Arisa White Photo by Nye’ Lyn Tho

With National Poetry Month in April, the late winter is a busy time for Maine poets.

Colby College assistant professor Arisa White has a new memoir, “Who’s Your Daddy,” written as a collection of poems, about her trip to the South American country Guyana and the exploration of her relationship with her estranged father. Portland poet laureate Linda Aldrich writes about love, longing and bends in the road of richly lived life in her collection, “Ballast.” Later this spring, Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, executive director of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, will issue a book of poems about his brother, who died last year, called “Deke Dangle Dive,” a reference to their shared loved of hockey.

Arisa White’s “Who’s Your Daddy.”

White’s book, published last week by Augury Books, is a patchwork of images of an absent parent, a daughter who grows up without him and the chasm between them, filled with questions about forgiveness, absence and reconciliation. White had set out to write a prose memoir about her trip to Guyana in search of her father, and shifted to poetry when she expanded the book to include memories of her life from childhood. “Coming in glimpses, poems felt like the perfect way to mirror memory and how it functions,” she said.

“Ballast” by Portland poet laureate Linda Aldrich.

White’s other books include the poetry collection “You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened” and “Biddy Mason Speaks Up,” which she co-authored and for which she won a Maine Literary Book Award for Young People’s Literature and a Nautilus Book Award Gold Medal for Middle-Grade Nonfiction.

Aldrich, Portland’s sixth poet laureate, also writes about the expanse of her life in “Ballast,” issued by Deerbrook. She offers memories of childhood and the encouragement of an early teacher, the thrill of a trip to Paris, the grief associated with parental loss. “A poet friend who lives in landlocked Colorado calls this collection ‘watery’ for its many references to the ocean and ships. I chose ‘Ballast’ as the title, not only for its nautical reference, but for the way all of us seek to find ballast in a topsy-turvy world, and perhaps for the way poetry can provide ballast in times of difficulty, both for the writer and the reader,” she said.

This is her third book of poetry, following “Foothold” in 2008 and “March and Mad Women” in 2012. Aldrich became Portland poet laureate in 2018.

“Deke Dangle Dive” by Gibson Fay-Leblanc.

Fay-LeBlanc, a former Portland poet laureate, wrote what he calls “hockey poems” as a way to process his grief over the death of his 49-year-old brother, Leland, from cancer last summer. They grew up playing hockey together, and Fay-LeBlanc still plays. He has passed the love of the game to his sons. The poems are not about hockey per se, but about brotherhood, fatherhood and, less so, contemporary masculinity. “The more I wrote, the more they became about my brother,” said Fay-LeBlanc. “The book ended up being an elegy for him. It’s a tribute to him and a way to honor him.”

By extension, the poems also are about the collective grief we’re experiencing from the pandemic. “There are times when I read some of these poems, and I say, ‘Oh jeez,’ and I have to apologize to the audience. But then I realize, who hasn’t lost someone very close to them? Not many people. This is real human stuff, and we’re all in a time of tremendous loss.”

CavanKerry Press will publish the book in May.

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