BRUNSWICK — It will soon be February, the birth month of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, which means that Brunswick’s annual Longfellow Days celebration is upon us. The month-long series of events from February 2-27 draws inspiration from the poet, closely associated with Brunswick and Bowdoin College, to foster appreciation of our living literary heritage and forge dynamic partnerships among community organizations.
This year’s theme is “Longfellow and Dickens: A Transatlantic Friendship.” A bond was first formed between the two world-renowned, 19th-century authors in 1836, when Longfellow read and admired “The Pickwick Papers.” It was cemented when Dickens first traveled to the United States in 1842. Although an ocean separated the American poet and the British novelist, they corresponded regularly, visited each other’s homes when abroad, championed each other’s work, and facilitated social introductions and publishing connections.
According to the Longfellow Days committee, made up of Elizabeth Marr, Anne V. Marr, Maryli Tiemann, and Amy E. Waterman, “This theme allows us to look closely at this remarkable friendship, the literary influences between the two writers, and their ties of camaraderie and affection. Along with that, the series will explore connections between writers, and between writers and their communities, today.”
Among featured Longfellow Days events will be numerous poetry readings and writer talks, including one with Maine’s Poet Laureate, Wes McNair, on February 2; poetry writing in a local middle school; sharing of poetry by members of the Brunswick community hosted by The Highlands and Thornton Oaks; lectures by two experts on our key subjects, Longfellow-biographer Charles Calhoun and Dickens-specialist Lillian Nayder of Bates College; a tour of the Chamberlain House, where Longfellow once resided; a film screening; and some birthday surprises all over town.
The hub for Longfellow Days is downtown Brunswick, but the series draws participants from several towns in the midcoast region. In addition to sites previously mentioned, the series’ activities will take place at the Bowdoin College chapel, as well as Daggett Lounge and Main Lounge at the College; the Curtis Memorial Library; and the Eveningstar Cinema. Programs are free to the public.
The program schedule for the first two weeks of the series follows:
1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 2; Wes McNair: On Becoming a Poet. Host Leila Percy will chat with Wes McNair about some meaningful friendships and his path to the position of Maine’s Poet Laureate. Refreshments. Daggett Lounge, Thorne Hall, Bowdoin College.
1 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 3; The Coursen Readings, Part One. Featured poets: Gary Lawless, Maryli Tiemann and Ricardo Zarate Jr. Refreshments. Fireplace Room, Curtis Memorial Library.
Noon-3 p.m. on the hour, Saturday, Feb. 9; Chamberlain House Tour. See the rooms where Longfellow lived from 1830-1832 in the house and museum maintained by the Pejepscot Historical Society. It is generally closed all winter. Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum, Maine and Potter Streets.
1 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 10; The Coursen Readings, Part Two. Featured poets: Rob Farnsworth, Judith Robins and Robert Strong. Refreshments. Fireplace Room, Curtis Memorial Library.
4 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 13; The Transatlantic Friendship. Longfellow biographer Charles Calhoun traces the Longfellow-Dickens relationship and discusses letters exchanged by the two literary lions. Main Lounge, Moulton Union, Bowdoin College.
10 a.m., Friday, Feb. 15; Community Readings at The Highlands. This gathering, facilitated by poets Ted and Ruth Bookey, is informal and open to everyone. Please bring a poem to share. Ballroom, Holden Frost House, 24 Elm Street, Topsham.