Last night's reading was packed for the launch of Betsy Sholl's latest book, House of Sparrows. The crowd in the bookstore was no surprise because Betsy is, deservedly, one of the most beloved writers in Maine. She is a former state poet laureate, but is also a local presence: a friend and supporter to all. So it was a joy to see a standing-room-only crowd prepared to celebrate her.
Betsy is a member of my poetry group, and naturally most of us were there to support her. My friend Linda and I came together, and as we were drinking our plastic cups of wine and talking about this and that, we saw the bookstore door open and in walked (as quietly as one can with a bodyguard) Governor Janet Mills. Betsy did not expect her; there was no hoopla. Just one poet stopping in to listen to another poet.
Meanwhile, our ex-governor, Paul LePage is making headlines this week, defending the existence of the Electoral College because otherwise "white people will not have anything to say." This is the same man who, when he was planning his first inaugural celebration, refused to invite the sitting poet laureate (Betsy) to read a poem because, he claimed, no one wants to hear that stuff.
The political schizophrenia is hard to exaggerate. But, blessedly, we are, for the moment, in more humane country. There was something extraordinarily touching about the governor's appearance: that after a long day of policy and polemic, despite a long drive back and forth from Augusta to Portland, what she wanted to do most on a Thursday evening was to listen to poems.