He was a lyricist who etched his rhymes into the hearts of generations of fans. A visionary who toured the world, sampling classic works from different cultures and remixing them into new ideas. An artist whose influence continues to reverberate through his field.

The description may sound more befitting of a hip-hop star than a poet, acknowledged Gulf of Maine Books owner Gary Lawless. But Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was no ordinary poet.

Thursday will mark the start of the 19th annual Longfellow Days in Brunswick, a monthlong series of free talks, poetry readings and other events dedicated to celebrating one of Maine’s most influential historical figures along with the art he practiced.

“During his lifetime, he was America’s most famous poet, in part because his poetry is so open, so available to people,” Lawless said. “The tradition continues, and it’s important to celebrate that.”

Returning after the pandemic shuttered the series in 2021 and 2022, this year’s edition of Longfellow Days will use the adventures of the former Bowdoin College student and faculty member as a launching pad for lessons on history, linguistics and art. Several events will focus on Longfellow’s travels across Europe and how they shaped his work as a poet, translator and professor of languages at Bowdoin and Harvard.

Visitors to Bowdoin’s Museum of Art at 2 p.m. on Thursday will examine some of the Mediterranean artwork and photography Longfellow would have seen during his travels in the first half of the 19th century. On Feb. 7 at OneSixtyFive, the Inn on Park Row, Lawless will host a discussion on Longfellow’s translation of Dante’s “Inferno,” a work that helped change American opinions about the Italian language.


“They thought (Italian) was a low language,” Lawless said. “Then he translated Dante, and all of a sudden Italian was an interesting language, and maybe we should know about it.”

A Feb. 11 film screening of “I Heard the Bells” at Eveningstar Cinema, a Feb. 17 trivia session at the Unitarian Universalist Church and Feb. 18 tours of Longfellow’s former Brunswick home, now the Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain Museum, will offer visitors more ways to engage with the “The Song of Hiawatha” poet before the series concludes with a celebration of his 216th birthday on Feb. 27.

Meanwhile, weekly readings from more than a dozen contemporary poets will remind Curtis Memorial Library patrons that Maine artists today are continuing to follow in Longfellow’s footsteps some 200 years after he arrived in Brunswick. The Coursen Readings will take place at 1 p.m. each Sunday in February in the library’s Fireplace Room.

“Curtis Memorial Library is very happy to be hosting Longfellow Days,” said librarian Pamela Bobker. “Poetry can be intimidating for people, and this series of events may be a way for people to experience poetry in a warm, comfortable environment. It’s just a great event.”

For more information on Longfellow Days, visit the event’s Facebook page or the Brunswick Downtown Association’s website at brunswickdowntown.org.

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