“I do feel like I’m on Pluto sometimes”), to E.B. White and Ellen Goodman (“You can teach someone who cares to write columns, but you can’t teach someone who writes columns to care”), and many others. This book makes an entertaining browse and not only would be a nifty resource on your coffee table, but could provide some thoughtful uplift to all kinds of waiting rooms.

. . . . .

“Visiting the Eastern Uplands” is Susan Dorman’s latest entry in her Maine Metaphor series, which collects her essays and observations on life around her home in Oxford County. The essays in this book, part travelogue and part paean to rural peculiarity, depict the author’s excursions to The County and Down East, which she finds just as fascinating as the western mountains. Having grown up flying in small planes, I was charmed by the descriptions in “Flight to the Eastern Uplands,” which narrates a trip in a Cessna from Oxford County Airport, past Augusta, over Bucksport and on to investigate life around the blueberry barrens of Washington County. As the plane reaches cruising altitude, “Allen touches back on the throttle. The plane slows its ascent. I look down to see green patterns in fields, occasional delicate bogs dotted with trees, dark winding ribbons of streams; and lakes lakes lakes. The ocean, to my right, is but a dim blue guess upon the southern horizon.” Nice writing from one of our many backwoods essayists and SF writers. The publisher offers a free ebook edition.

. . . . .

And “The Salt House,” the first novel of Boston-area resident Lisa Duffy, tracks a family’s troubled life in the fictional coastal town of Alden, Maine. After the Kellys’ youngest daughter dies suddenly, the couple and their other two daughters are trying to cope with the fracturing grief. A narrative in the same literary vein as Sarah Faber’s “All Is Beauty Now” (which by the way recently received the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award at the Atlantic Literary Awards in Halifax, Nova Scotia),

“The Salt House” comprises character by character, point-of-view rehearsals of frictions, tensions and events. I personally have never known any people from fishing families in Maine who think or talk like what we hear in this book, but other reviewers are enthusiastic about it.

. . . . .

That’s a few glimpses of how it stacks up here in Troy for now. Keep browsing the local shelves.

Off Radar takes note of poetry and books with Maine connections the first Thursday of each month. Contact Dana Wilde at [email protected].

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