The audience is lively. People chat with drinks in hand while two projectors, one located behind the stage and one to the right, show images and films. Some are hazy and old-looking. Others are clear and crisp images of water and crackling leaves. The median age of the audience is forty if not older. The walls are yellow with a mix of orange. They seem to glow. The moving images settle to the image of a man. He is old, and he stands with his back to the camera. A stick is in his left hand, his right hand on his hip. His face in profile. He isn’t smirking, but he might be.
This is the cover of Megan Grumbling’s book of poems, Booker’s Point.
Booker’s Point is the way Grumbling chose to make the landscape of her childhood home again. The stories of an old man are the tool she used to shape her poems.
Printed by the University of North Texas Press in April of this year, Booker’s Point received the Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry.
Grumbling is introduced by Gibson Fay-Leblanc. He thanks Space Gallery and the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance for sponsoring the event. Fay-Leblanc says that we are here to “celebrate one of our own who has made it- made many things, this beautiful book being one of them.”
One can tell he is a writer by the way he describes Grumbling’s ability to “get to the heart of things and make them sing.” He says her work is “bright with abandon” and chastises those of us who may think that writing is less than “working your ass off.” One imagines Booker standing behind him with a sidelong glance. There are, indeed, many ways to make things. Some people make their hearth with stones “from other men’s yards.”
Grumbling stands before the microphone, while there is technical difficulty. The microphone is fixed, the audience claps, and Grumbling begins.
Grumbling describes Booker as the “quintessential jack of all trades” that could “build you anything from what he found at the dump or in the quarry.” He’s that archetypal old man who is set in his ways which is perhaps why many people have asked Megan whether there really was a Booker. Indeed, there was, and he lived across the pond.
Grumbling reads her poems and in between gives a description of Booker. She says he loved “elemental things: dirt, earth, water, trees, and stones.” One poem is called “Good Digging” and describes Booker’s meticulous way of digging a hole. She reads, “‘Been looking all my life for gold,’ he cackles. ‘None down there today.’”
Listening to Grumbling, one is driven closer to the center between her, her hometown of Wells, other places she’s been, and of course, Booker. Listeners are reminded they have no control over where the world places them. To be born involves no choice, but from this point of origin, choices begin to present themselves. You have control over what you look at and how you chose to look.
Perhaps something catches your eye. For Booker it was white marble. For Grumbling, it was Booker and her hometown of Wells, Maine. Grumbling’s relationship with Booker fueled her writing, but these poems are her own. She descends from the podium gracefully and sits to sign copies of Booker’s Point.