Art joins poetry at center of Brunswick’s annual Longfellow Days

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BRUNSWICK — Longfellow Days, an annual series of events surrounding the famous poet with ties to Brunswick, will take place Feb. 6-23.

Every year, the series highlights a different facet of the poet’s career; this year it will showcase visual interpretations of his life and work.

“We’re looking at the art that has accompanied or responded to Longfellow,” event co-organizer Amy Waterman said last week.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lived from 1807-1882. For a while, “he was the most famous man in America, apart from the president,” Waterman said, making reference to the narrative and epic poems that carried Longfellow to fame and secured his place in the literary canon.

Given his fame, Waterman said it was no challenge to find examples of art inspired by the poet. Victorian illustrations, sheet music covers, souvenir items and the poet’s own sketches will be on display at Curtis Memorial Library throughout the month.

On Saturday, Feb. 11, at 11 a.m., Bowdoin College film professor Tricia Welsch will introduce a screening of Maine-native John Ford’s biopic “Young Mr. Lincoln” in Smith Auditorium at Sills Hall.

Welsch will discuss the film, which Waterman said has a tangential relationship to Longfellow, but captures the time in which he lived.

“We thought that the time period was apt, since we’re looking at Longfellow’s world, what he was looking at, (and) thinking about,” she said in an email.

On Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 12:15 p.m. in Curtis Memorial Library, Maine State Museum Director Bernard Fishman will showcase a program of 19th-century stereo views to illustrate Longfellow’s world.

Poetry, of course, is on the menu, too.

Maine’s poet laureate, Stuart Kestenbaum, will read poems at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Friday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. Kestenbaum was named poet laureate last May, and directed the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle for 27 years.

Per tradition, the Pejebscot Historical Society will offer tours from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, of the building at the corner of Potter and Maine streets where Longfellow once resided. It is now the Joshua Chamberlain Museum.

Other traditions will also persist, including Waterman’s favorite event.

“The loveliest part of the whole (series),” she said, is the poetry readings that take place at Curtis Memorial Library every Sunday at 1 p.m. for four weeks. Three local poets will read poems each week, including Julia Bouwsma, Dennis Camier, Valerie Egar, Sonja Johanson, Suzanne Langlois, Jim McKenna, Mohamed Omar, Daniel Duff Plunkett, Suzanne Simmons, Kathleen Sullivan, Zosia Szatkowski and Doug Woodsum.

“(Poetry) is a really unifying, uplifting form,” Waterman said, noting the event is warming for “diehard” poetry fans and lay listeners alike during the cold, short days of winter.

“Poetry is inspiring,” she said, “(and) winter’s a tough time of year.”

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 100, or Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807-1882, attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, where he also taught romance languages. The town will celebrate his legacy throughout the month of February.

Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or