Franklin Countys First News

Evening of Poetry to feature Maine Poet Laureate Wesley McNair on Aug. 3

Hugh Ogden at his camp on The Island in Rangeley Lake. (Photo by Peggy Yocom)

Hugh Ogden at his camp on The Island in Rangeley Lake. (Photo by Peggy Yocom)

RANGELEY - On Sunday, Aug. 3, lovers of poetry will gather at 6 p.m. on the lawn of the Ecopelagicon nature store, 7 Pond Street, Rangeley, to honor poet Hugh Ogden (1937-2006). Maine Poet Laureate Wesley McNair will read from his work. Sponsored by Ecopelagicon, the event is free to all. Light refreshments will be served.

Members of the Ogden family will begin the evening by reading poems written by their father. Community members are invited to read a poem of Ogden’s or one of their own that attends to what meant so much to Ogden: the beauty and mystery of the world, especially Rangeley, and peace among all living things. A sign-up sheet will be available at the start of the evening, since time will be limited.

During the second part of the evening, Wesley McNair will read. McNair is the author or editor of 19 books of poetry and essays. He is the recipient of many honors, including fellowships from the Rockefeller, Fulbright, and Guggenheim Foundations, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. Other awards include the Robert Frost Prize, the Jane Kenyon Award for Outstanding Book of Poetry, the Theodore Roethke prize from Poetry Northwest, and the Pushcart Prize. He has been invited to read his poetry at the Library of Congress as well as countless colleges and universities. His work has been featured on National Public Radio, Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac, in The Best American Poetry, and in more than 60 anthologies and textbooks. Currently, McNair is Professor Emeritus and Writer in Residence at the University of Maine at Farmington, where he directed the creative writing program and received the Distinguished Faculty Award and the Libra Professorship.

Wesley McNair

Wesley McNair

As a teacher and Poet Laureate, McNair encourages people to experience the joy and magic of poetry. His newspaper column “Take Heart” prints a poem every week, and in his most recent book, The Words I Chose: A Memoir of Family and Poetry, he shares his own story, beginning with the poverty of his early years and continuing with his struggles to grow into a respected poet, husband, and father.

McNair’s love for Maine—its people, its stories, and its ways of life—shines in the titles of his poems: “Seeing Mercer, Maine,” “The Last Time Shorty Towers Fetched the Cows,” “The First Snowfall.” Of his art, McNair writes: “I share the best / thing I can make - this stitching / together of memory / and heart-scrap” (from “Reading Poems at the Grange Meeting in What Must Be Heaven” in Lovers of the Lost: New & Selected Poems).

Many poets praise his work: Maxine Kumin calls him a “master craftsman”; for Philip Levine, Mr. McNair is “one of the great storytellers of contemporary poetry.”

The Ecopelagicon will provide information about  McNair’s newest book, The Lost Child: Ozark Poems, and will have many of his books on sale, including several hard-to-find titles.

The solace of place links the work of Wesley McNair and Hugh Ogden. Rangeley, its natural beauty and its people, fill Hugh Ogden’s seven books of poetry, especially Two Roads and this Spring and Bringing a Fir Straight Down. Ogden first came to Rangeley in 1975, and he built a camp on what his children now call “Poet’s Island” in Rangeley Lake. In his last book, Turtle Island Tree Psalms, the speakers of the poems are particular Rangeley trees, either rooted by the side of Route 17, in local cemeteries, or on Poet’s Island. Ogden also wrote poems for local causes, such as the Rangeley Lake Heritage Trust’s stewardship of South Bog. In Rangeley, Ogden told friends, he “could hear the voices that call [him] to poems.”

Ogden taught poetry at Trinity College from 1967 until his death. He also inspired budding poets in nursing homes, prisons, and shelters. “He did this because he believed poetry could save lives,” Pamela Nomura, coordinator for the Poetry Center at Trinity College, explained. “He believed everyone’s voice was important [and that] poetry belonged to everyone.”

“Year after year I reach straight/ up, my trunk and voice grounded/ in incremental rhythms evergreen,” Hugh wrote in “Fir on the Oquossoc Shore, Singing.” In this spirit, friends of poetry, Hugh Odgen, and Wesley McNair will gather on Aug. 3. Please come. For more information, to join our e-mail list, or to contribute to the fund set up for this event by the Ogden family, contact Peggy Yocom at 864-3421 ( or Linda Dexter at the Ecopelagicon 864-2771.

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