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Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Loss of Lessing

young Lessing

Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing died today at 94 at her London home. She was not quite like anyone else, in the ways she chose to live her long, fascinating life or the books she wrote. I found my way to her most famous novel, The Golden Notebook, published in 1962, 8 years later when I was 18. It made a big impression on me because it was about a passionate woman taking her writing, her politics and her personal life equally seriously, told with an earthy honesty unusual for that time. My favorite book of hers is called The Summer Before the Dark. This is a powerful story of a conventional woman in that “terrifying stretch between youth and old age” who examines her life and its assumptions and finally comes into her own, though not without a struggle.
Here is a writer who named among her important influences Communism, Sufism, R.D. Laing and Central Africa. She can infuriate and confound readers, but she always makes you think. And her charming book Particularly Cats belongs in the cat lover’s library of favorites, I think.
Lessing and cat

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Honoring the memory of a poetry ambassador

Michael Macklin

M Leavitt photo (2)

MICHAEL MACKLIN AND MICHELE LEAVITT

On the night of Nov. 1 Michele Leavitt of Unity, Maine, winner of the first Michael Macklin Prize poetry contest, read from her book BACK EAST at Longfellow Books in Portland to a big crowd. Dennis Camire of Maine Poetry Central, whose idea it was to honor Michael with this ongoing contest, spoke movingly of how dedicated Michael was to poetry, often at the expense of promoting or publishing his own work. Michael came to poetry later in life and embraced everything about it with passion. He was a natural performer and teacher with a mellifluous voice and great generosity of spirit. I think he would have liked seeing so many of his friends at his favorite bookstore, listening to some of his poems and then Michele’s powerful work. It is a privilege to be involved in this project. That evening left me feeling newly energized about the worth of poetry, and grateful for being part of the rich, diverse Maine poetry community.