RANGELEY – On Sunday, Aug. 8, lovers of poetry will gather at 6:00 pm on the lawn of the Ecopelagicon nature store, 7 Pond Street, Rangeley, to honor poet Hugh Ogden (1937-2006). Poets Lee Sharkey of Farmington and Henry Braun of Weld will read from their work. Sponsored by Ecopelagicon and the Rangeley Lakes Region Logging Museum, 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 Hugh’s or one of their own that attends to what meant so much to Hugh: 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, poets Lee Sharkey and Henry Braun will read. Lee Sharkey is the author of six chapbooks and three full-length poetry volumes, most recently A Darker, Sweeter String, of which Maine Poet Laureate Betsy Scholl has said, “If our dreams could edit the news (and sometimes our nightmares) these poems are how they’d wake us up to the urgency of our times.”
The Maine Arts Commission’s 2010 Individual Artist Fellow in Literary Arts and former professor at the University of Maine, Farmington, Lee teaches a writing workshop for adults with mental illness and co-edits the Beloit Poetry Journal, now in its 60th year of continuous publication.
Henry Braun’s first book of poems, The Vergil Woods, was published in 1968. Since then, his work has appeared in several anthologies and many magazines, including Poetry, The Nation, The Massachusetts Review, American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, and The Colorado Review. After two years in the English Department of the University of Maine, Orono, most of his career as a teacher of literature and creative writing was at Temple University in Philadelphia. His most recent book, Loyalty, New and Selected Poems, was chosen as the Maine poetry book of the year in 2006. With his wife Joan, the artist who created the cover of Loyalty, he lives in the woods under Mt. Blue in Weld.
Organizers of the event plan to continue these August evenings of poetry, and the Ogden family has established a fund for this purpose, to which all are invited to contribute. Next year, poet Sidney Wade of Rangeley will read.
Rangeley, its natural beauty and its people, fill Hugh’s seven books of poetry, especially Two Roads and this Spring, Bringing a Fir Straight Down, and his latest: Turtle Island Tree Psalms. Hugh Ogden first came to Rangeley in 1975, and he built a camp on what his children now call “Poet’s Island” on Rangeley Lake. In his book Turtle Island, the speakers of most of the poems are particular Rangeley trees, either rooted by the side of Route 17, in local cemeteries, or on Poet’s Island. He also wrote poems for local causes, such as the Rangeley Lake Heritage Trust’s stewardship of South Bog. In Rangeley, Hugh told friends, he “could hear the voices that call [him] to poems.”
Hugh 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 Ogden wrote in “Fir on the Oquossoc Shore, Singing.”
In this spirit, friends of poetry and storytelling, of Hugh, and of Lee and Henry will gather on August 8th.