Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bruce Guernsey: Gracious and Entertaining at Down Home Maine

By Lorrie Hoeh

Bruce Guernsey at Mill Hill Inn
  Entering the charming and comfortable parlor of the Mill Hill Inn is always a pleasure, but with an added fillip of excitement on October 17 at the prospect of WMSC’s first Down Home Maine presentation of the semester. Wednesday night’s guest was poet Bruce Guernsey, who spends part of each year in his home on Paradise Road in Bethel with his wife, Victoria.

After a brief interlude of wine, munchies, and visiting with old and new acquaintances, we were called to order by Saranne Taylor, who introduced Bruce. His first reading from his book, From Rain: Poems, 1970-2010, was “The Apple.” He explained that the visual appearance of poetry differs from that of prose, because in poetry the “lines try to do something different from sentences.” The shape of an apple showed on the page.

Saranne Taylor introducing Bruce Guernsey
We were treated to Bruce’s readings of several of his favorites, including “The Well,” “The Dump Pickers,” “June 21st,” “Transplant,” “Toad,” “The Skull” and others. “The Skull” evokes such vivid mental pictures that it was printed in the Journal of Medicine, from which Bruce received $50! One of his poems, "The Letter X," he worked on for ten years, and it was no surprise that it ended with the letter "X." Copies of From Rain were available for purchase and autographing. We were all most appreciative of Bruce’s gracious and entertaining presentation.

Bruce Guernsey was born in New Hampshire, is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Eastern Illinois University, where he taught for twenty-five years. He has also taught at William and Mary, Johns Hopkins, and Virginia Wesleyan, where he was Poet-in-Residence for four years. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The Atlantic, The American Scholar, and many of the quarterlies. He is a former editor of The Spoon River Poetry Review. Guernsey has received fellowships from the NEA, the MacDowell Colony, and the Illinois Arts Council; moreover, he has been a Fulbright Senior Lecturer in American Poetry in Portugal and Greece and has twice sailed around the world as a faculty member with Semester at Sea.

Harriet Gilpatrick and Mary Haberman

 photos by Lorrie Hoeh

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