By Dagney C. Ernest
ROCKLAND — The Millay Arts & Poetry Festival made a splashy debut last year as a multiple-day, celebrity-studded event that included the U.S. poet laureate and a world premiere drama with music. This year, the fest — produced by the nonprofit Millay House Rockland — is more low-key, but still offers an abundance of poetry riches.
The 2018 Millay Arts & Poetry Festival takes place Saturday, Sept. 8. Maine poets, including current and past Maine, Belfast and Rockland poets laureate, will read from their work and other's from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the downtown Farnsworth Art Museum’s library. A poets’ reception will follow at Harbor Square Gallery, adjacent to the museum at 374 Main St. Admission to both is open to all and free, with donations welcomed.
The festival’s name reflects the multi-genre artistry of its namesake, who was born in Rockland, grew up in Camden and ended up a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry will make an appearance, as will music (she wrote and performed songs, as well as an opera libretto). Bay Chamber Music School faculty member Malcolm Brooks of Rockport will provide a musical prelude and interlude. And for drama — Millay wrote, directed and performed in plays — there will be the Maine Poetry Out Loud-winning recitations of Deering High School’s Allan Monga. The Zambia-born student came to national attention last year, when he was barred from the national final because of his immigration status; his lawsuit against the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation led to a judge’s ruling that he could represent Maine at the POL final.
Saturday’s readings will open with the winners of the annual Rockland Library Poetry Contest: Charles Brown of Rockland (First Place Adult); Denise DeVaney of Warren (Second Place Adult); and Isabella Kocak of Hope (Featured Youth Honorable Mention). The contest was sponsored by VillageSoup/The Courier Gazette; Courier Publications’ Camden Herald was one of the first places Millay’s poetry saw publication.
Poets to follow include Maine Poet Laureate Stuart Kestenbaum, former Maine Poet Laureate Betsy Sholl, Interim Rockland Poet Laureate Mary Jane Martin and Belfast Poet Laureate Tom Moore. Also reading will be former Belfast Poets Laureate Karin Spitfire and Elizabeth Garber; former Rockland Poet Laureate Joanna Hynd, Kristen Lindquist, Julia Bouwsma, David Morrison, David Paffhausen, Mikhu Paul, Carol Dana, Steve Luttrell and Allan Monga.
Millay has inspired a couple of artworks seen/to be seen in the city of her birth. During the summer, a foiled glass portrait of Millay was on display in the window of Rockland’s new Spencer & Stanhope on Main Street; now, it is part of an exhibition at the University of Maine at Augusta’s Danforth Gallery.
Most of the historical images of the Jazz Age poet are monochrome, but her famously red hair gets its full due in Roger Richmond’s portrait. Richmond has won national design competitions in foiled glass art, in addition to a recently concluded career in architecture. The national competition design winner of the Maine Vietnam Veterans' Memorial, Richmond was commissioned by NASA to conceive and design humanistic zero- and “artificial” gravity living environments on space stations and planetary fly-by missions. The “Four Faculty” show runs through Sept. 27, showcasing works by four longtime UMA instructors who have recently retired; Richmond founded the school’s Bachelor of Architecture program.
Another portrait of Millay will take up residence in the poet’s Rockland birthplace.Artist Jenny Perry spent some 60 hours creating the donated mosaic of “Vincent,” of whom she has been a fan since high school.
That birthplace — the under-restoration “double-house” at 198-200 Broadway — will have an open house Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A lot has been done to bring the 1891 building from tear-down-eligible to a 21st-century literary center. Millay House Rockland plans partnerships with cultural organizations and universities to offer educational opportunities, writer-in-residence programs and outreach activities.