Brunswick celebrates “rockstar” poet after pandemic hiatus

Brunswick celebrates “rockstar” poet after pandemic hiatus

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

The description might sound more fitting for 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 it.”

Returning after the pandemic shut down 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 springboard for lessons on history, linguistics and art. Several events will focus on Longfellow’s travels through Europe and how they shaped his work as a poet, translator, and professor of languages ​​at Bowdoin and Harvard.

Visitors to Bowdoin’s Art Museum at 2 p.m. on Thursday will examine some of the Mediterranean artwork and photography that 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 suddenly Italian was an interesting language, and maybe we should know about it.”

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

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

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

For more information about Longfellow Days, visit the event’s Facebook page or the Brunswick Downtown Association’s website at

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