Sunday, September 16, 2012

Blog-view: Gary Lawless

Poet Gary Lawless has stepped up to be the second person to contribute to my new feature on this blog--"Blog-view: Blog-sized interviews with writers, artists, and other interesting people." It's an opportunity to show off interesting folks that I know, and is a some-time addition (depending on the reliability of my sources). I'll ask each the same three questions, which they can answer any way they like -- words not required -- or choose to ignore.

Gary, born and bred in Belfast, Maine, owns Gulf of Maine books with his wife Beth Leonard in downtown Brunswick, Maine, one of our state's truly great bookstores ( He's a nationally recognized poet and has published 16 poetry collections, 12 in the U.S. and 4 in Italy including Caribouddhism and Poems for the Wild Earth. His writing deals with issues of environmental and social justice, and listening to the voices of the underprivileged and overlooked.

Gary has traveled throughout the world including to Italy, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Cuba, reading and sharing his poetry and leading workshops. He has also led writing classes for several nontraditional audiences, such as artists with disabilities at Spindleworks in Brunswick, the homeless population at Preble Street in Portland, refugees living in Lewiston and Portland, and war veterans back from Afghanistan and Iraq. To hear him read from his work, check out  and

Gary has chosen to answer this blog-view question: We're interested in knowing what you've read recently, but we'd love to know what you wish you had read at some point, or sometimes pretend you have read.

"This summer I have been reading poetry biographies: Lisa Jarnot's biography of Robert Duncan led me to a new collection of Duncan's interviews called A Poet's Mind (published by Richard Grossinger of North Atlantic Books. Richard taught at USM in the late 60s /early seventies and turned a number of us on to new poets, film makers, ideas by bringing them to Portland, publishing them in his magazine Io, or just by talking about them.)

Then I read Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge, which led to a re-reading of Pound's Pisan Cantos. (Pound as a prisoner in a cage in the post WWII Italian sun rather like Guantanamo) And then I re-read Savage Beauty  the Edna St. Vincent Millay biography, to prepare for a panel in Camden where I spoke about Millay and Ragged Island. (The Saint Kathleen Lignell spent the summer putting on an unending series of wonderful Millay events in Camden celebrating the 100th anniversary of Millay's first public reading of her poems.)
What I wish I had been reading is anything on Maine geology, especially granite. I have been thinking about granite for several years now, after a trip to the quarry in Frankfort (Maine) where my grandfather worked. This summer we have visited more granite at Cobscook Bay, Great Wass Island, and Acadia. I want to learn about granite, about its role in the physical creation of the place where I live, but also its role in connection with humans in the last couple of centuries. (the ice-tattooed granite, granite the migratory species, flow lines in liquid granite, the Irish and Italian workers in Prospect and Frankfort, or Hurricane Island or  Crotch Island or any of a number of Maine Islands). 

This also leads me to a new interest in lichen and moss communities. My friend magician and author David Abram told me that lichen was the spoken language of granite. I am trying to watch, listen and learn."

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