Thompson Free Library shines spotlight on Maine authors

By Kim Brawn, Thompson Free Library

DOVER-FOXCROFT — Characters are central to stories. But so is place. As we stare down a more hopeful March, the Thompson Free Library in Dover-Foxcroft is highlighting writers who have etched a memorable sense of place — including distinctive pockets of Maine — onto their pages.

Friday, March 5 at 3:30 p.m. TFL’s Philosophy Circle continues to examine the intersection of poetry and philosophy, focusing on Langston Hughes, the famed poet, social activist, novelist and playwright. Many believe that Hughes, more than any other black poet or writer, faithfully recorded the nuances of black life and its frustrations, especially in Harlem. His poems, as he put it, are about “the workers, roustabouts, and singers on Lenox Avenue in New York, or Seventh Street in Washington or South State in Chicago — people up today and down tomorrow, working this week and fired the next, beaten and baffled, but determined not to be wholly beaten…” (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/langston-hughes) So many possibilities for a compelling conversation. All are welcome. Prior attendance not required.

TFL’s Reading Group chats about Claire Ackroyd’s book “Murder in the Maple Woods” on Thursday, March 11 at 6 p.m. Claire, an independent organic farm inspector based in Orono, has written a murder mystery involving a boy’s suspicious death, that is set in and around the maple sugar camps in the remote woods that lie along the Canadian border above Jackman. She captures the unique sense of place from her own first-hand experience inspecting those camps.

Jon Knepp, TFL’s director, calls the March discussion “a preamble for our meeting in April, where Claire, along with another Maine author, Laurie Chandler, will join us to talk about Murder in the Maple Woods and Laurie’s book ‘Through Woods and Waters,’ about her solo canoe exploration of the recently-created Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.” For copies of the books, contact TFL.

Monday, March 29 at 6 p.m. TFL will host a virtual author talk with Gregory Brown whose just-released debut novel “The Lowering Days” is winning national acclaim with an emotionally powerful saga, set in 1980s Maine, that explores family love, the power of myths and storytelling, survival and environmental exploitation, and the ties between cultural identity and the land we live on. Kirkus Reviews calls it “a gripping tale. . . in Brown’s hands, the Penobscot region of the 1980s and 90s — with its eccentric cast of Vietnam veterans, hippy fugitives, gruff lobstermen, and Penobscot tribal members — comes wonderfully to life.”

And Greg knows this area well, having grown up in Belfast, along the Penobscot Bay. He refers to his hometown — the whole area — as Penobscot Nation territory. “No matter where your feet take you in this country, you are on indigenous land,” he writes on his website. Sharing the early stages of his creative process, “My work often starts with the interaction of place and people…The clearing nestled in a pine grove where a half-finished and fully forgotten wooden boat sits on stocks and has become a kind of feral jungle gym for kids.”

He told the Bangor Daily News that the book’s backdrop “is a mixture of all the various pockets of the midcoast and along the Penobscot River that I absorbed growing up. . . the fiction that often interests me the most is that kind that lets the mythology and folklore of a place shine out from behind the recognizable, real-life details.” “The Lowering Days’” narrative centers on the conflicts that erupt as a shuttered paper mill on the verge of reopening is set on fire as an act of defiance to prevent further harm to the land. Others see the mill as a working-class lifeline.

Finally, back at the library, our STEAM guide Alicia Millette has added an Arduino Kit to the collection for those who want to learn how to code and build mechanical creations, including robots. Arduino is an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s available for a two-week check out (for those ages 10 and up) or you can use it on a library computer. Alicia has also created new STEAM kits for the kids (including a firefly LED & an origami project). Please share your project photos with us on Facebook!

March may signal spring, but we know Maine is a place that holds many surprises. Thankfully TFL has a deep bench of powerful and evocative reads and stimulating discussions to help us through the mud, potholes, and ever-shifting landscapes.

TFL is open to the public Tuesday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information (including Zoom links to our free virtual public programs), visit our website (https://www.thompson.lib.me.us), Facebook page or contact us at thompsonfreelibrary@gmail.com or 207-564-3350. Find us on Instagram @tf_library.