Megan Grumbling began thinking about Bernard Booker just about the time she returned home to Maine from graduate school, in 2004. She wanted to re-immerse herself in her home state and the rural character of the town where she grew up, Wells.

Booker provided her the opportunity. An old codger with deep Maine roots, he was known as the mayor of Ell Pond, a local natural landmark. Booker, who died in 2008, opened up his world to Grumbling, enabling her to create a loving, honest and sometimes humorous portrait of a Yankee woodsman in her new collection of poetry, “Booker’s Point.” Just released, the book won the Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry, a national award.

The Portland writer celebrates the release with a launch party at SPACE Gallery on Wednesday. Grumbling will read a half-dozen or so poems from the book. The event will include photos and video of Booker collected during Grumbling’s research.

“Booker was just an old dude that everybody seemed to know,” she said. “I had only seen him in passing, but I had never met him.”

When she finally did, he revealed himself as an old-school Mainer who knew the woods and the local pond better than anyone. Grumbling’s book is an homage to the man, told as a portrait in verse. She uses her skills as a storyteller and her interest in natural history to create a meditation on home, work, nature and the importance of elders.

She began her project as an oral history documentation. She wanted to chronicle Booker’s life and tell his stories. As she got to know him better, she realized the story was bigger than simple documentation. She turned it into a poetry-prose project because she felt the language of poetry allowed her to better express tone and character. The collection of individual poems tells the larger narrative about a man, a place and a life in the woods.

Taking Stock

Some sources my own soles

or tales have traveled all

along – back quarry, Bald

Hill Crossing, Horace Mills

Road, sure old lodes of quartz

and pine pitch, gray barn boards

and wintergreen. I’ve squirreled

them away just like he hoards

his, all the golds I’ve gleaned,

fresh cloven hoofprints, streets

that lead to penny sweets,

a pride so deep round here

for pink stone, how age woes

some farmsteads slouched and low,

shuttered in sky-blue though

their panes. Others I know

just as we go, a home

learned late, chanterelle and lore,

culvert and cornerstone.

And still more I don’t own

up to not knowing, shy

and loath to recognize

the troves I missed despite

how close my step, my eyes.

How I’d now take it all

in is a story tall

in truth, material.

Its hold I would know full.

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