Award-winning poet to launch Falmouth 300th series

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FALMOUTH — Presidential inaugural poet and Maine resident Richard Blanco will speak about the importance of place and how it shapes us during an upcoming special event for the town’s 300th anniversary.

Blanco’s presentation, at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 16, will be the first in a series called “Changing Landscapes, Shifting Tides: The Story of Falmouth,” part of the town’s year-long celebration of its tercentennial.

“We are very excited to have Richard Blanco kick off this series. (His) work explores the power of place in our memories and how where we come from shapes our understanding of who we are,” Erin Bishop-Cadigan, Falmouth’s tercentennial coordinator, said. “We believe he is uniquely suited to deepen our sense of connection to our community and inspire us to reflect on this place we call home.”

Blanco’s presentation, which will be held at Falmouth High School, is free and open to the public, but reservations are required and can be made online at the Falmouth300 website:

Bishop-Cadigan said when the Tercentennial Committee’s partnering organizations met over the summer to brainstorm events for the 300th, Eric Topper from Maine Audubon mentioned that Blanco is a “fantastic speaker (and that) his interest in place and community seemed a good fit and a great way to kick off the (storytelling) series.”

She said the program would be about 75 minutes long and would include a talk, reading and book signing. In addition, Falmouth’s new traveling historical exhibit will be on display in the school lobby.

Blanco lives in Bethel and in 2012 was chosen to read an original poem at by President Barack Obama’s second inauguration ceremony.

Since then Blanco has written a memoir, “The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood,” which according to the author’s website is an “exploration of his coming-of-age as the child of Cuban immigrants and his attempts to understand his place in America while grappling with his burgeoning artistic and sexual identities.”

The book received the 2015 Maine Literary Award for Memoir and the 2015 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Memoir. In addition, Blanco has been named a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow and has received honorary doctorates from Macalester College in Minnesota, Colby College in Waterville and the University of Rhode Island.

Bishop-Cadigan said Blanco doesn’t have any particular connection to Falmouth, but that “at the heart of (his) work is (an) examination of the essence of place and belonging, exploring the age-old questions: ‘Where am I from?’ ‘Where do I belong?’ (and) ‘Who am I in this world?'”

She said that while the full details of Blanco’s presentation are still being worked out, “he seemed very open to participating from the beginning.”

“Blanco’s appearance is just one event in a year-long series exploring the interactions between humans and the landscape over Falmouth’s 300-year history,” Bishop-Cadigan said in a press release announcing the event.

“We wanted to broaden the scope of topics beyond traditional history in order to meet all the goals of Falmouth300 and reach a larger audience,” added Jeannie Madden, programming librarian at the Falmouth Memorial Library, who helped plan “The Story of Falmouth” series.

“By looking at our interactions with the geographical landscape over time, our use of natural resources, our place in relation to rivers, ocean and neighboring communities, and our role as stewards of our community, we can explore not only the past, but arrive at a better understanding of why Falmouth is the way it is today and consider what Falmouth will become in the future,” Madden said.

“The Story of Falmouth” series is a collaborative partnership between Falmouth300, the Falmouth Conservation Commission, Falmouth Land Trust, Falmouth Memorial Library, Falmouth Recycling and Energy Advisory Committee, Maine Audubon and The Falmouth Historical Society, Bishop-Cadigan said.

Other events in the series include a screening of the documentary “Community Conservation: Finding the Balance Between Nature and Culture,” which will run continuously throughout the day Jan. 11 at the Episcopal Church of St. Mary’s on Foreside Road.

In addition, at 2 p.m. on Feb. 4, the owners of Hall’s Tavern bed and breakfast on Gray Road will host a tour and talk, entitled “Quakers in Falmouth,” which is being presented in partnership with the Falmouth Historical Society.

During the event innkeeper Donna Little and historic researcher Wayne Cobb will talk about the settlement of Quakers in Falmouth in the 1700s. Refreshments will be provided. This event is also free and open to the public, but again, reservations are required.

And, in late March, Bates College professor Joseph Hall will give a talk, called “Shaping the Maine Landscape: Wabanaki in Casco Bay,” at the Falmouth Memorial Library. He will explore how Wabanki place names, many of which are still in use today, describe relationships to the land.

Additional events will cover topics such as Falmouth’s role as a vacation destination, Falmouth’s native plants and ecology, Presumpscot River history, harvesting Falmouth’s forests, the ocean’s influence on Falmouth, community stewardship and landscape in art and culture, Bishop-Cadigan said.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Poet Richard Blanco will be the first speaker in a series called “Changing Landscapes, Shifting Tides: The Story of Falmouth Event Series,” part of the town’s year-long celebration of its 300th anniversary.