Limerock Books, $12.00

Dealing with the Big Issues and the Commonplace

Five poets who read some of their work every summer in Tenants Harbor, honored the 10th anniversary of the annual event with the publication of a book, “Summer Lines.”

Subtitled “A Decade of Tenants Harbor Poetry Readings,” the volume contains poems previously published and read at earlier summer events and others that are new this year.

Jonathan Aldrich, Mary Burchenal, Christopher Fahy, Elizabeth Gordon McKim and David Riley are the five poets who have either spent summers or lived year-round in Tenants Harbor.

The annual poetry reading began in 1997 at the Jackson Memorial Library, but the audience outgrew the library space and moved to the Martinsville Grange in 2002. The event packed the Grange on a weekday night in 2005 with 80 people, then filled the Odd Fellows Hall this summer with more than 100.

David Riley explained the popularity of the event on the book’s back cover: “… if our listeners aren’t particularly drawn to one person’s style, they might like another’s.”

Some of the poems focus on coastal pastimes such as sailing, but these five poets cover the wide variety of big themes common to the human experience such as love, death and religion.

But the bards don’t stick to the big issues, they also deal with the commonplace. Burchenal writes about her “Haircut” and also a trip to the grocery store in “Roche Brothers.” Riley writes an “Ode to My Cereal Bowl” and Fahy is “Thinking of Buying the Watchmakers House.”

McKim’s “Maine Songs” poem, and Riley’s “Spring Tide” and “The Sea That Held Us” do chronicle specifically Maine experiences.

In “Michelangelo Painting the Sistine Chapel,” retired professor and school principal Jonathan Aldrich reflects on the human side of the master’s work in lines such as these:

… huddled, beard to the sky,

the scaffold fixed to fool that wretch Bramante

(who wanted all the holes to show), my hair

dribbling a sticky fresco, paint in the eye…

Then, in “For Mother’s Day,” one of his 11 entries, he shows a lighter side:

She sang some pretty songs to me

and showed me sensitivity

and love for art and artistry

though later gave me growing pains

by writing books on William James

Performance artist and poet McKim’s work is mean to be read out loud, rhythmically, as in “Penelope’s Talking Blues for Odysseus.” Another of the six pieces she has in the book, “Maine Songs,” conjures up a Maine summer, including this verse:

Lobstermen haul traps

In early morning burning

Fog on turning sea

Burchenal, a Massachusetts English teacher, has 10 poems in the book, including one about the teaching experience titled “Parents Night.” She also writes of switching shopping carts with a stranger at the supermarket in her poem “Roche Brothers,” which ends with these lines:

At check-out, I keep my head down.

I watch the cashier’s fingers reach

and balance on the scale

a small cantaloupe I realize is his.

And damn if I won’t eat it anyway.

The “Summer Lines” editor and former Tenants Harbor resident, novelist and poet Christopher Fahy of Thomaston, has a dozen poems in the book, including “The Man I Should Have Been,” which opens with:

The man I should have been

has perfect sight.

He has no bald spot

and his teeth are sound.

He doesn’t write.

He sleeps at night.

Four verses later, after more paeans to this perfect man, it closes with:

The man I should have been is mad.

He kicks his cat and slams his door.

He wants the same thing I want: More.

In part of a verse of another poem entitled “Wake,” Fahy writes:

After Paul finished his dying

he was still there.

But just like the couch he was lying on

he didn’t know it. He didn’t know

I was standing there thinking

I’d seen him look worse.

Playwright and published poet Riley chronicles a sailing experience in one of his eight poems entitled, “The Sea That Held Us,” the first verse of which portends a problem:

We’d done so well kept alert

to tide, chart, wind, and waves

and were close enough to home to think

we’d escaped our one mistake

Part of a later verse includes the lines that reveal a truly human side of the event:

I was afraid not of drowning

but of failing, and the public shame

of having proved unworthy of the sea.