“Be There or Be Square: Poems”

“Be There or Be Square” by Alice Persons, editor and publisher of Moon Pie Press, is a pleasant poetic amble through what might be a day’s worth of unhurried reveries on the past and present. The speaker of the 21 poems in this collection appears to be the poet herself, mainly telling funny and poignant stories involving family members, incidents and memory-triggering objects around the house.

The opening poem, “Visit,” anchors us to the feel and subject matter of the book overall. Recounting a dream about her recently departed father, it closes on her mother’s response: “‘Oh, I wish your father would visit me like that. / I never remember my dreams.’” Following are poems devoted to fond recollections of the author’s parents, a family trip to Las Vegas in 1969, polishing the family silver. Others, such as “A perfect day for introverts,” detail the pleasures of the everyday: “stay in your pajamas half the day / … take a nap with the cat / … share popcorn with dog.” Indignation and outrage are part of the day, too; “Stealing Buddha” recounts the inexplicable theft of four stone Buddhas from the “kind old lady down the block.”

Anticipating Marie Kondo and the vogue for tidying-up, maybe, is “Monuments,” toward the end of the book: “It’s time. 22 years in a house / means too much stuff. This month / I tackle the photo albums.” And maybe there’s a deeper, more universal motive for straightening things out. The final poem, “White Van,” is about the ominous ubiquity of white vans in frightening situations – both fictional and real – such as child abductions, killings and drug deals. This concluding poem has an air of trepidation and uncertainty that is absent in the rest of the book, and yet seems to draw strength, at its conclusion, from the previous wistful good feelings: “Like us, the white van / carries darkness, fear, goodness, courage.” It is a sense of the kind of overarching hope, maybe, that you tuck yourself into bed with at the end of the day, or at life’s largest looming moment.

“Be There or Be Square”  is available from Moon Pie Press, currently Maine’s most prolific publisher of local poets.

 

“Quarry: The Collected Poems of Peter Kilgore” by Peter Kilgore

Also available this month from a small Maine publisher that has given us many books by local writers, including poets, is “Quarry: The Collected Poems of Peter Kilgore.” (Full disclosure: I played a role in the making of this book.)

Kilgore was a well-known figure in Portland’s literary underground in the 1970s and ’80s. His crisply imagistic poetry of the Maine coast and wilderness areas appeared during his lifetime in many regional publications and in several books and chapbooks, including “The Bar Harbor Suite” published by Blackberry Books.

Kilgore grew up in Portland, where he lived most of his life, and was a graduate of Bowdoin College. In the 1970s, he was one of the original founders of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance and a contributing editor for Contraband, one of Maine’s most influential small magazines of the time. He lived the last years of his life in Washington state, where he died in 1992.

His friends and literary associates, including Bruce Holsapple and me, found his taut, crystalline lines unforgettable. In his skilled voice is reflected a deep reverence for Maine’s natural world, especially the ocean and especially Casco Bay and Long Island. From his previously unpublished “Island Poems”:

hawks
aloft
in the
raucous
wind

here on
the beach

& i
grounded

heart still
in their
shadow

“Quarry” collects all of Kilgore’s published and (finished) unpublished poems together, where it hopefully can register with more readers for a long time to come, securing his place in the literary history of Portland, and Maine. It’s available from North Country Press, local bookstores and online vendors, including electronic editions.

 

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


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