Category Archives: August 2

Celebrating the power of poetry

Jean Diemert and David Riley

Thursday, August 16 will mark the 22nd year that a group of poets have offered a public reading of their work to the St. George community. At first a modest event involving three summertime poetry-writing friends from Hart’s Neck and an audience of 25 packed into the old Jackson Memorial Library on Main Street in Tenants Harbor (the building that now houses Stonefish), the annual event now involves a loose-knit and changing cast of six readers, in some years augmented by extra “guests,” and an audience of more than a hundred that fills the Odd Fellows Hall on Watts Avenue in Tenants Harbor. This year’s readers at what is called the Tenants Harbor Poetry Reading will be Nan Carey, Steve Cartwright, Jean Diemert, Elizabeth McKim, David Paffhausen and Tony Speranza.

David Riley and Jean Diemert, two of the organizers of this year’s event, recently took some time to reflect on the power of a public poetry reading—for both the readers and the audience. Riley was one of the original “Tenants Harbor Poets” who read at the old library back in 1997, and Diemert, a lifelong writer of verse, grew up spending summers in Tenants Harbor and has been a supporter of the annual readings from the beginning.

“I started writing poetry about 25 years ago,” Riley notes. “I kind of thought I wanted to, but didn’t really dare. But my wife Mimo encouraged me, so I took some workshops. Reading my poems at the old library was not too intimidating and I found it helpful to me in developing my voice. I learn when I read that I want to make changes.” Riley’s experience highlights the significant impact “performance” reading can have on a poet. As Diemert points out, “When you read, your poem is out there. People often take what you’ve written in a different way than you intended. People come up to me and say they see things I didn’t see.”

That poetry is an ancient form of expression and communication that was spoken before it was written underscores its fundamentally oral nature, Riley believes. “In ancient times the rhyming was a device for remembering the stories being told.” Speaking a poem out loud, he notes, brings the solitary process of writing into the realm of community, which is where the audience comes in at a public reading. “The audience at the Odd Fellows Hall each year is so appreciative, so very attentive,” Riley says. “You can hear a pin drop. And a couple of years ago we began starting the evening with a period of silence, which we think adds to the atmosphere and helps people be more present. It’s a way of creating a space that is set apart.”

Riley believes that part of the reason people attending the annual reading are so attentive is that “people find something in poetry that helps them and leads them to be in the moment.” For many, the impact is life-giving at a very personal level. Diemert , for example, says she turned to poetry more intensely after her husband died 14 years ago. “For the first two years I wrote a lot of poems. It helped me get back into the world even though I was still working. Writing every night brought me back so I could do my work better and so I could share in life better.”

The search for meaning can also be a response to societal factors, Riley says, noting that the 2017 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) showed that the number of poetry readers in the U.S. has nearly doubled in the past five years. There is speculation that social media has played a role in garnering poetry this increased public interest, often in response to the social/political climate of recent years.

In addition to the witness of the strong attendance at the August Tenants Harbor Poetry Reading event, a new group called “Encouraging Poetry” that has been meeting monthly at the Jackson Memorial Library (JML) also seems to be in line with the trend the NEA survey has identified. The group, which has been meeting since March 2017, is the brainchild of Susan Bates.

“I put out the invitation to do this as a way to come together with people that was not about politics,” Bates says, “not that discussing politics would necessarily be divisive. I just wanted to encourage people to read, to write, to lift spirits. It’s been fantastic.”

Bates notes that she herself began writing poetry after a career as an engineer. “It just appealed to me to do it because I hadn’t paid much attention to that part of myself.”

The Encouraging Poetry group now routinely has at least six participants and sometimes up to 12. “You’re invited to bring something you’ve written or something to share or to just sit and enjoy it,” Bates explains. “It’s really just reading—we just read, read, read. Some people will reflect on a line that is particularly moving, or share what they found meaningful. But we are not analyzing or doing critiques. What I appreciate about the people who come together is that they make themselves vulnerable, and that they are so affirming and supportive of one another. People are sharing what matters to them. If anyone is curious, they should please come and just try it, because it is one of those experiences that’s hard to pin down and explain.”

Several of the readers at this year’s very public Tenants Harbor Poetry Reading have been attending the more informal and intimate Encouraging Poetry group’s meetings. In both settings meaningful verse abounds—and, most agree, St. George is thereby enriched. —JW

(For more information on the annual Tenants Harbor Poetry Reading event on August 16 at 5:30pm at the Odd Fellows Hall email Contact the Jackson Memorial Library for more information on its “Encouraging Poetry” group. And follow this link for the NEA study mentioned in this story:

David Riley reads in a prior year

PHOTO Top: Julie Wortman

A history of Port Clyde businesses

With this article you will see the business directories for Port Clyde from 1892 and 1932. As was the case in those days, small villages were self-sufficient and provided a lot of the services and products that nowadays we only find when we go to “town.” Port Clyde General Store has a rich history going back to the Trussell family. There were some other general stores in Port Clyde—George Brown’s, Wilson’s and Marshall’s. There was a factory on Cold Storage Road and one on Factory Road where workers packed sardines, lobsters and clams. There have been several shipbuilding businesses in Port Clyde, too.

There were also businesses that catered to visitors: restaurants, take-outs and cafes, PLUS accommodations such as the Ocean House, the Wawenock, and the Drift Inn. And that leads to the long standing debate about the boundaries of the villages. If you notice in the 1932 list of businesses, it mentions the Drift Inn. I was always told that Drift Inn was in Martinsville! Did you know that Drift Inn beach got its name from this business?

The Historical Society’s website has hundreds of pictures of the area. You can find them at—John Falla

A quick paddle

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Pink Fragrant Water Lily

A was a simple plan—“a quick paddle to take some dragonfly photos.” Of course, I’d also “brake for damselflies” as they say, but the focus was purported to be on the other Odonata–the dragons. They were the goal, and that’s what got me on the water that afternoon.

A broad-winged hawk escorted me (not so happily, if I may add) part way down the trail as I dragged my blue kayak behind me. When I launched my kayak in the Tenants Harbor marsh an adult bald eagle took to the air and took off! I then reflected on the dozens of things I’d probably startled or scared as I pulled the kayak on the walk in.

It didn’t take long to understand that taking photos of dragons was not in my immediate future. Odonata activity levels were high, for sure, but the breeze was just strong enough to keep reeds, grasses, and lily pads moving. Moving perches make dragonfly photographing tricky, or at least too much of a chore for this guy. And that goes for the damsels too! I’d have to “just” watch them. I can do that.

Even with ospreys circling and screeching above and Eastern Kingbirds somehow snatching dragonflies from the winds, it was flowers (of all things) that demanded my attention. Both flavors of Fragrant Water Lilies (Nymphaea odorata)­—white and pink – were in huge numbers—polka dotting the water surface with a colorful alternative to the classic greens and blues of nature. Yellow Pond Lilies (Nuphar variegatum) were scattered throughout, giving the lily scene a yellow undertone. Scan in any direction and hundreds of lilies were there to inspire smiles.

The flower that hijacked my afternoon, however, was neither white nor pink and not a lily at all! In between the lily patches and alongside the beaver lodges were five-to-seven-inch “stalks” poking out of the water. Groups of tiny, yellow flowers clustered on the top and along the sides of these “erect racemes” (sounds racier than it really is). These are the flowers of the Common Bladderwort (Ultricularia macrorhiza—or vulgaris, depending where you look) and with a “lower-lip” petal feature they are rather striking when you take a closer look. The aesthetics of the yellow flowers was all fine and good, but for me the magic of bladderworts is what is going on below the water’s surface.

A Common Bladderwort in the hand

Let’s begin with some bladderwort basics—Lentibluriaceae is the catchy name for what’s referred to as the “bladderwort family.” Ultricularia (bladderworts) is one of three genus/genii in the family, with the two other being Genlisea (cork screw plants) and Pinguicula (butterworts). All the Ulticularia are carnivorous and they catch prey through the use of bladder-like traps. Underneath the Common Bladderwort flowers, for example, are long branching stems called stolons which are covered with up to 600 of these bladder traps. When set, the bladder trap is deflated and a sugary secretion is released around the trap’s opening to attract prey. When a tiny copepod, amphipod, or paramecium makes contact with one of several bristle-like trigger hairs a vacuum is formed as water and critter(s) are sucked into the sac until it is fully inflated. The trapping process takes less than a hundredth of a second, and once trapped the prey are dissolved in a bath of digestive juices and absorbed into the plant. All the while, water is being pumped out of the trap, and once empty of water–takes about 15 minutes—the trap resets and is ready for the next meal. The traps continue to capture prey as the bladders fill with the remains of their victims. This plant’s a killer, don’t let the innocent flowers fool you—it’s pretty gruesome down there!

Bladderwort in the water

The presence of bladderwort in a pond environment indicates a rich abundance of life. It is estimated that a single bladderwort plant can have around 150,000 organisms in its bladders and while I didn’t count carcasses, the stolons I checked out from the kayak that day were lined with traps that were dark and full. To be honest, I can’t ever remember seeing a bladderwort stolon who’s traps weren’t full, which makes me not want to drink the water that much more! There’s a ton of critters in there!

When the Kingbirds (Tyrannus tyrannus!) angrily escorted a Cooper’s Hawk across the marsh (making it an elusive four-raptor paddle for me) and the eagle returned, I knew it was time to paddle on and paddle back. The bladderworts were neither as large or as numerous as the water lilies around me, but once you got looking you couldn’t help but notice there were a lot of them. Man there is a lot going on out there!

And that’s where we’ll see you—out there!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

‘He wouldn’t be himself if he didn’t have art’

It’s not unusual for an artist to be inspired by his surroundings, but how he interprets them is what makes his work unique and special. St. George artist Gary Akers paints what he sees and paints how he sees it. Inspired by two environments, his summer home in our Maine community and his winter home where he grew up in Kentucky, Akers’ well-designed paintings reflect his intimate long-term relationship with both places. The artist has a wide national presence and is well-known. He has exhibited in the Speed Art Museum, the Frye Museum of Art, the Ogonquit Art Museum, the Asheville Art Museum, the National Academy of Design and many other notable venues.

Akers’ fascination with his surroundings began in his early youth when he constantly sketched and painted landscapes, objects, animals and anything that sparked his interest. His “Granny” once remarked of the young boy that “he wouldn’t be himself if he didn’t have art.” Additional family support came from his mother, a teacher in a two-room schoolhouse in Floyd County, Kentucky, who always encouraged the boy to draw and paint. Her talent in drawing fascinated Akers, and when he was 10 years old, she bought him a set of watercolors which set him on the path as a watercolorist for life.

Other family members also influenced the young Akers. His grandfather, a custom carpenter working out of his own shop, created an early desire in the aspiring artist to have his own private studio space one day. This single-minded goal to create art in his own space, eventually became a reality through strong will and hard work.

Although Akers took art classes in high school, they didn’t inform him. Undeterred from pursuing his goal, however, he sought further academic training after graduation in the early 1970s by enrolling in Morehead State College, Kentucky. Bucking the trend of that era toward abstract expressionism, Akers continued to create representational art. He took two years of drawing courses, which he loved and worked hard to master, and also studied watercolor painting. Continuing at Morehead into the graduate program, Akers found in the college library a book of Andrew Wyeth paintings in egg tempera. Although he had never used or seen the medium before, the graduate student was hooked and wanted to learn. Egg tempera paint is made by combining dried ground pigments with egg yolk and water, which becomes very durable after it cures for six months. It’s a difficult medium to use because it must be applied with small brushes in a layering process. Akers often applies as many as 40 layers to achieve remarkable effects in his paintings. Because his graduate work was an independent study, Akers had to learn about egg tempera on his own, so he tirelessly experimented to gain mastery.

Upon the completion of his Master’s degree in 1974, Akers was awarded the prestigious Greenshields Foundation Grant which supported a year of further work in egg tempera. That year was pivotal in helping the young man transition into a full-time career artist. Inducted into the group of 12 Kentucky Heritage Artists in 1976, Akers was selected to represent the state at numerous state parks to demonstrate his painting to the general public. This opportunity resulted in thousands of sales of limited-edition prints of his paintings and lots of publicity. At one time, over a hundred dealerships sold his prints. This established Akers as a full-time professional artist and set him up for a future in the arts.

Akers first came to Maine in 1976 under the Greenshields Foundation Grant, and found the St. George community through his friend Ann Wyeth McCoy. He was struck by the beauty of the peninsula and returned in the late 1980s to teach painting for the late Merle Donovan’s art workshops in Port Clyde. By 1987 he was exhibiting his paintings at the Ocean View Grange in Martinsville, where large crowds attended and his work sold out in only minutes. Encouraged by his success and our friendly community, Akers decided to settle in.

In 1990, Akers and his wife, Lyn Rita, also an artist, built their home on Rackliff Island here in St. George. Akers met Lyn Rita while in high school. Like the plot of a Hollywood romance movie, he was a basketball player and she was a cheerleader. Remaining together since high school days, both went on to study fine art at Morehead State College. They have a daughter, Ashley, who is also an artist and sold her first painting at age five. Ashley’s son, three-year-old Acelyn Grey, is now showing interest in drawing and painting as well. Beginning with Aker’s mother, this dynasty of artists spans four generations so far.

In 1995 the Akers purchased and restored The Green Schoolhouse located at 414 St. George Road in South Thomaston. The Schoolhouse serves as his summer gallery and opened July 4th to art patrons and viewers alike. On July 14th, Akers’ exhibition “The Moments of Splendor” opened and the first week in August marks a second joint exhibition of works by Akers, Lyn Rita, their daughter Ashley and her son Acelyn Grey. You may learn more about this remarkable artist on his website: —Katharine Cartwright

PHOTO: Betsy Welch

Bird phenology walk with biologist Ron Joseph

The Georges River Land Trust will host a shoreline “bird phenology” walk with wildlife biologist Ron Joseph at Wheeler Bay Wildlife Sanctuary in St. George on Thursday, August 9, from 10:30am to 12:30pm.

Phenology is the study of plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal variations in climate and habitat factors. Examples include the date of emergence of leaves and flowers, the first flight of butterflies and the first appearance of migratory birds. Joseph will focus on factors affecting shorebird migrations.

Joseph retired in 2010 following 30 years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and three years with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. During his career he worked with private landowners restoring habitat for songbirds, shorebirds, raptors, and waterfowl.

Attendees are asked to meet at Scraggle Point Road off the Clark Island Road at 10:30am. From the turn off onto Scraggle Point Road, go about .6 miles and park on the side of the road. This walk will have uneven footing on rough woods trails and along the potentially wet marshy shore, so rubber boots or appropriate shoes are recommended. Please leave your dogs at home. The event is free of charge and all are welcome to attend.

For further information, please call the land trust at 594-5166.

Soft-shell clams: present decline, future possibilities

Professor Brian Beal of UME Machias will share his hands-on research exploring the decline of soft-shell clams in Maine. A must for clammers and those who love steamers. Come on August 9 at 7 pm to the town office in Tenants Harbor. Refreshments will be served. Sponsored by the St. George Conservation Commission and Friends of St. George. For more information: 372-6459.