While local students are on vacation from school this week, you can see what they worked hard to create in the months prior as you stroll through downtown Brunswick. Posters on several storefronts display poetry written by students across grade levels in celebration of National Poetry Month, which is the month of April. The posters are part of a poetry stroll, much like the town’s Art Walk or other local events that add another aspect to the downtown experience.

This year’s poetry stroll, the third one of its kind, is particularly local, as students were asked to write poems celebrating landmarks and special places around town. “Brunswick: The Poetry Place” includes works by some of Brunswick’s youngest students from Kate Furbish Elementary to those nearing graduation from the Brunswick High School. In addition, there are poems from contributors at Spindleworks and People Plus, along with collaborators at The Telling Room. This is a project supported by the Brunswick Downtown Association and by the Brunswick Community Education Foundation (brunswickcef.org), a local nonprofit that provides grants to Brunswick School Department teachers and staff to support innovative educational experiences for their students. This year’s poetry project is led by a team of seven educators across several of Brunswick’s schools, including librarians, language arts teachers and community members. The grant for the project includes even more authors — those of the grant itself. Five senior writing students were the ones to write the successful grant proposal for the project.

The team of collaborators and students involved in the project hosted a launch party for this year’s stroll at the Curtis Memorial Library on April 6, which included a reception and readings from the participating student poets and finished with a group stroll through downtown to see the displays, which adorn 35 businesses throughout town as well as at the superintendent’s office. Each display includes a poster and a photograph of the place that inspired it. There are also QR codes that link to recordings of student poetry readings. For those unable to stroll through downtown, some of the poems are displayed at the Curtis Memorial Library just inside the entryway. There is also a stroll set up on a series of lawn signs at Brunswick High School. In addition, students created a small anthology that includes both the poems and the photographs that are a part of this year’s stroll. The book will soon be for sale online for those wishing to purchase a copy.

You may be wondering what the coastal connection is here. Brunswick’s poetry stroll was initiated to celebrate our town’s rich literary traditions. Poets like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Robert Tristam Coffin, Nathaniel Hawthorne, among many others, all lived and wrote here. Many of the works they created were inspired by local places in town, much like this year’s stroll, and many of those places are along the coast. Each year, prior to poetry month, Brunswick celebrates Longfellow Days. In concert with local events held throughout the month of February, students worked on writing poems that were submitted for inclusion in the poetry stroll. Prior to that, during the month of January, members of the community were invited to submit photographs of local places that were then used to inspire the students’ poetry.

On a walk through town one chilly, gray afternoon, a poem by Ava Coley, a member of the Brunswick High School’s class of 2025, titled, “Gathering of Geese on Maquoit Bay” was particularly evocative of a coastal spot just a few miles down the road from the high school. The accompanying photograph features an image akin to the title of the poem. The poet writes about the feelings brought out by “sitting by the cold blue water.” You’ll have to visit her poetry display to read the rest.

This poem is not the only coastal poem in the bunch, but it does serve as a particularly clear reminder of the closeness of the coast to students who attend classes just up the road from sites like Maquoit Bay. It is also a lovely reminder of the power of places along our coast to draw out beautiful language in celebration of it.

Susan Olcott is the director of operations at Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association.

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