April 25, 2018
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A river of words and images, in new Bangor-based magazine

By Emily Burnham, BDN Staff

The word “Tarratine” has several meanings. There is the Tarratine formation, a limestone formation in Central Maine. Tarratine was a name used by a Massachusetts Abenaki Indian tribe to refer to another tribe from Maine. In Latin, Tarratine means “like, or of, the Earth.” Hannibal Hamlin, vice president under Abraham Lincoln and a Bangor resident, founded a social club called Tarratine in the late 1800s, so he could play cards with his friends.

And in 2011, a group of Bangor residents named their new, independent magazine Tarratine in honor of the long history the word has in eastern Maine. The Tarratine Quarterly, the first edition of which, titled “Manifest/O,” comes out today, Monday, March 19, is the brainchild of eight Bangorians, all in their 20s and 30s, with diverse backgrounds in a variety of creative fields. Last fall, the eight editors formed their own social club of sorts — with much less card playing than Hamlin’s and much more poetry — with the mission of creating a critical arts and literary journal for the communities of the Penobscot River Valley.

“To my knowledge, no one has really defined the PRV as an actual region,” said Tarratine editor Kierie Piccininni, a marketing expert and a Colorado native who moved to Bangor in 2010. “But all the communities that exist along the river, from the headwater to the delta, from Millinocket to Rockland and Blue Hill and especially Bangor, are there because they needed the river for transport, for livelihood, for recreation. The river is the reason they are there. And that creates a distinctive identity for those communities, and that’s who Tarratine is for.”

Tarratine began as an idea tossed around last summer by Kat Johnson and Louise Contino. Johnson, a graphic artist who is finishing up her MFA at the University of Maine, and Contino, a Bangor native and recent University of Vermont graduate, wanted to publish something that was more than just a photocopied and stapled ’zine. They wanted to create a professional, critical publication that spoke to the creative energy present in Bangor and the surrounding communities.

“We saw all the movement and energy that was coalescing around downtown Bangor, and how it was reverberating outwards into the outlying communities around it,” Johnson said. “We wanted to capitalize on that. So we asked people we knew, who we thought would want to do that, and they all said yes. And we’ve spent the past eight months getting to know each other and making it happen.”

Those people include Jess Rowan and Maurice Burford, two poets who moved to Bangor from Oregon last year; Tony Sohns, co-owner of the Rock and Art Shop in downtown Bangor and a natural history educator; Scott Sherman, an artist and Bangor native; and Denise Sears, an organic farmer at Carrot Top Farm on Outer Ohio Street in Bangor. For the past eight months, the group has brainstormed, fundraised, curated and designed the magazine that eventually became Tarratine, during off-hours at the Rock and Art Shop.

“We all have such a diversity of skills and interests,” Johnson said. “I think it’s helped us to find a very unique voice for this project. It gives it a lot of vitality.”

Tarratine began accepting submissions for its first edition in November of last year, with the theme of “Manifest/O” — playing on the idea of something manifesting itself in the community, and of releasing a manifesto, stating your opinion, beliefs, or ideas. Essays, poems, stories, visual art, diagrams, maps, lists, photography and much else was submitted — 160 submissions in total. All submissions were anonymously reviewed and selected, but in the end, 85 percent of the work included is Maine-based, with a handful of contributors from California and the Midwest.

“There is nothing we won’t consider,” said Piccininni, who previously worked for New York-based art book publisher Taschen. “If we can make it work, we’ll try it.”

Some of the artists and writers in “Manifest/O” include visual art by Bangor area artists including Adam Lacher, Roger Merchant, Kenny Cole, Jessica Harris and Gage Jones, poems by Sarah Farnham of Bangor, Texas-based Nate Logan, Joseph Bruchac, a Native American poet from Connecticut, and others; and an interview with Judy Taylor, the artist who painted the controversial mural in the Department of Labor.

The Tarratine team designed the magazine itself, and it is a visual treat — an art object in and of itself — with unorthodox layout, alternating color and black-and-white pages, and hand-sewn binding. Just 500 copies have been printed for the first run, and they will be distributed free of charge in the Penobscot River Valley area; outside of which, they’ll be available for a fee at bookstores and other shops. An interactive PDF will be available on the website.

Tarratine was funded by a Kickstarter campaign, which raised a total of $2,300 to print the first one, almost entirely donated by Bangor-area supporters.

“It’s important for us to have it be accessible and democratic and not have any ads,” Piccininni said. “That said, we’re definitely looking for an endowment, and patrons, and help with getting an office and a designated Tarratine MacBook Pro and all that. We’re planning on applying to be a 501(c)3. But all of that takes time, and money, and help. Lots of help.”

Submissions for issue No. 2 are currently being accepted, with submissions closing on May 1. The theme for the next one is transit — going, coming, modes of transport and anything connected with it.

“We want it to be broadly themed, so it can be interpreted in multiple different ways,” Johnson said. “Tarratine is essentially about creating a conversation, between the people, the land, the world around them. If it succeeds, it’s as a creative voice for the region.”

Issue one of Tarratine will be available at the release party, which will feature music, comedy, lectures and much more, set for 7-9 p.m. tonight, March 19, at Nocturnem Drafthaus in downtown Bangor.

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