My ongoing influx of Maine-based books that it’s best to mention sooner than later includes three titles from Portland, a cheerful little chapbook out of Belfast, and a history of Maine politics by my Central Maine Newspapers colleague Doug Rooks.

Littoral Books kindly sent two new titles you may well want to have a look at. “The House on Perry Street,” by longtime Portland novelist Agnes Bushell is the fictional history of a family living in Greenwich Village in New York City, told through a variety of eyes, mainly the women, whose millennial members find themselves digging through the family archives to try to figure out who owns the house they’ve been living in since the 1800s. Page by page, the whole family seems even crazier than they thought. The Bushnell on Books column treats this well-written novel of many moods, voices, jokes, loves and griefs in more detail. But it’s worth another mention because it could really warm up your January afternoons.

Littoral’s newest title is “Balancing Act 2: An Anthology of Poems by Fifty Maine Women.” This could turn out, like its predecessor, “Balancing Act,” published in 1975, to be a landmark of Maine letters. Many of Maine’s most accomplished women poets are represented, including former Maine Poet Laureate Betsy Sholl, retired University of Maine at Farmington professor Lee Sharkey; Valerie Lawson, of Robbinston; Linda Buckmaster, of Belfast; and Leonore Hildebrandt, of Harrington, to name just a few. The driving forces behind the project have been Agnes Bushell and Marcia Brown, two of the original editors of “Balancing Act,” whose publication was a memorable event back in 20th century Portland. This book, too, is carefully, compassionately assembled, and as Kate Kennedy says in her introduction, “More than anything, these poems tell the truth.” Nowadays, this is an especially significant recommendation.

To get copies of these books, visit Littoral Books’s website,

More collections: Cafe Review’s fall 2018 issue is out, and as always is worth having around the house. Mainers Martin Steingesser and David Stankiewicz are among the poets, along with many others, including William Bonfiglio, of Fredericton, New Brunswick, where Cafe Review publisher Steve Luttrell recently read his own work. You can get a copy through The Cafe Review website,

From Belfast Poet Laureate Thomas Moore I received a copy of “The Wheelbarrow School of Poetry,” a saddle-stitched chapbook of poems gathered from Moore’s weekly poetry group and illustrated by the linoleum block printmakers of the Winterberry Collective in Waldoboro. This is homespun art and poetry that, if you look closely through its few pages, could give you an encouraging insight into the creative undercurrents that are active in practically every Maine town, it seems. To get a copy, contact Tom Moore ( or Leslie Moore (

Last but not least, “Rise, Decline and Renewal: The Democratic Party in Maine,” by Douglas Rooks, covers in fascinating — and to some of us, at least, eye-opening — detail how the Democratic Party in Maine rose from its own ashes when Edmund Muskie was elected governor in 1954 and wended its way high and low into the 21st century. In addition to copious reading of all kinds of historical documents, Rooks interviewed most of the Democrats’ principal players, from Ken Curtis, Joe Brennan and George Mitchell to Sara Gideon, Jared Golden and dozens more. This book is not a partisan glorification of Democratic politicians, but a detailed critical overview of how the party has shaped itself in Maine, for better and worse. “The premise of this book,” Rooks says in his preface, “is that the decline of our elective governments … is strongly correlated to the decline of the two major political parties.” Rooks is also the author of “Statesman: George Mitchell and the Art of the Possible.” Both books are available in paperback and electronic form from online book sellers.

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

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