BRUNSWICK– Thirteen special arts events inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow will take place in Brunswick during February, the month of the poet’s birth 211 years ago. This year we explore the phenomenon of nostalgia, of looking back, through the lens of the poet. Longfellow was fascinated with heroic figures of antiquity, and he wrote sensitively about his own life experiences and the aging process. There will also be opportunities to look back at Longfellow’s reputation: how critics have received his work in different eras.
Our theme, “The heart hath its own memory” is a phrase from Longfellow’s 1880 poem “From My Arm-Chair.”
Longfellow Days was established as an annual series as a way to unify the community and to lift people’s spirits during the cold winter month. The annual literary festival, co-chaired by Maryli Tiemann and Amy E. Waterman, features a variety of formats intended to appeal to a broad spectrum of Brunswick-area residents. It includes lectures, film screenings, poetry workshops and open mics, and four readings by twelve Maine poets – the last taking place each Sunday afternoon in Curtis Memorial Library’s cozy fireplace room. All events are free and open to the public.
Among the highlights: On Wednesday, Feb. 14, there will be a talk on reading and rereading childhood favorites by Tricia Welsch, Professor of Film Studies at Bowdoin College, as part of the Midcoast Senior College’s Winter Wisdom program (12:15 p.m., Morrell Room, Curtis Memorial Library, 23 Pleasant St.). Welsch will also host a Saturday, Feb. 17 screening of Gillian Armstrong’s 1993 version of “Little Women”, staring Christian Bale, Claires Danes and Winona Ryder (11 a.m., Smith Auditorium, Sills Hall, Bowdoin College).
On the afternoon of Feb. 17 between 1 and 3 p.m. there will be tours of the Longfellow Rooms at the Pejepscot Historical Society’s Chamberlain Museum, 226 Main St. On Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m., Gary Lawless will emcee a lively, participatory public read-in, helping to parse the quintessential “looking back” poem, “Moritori Salutamos”, which Longfellow wrote for the fiftieth reunion of his Bowdoin College graduating class. This will take place at The Brunswick Inn on Park Row, where a signature cocktail will be created for the event.
Threading throughout the month will be poetry-sharing workshops at Thornton Oaks and The Highlands and Thornton Oaks. (10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 8 and Monday, Feb. 19.), and the four-part Sunday Coursen Readings at Curtis Memorial Library (1 p.m. Feb. 4, 11, 18, and 25 in the library’s Fireplace Room). The twelve featured poets are Sarah Anderson, Kristen Case, Derek Meader, Dave Morrison, Jefferson Navicky, Mihku Paul, Ellen Taylor, Jim Glenn Thatcher, Maureen Thorson, Sheila Wellehan, Beau Williams and Shana Youngdahl.
Three events will take place at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 1 Middle St., in Brunswick: An Longfellow birthday celebration (a few days early) is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m., with Gary Lawless as a featured poet. Includes an open mic, surprises and birthday cake.
On Sunday, Feb. 25 at 10 a.m., Rev. Sylvia Stocker will present a service revolving around “Poetry Through the Lifespan.”
Bringing the series to a close, on Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 4 p.m., John Cross, Secretary of Development and College Relations at Bowdoin, and an unofficial historian of the College, will speak about the History of Henry in Brunswick during the 1820s and 30s when he was a Bowdoin student and later an influential faculty member. Note: This date is his actual birthday, so attendees should bring a kazoo or confetti to celebrate. The event will be at the Unitarian Universalist Church.
Longfellow Days is a program of the Brunswick Downtown Association, with support from Bowdoin College, The Brunswick Inn, Hannaford and the Nathaniel Davis Fund. If you’ve never been to a Longfellow Days event, this might be a good time to choose one or more and experience the beauty of shared live poetry, film, conversations about words and some sweet refreshments.