Some new entries on Maine’s literary scene

Posted June 17, 2012, at 8:28 p.m.

The New Guard Literary Review, Vol. 2; Shanna McNair, editor and publisher; Portland, Maine, 2011; 336 pages, trade paperback, $22.

It never ceases to amaze me how many writers there are, in contrast to how badly book sales are said to be doing nowadays. The second volume of the New Guard Literary Review out of Portland, a fine-typography publication on high-quality paper with flapped covers, features a healthy sampling of old guard names along with a wide array of lower-profile, presumably younger writers.

This is an energetic and expensive undertaking, as literary journals go. The editors offer two $1,000 prizes, the Knightville Poetry Contest and the Machigonne Fiction Contest, won in 2011 by Kathleen Spivack for “The Great Railroad Train of Art” and Dan Marmor for “Recipes for Disaster.”

Among the high-profile old guard names recognizable in our area are contest judge Charles Simic and fiction writer and essayist Bill Roorbach, and responding to a set of creative-writing-class-type questions on their occupation are Baron Wormser, Tess Gerritsen and Elizabeth Hand. There is also a short story by Ralph Ellison, “A Storm of Blizzard Proportion,” including images of the original typescript, which we learn has never before been published.

Among the many poems and stories by less readily recognized writers, a series of open letters to comic book heroes opens the selection and may appeal to newer-guard readers. Later on, worth attention is “Resurgam: Portland, Maine” by Melissa Roberts-Fishman, an energetic, evocative, William Carlos Williams-like open-form rehearsal of the city’s recurrent history of burning down and rebuilding.

This book is probably a good indication of what’s currently happening on the American MFA circuit, including writers based in southern Maine, and another clue to the enormous number of people who are working away at their keyboards but somehow not buying a whole lot of books. Though pricey as literary magazines go, this one is well-edited, well-presented and worth picking up. This book has some of the contemporary work that goes on despite the academic thinking that somehow turned Snooki into an inspirational speaker for university commencement.

The New Guard Literary Review’s first volume appeared in 2010.

Purchasing, contest and other information is available at newguardreview.com.

“Breakwater” by Kevin C. Mills, Maine Authors Publishing, Rockland, Maine, 2011; 254 pages, trade paperback, $18.95.

“Breakwater” is Kevin Mills’ sequel to his novel “Sons and Daughters of the Ocean” (2010), which told the stories of the seagoing residents of Brooks Harbor, Maine, in the 19th century and drew its material from the lives of Mills’ ancestors.

Peppered with pop and other religious quotations, “Breakwater” involves a love story told alternately by Hal Miller and Clark Miller, descendants of characters in “Sons and Daughters of the Ocean.”

Kevin Mills is an award-winning sportswriter with the Sun Journal of Lewiston.

More information is available on his website, kevinmills.com.

“It’s Maine-ly All About Us: A Book of Maine Poetry and Song” by Jennie Rideout, Atkinson, Maine, 2010; 82 pages, hardcover, no price given.

Jennie Rideout’s poems recount, in good-natured makeshift balladic and lyric forms reminiscent of the rollicking verses of Holman Day, the history and domestic adventures of the Rideout family based mainly in Piscataquis, Penobscot and Aroostook counties.

Originally written to serve as family records, these poems’ depiction of rural Maine life from the mid-20th century seemed to relatives and friends to be of wider interest, and so the family set about to get the poems into general circulation in this small hardcover book.

In addition to the poems, the book includes many revealing old snapshot photos and a foreword and an afterword by appreciative family members.

Copies are available by writing to Jennie Rideout, 178 Maple Road, Atkinson 04426.

“Dancing Bear and Other New Poems” by Diane H. Schetky, Xlibris Corp., 2012; 72 pages, trade paperback, $15.99; Kindle, $3.99.

Diane Schetky of Rockport is a retired forensic psychiatrist and a hospice volunteer and works in various capacities with prison inmates. The poems in her second collection, “Dancing Bear,” cover experiences from some of this personal and professional territory and also make prosaic observations on the state of the environment, the lessons we have to learn from nature, and trips to distant lands.

These poems’ plain-spoken language will appeal to readers whose taste runs particularly to messages of social conscience and straight-line expressions of personal feelings. The opening of “Bumper stickers of the soul”:

is how I referred to the tattoos

on the criminal defendants I examined.

You could get a pretty good history

by asking them where, when and why.

Schetky’s first collection is “Poems on Loss, Hope and Healing” (2009).

“Dancing Bear” is available from online booksellers.

Dana Wilde’s collection of essays, “The Other End of the Driveway,” is available in paperback and electronically from Booklocker.com.

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