College of the Atlantic creative writing professor, novelist, poet, and founding faculty member William Carpenter will read from his work and hold a Q&A at the Jesup Memorial Library on Saturday, May 18 beginning at 7 p.m. The free, all-ages event is sponsored by the Bateau/Jesup Reading series.
After 48 years with COA, Carpenter is retiring this spring. He began teaching during the inaugural year of classes in 1972, after working with first president Ed Kaelber and college founders for a year to help set up the academic program. He came to COA as an English professor, not a creative writer, but a combination of COA’s human ecology program and the rugged beauty of the Maine coast soon had him putting pen to paper.
“I owe it all to COA. In the city it was appropriate to be a scholar, but coming here — this was the world in itself,” Carpenter said. “I felt, if you’re going to answer to nature and this place, you better answer with poetry and not with writing about poetry.”
Carpenter’s first book of poems, “The Hours of Morning” (University of Virginia Press, 1980), won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs award. It was followed by “Rain” (Northeaster University Press, 1985), which won the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize. The New York Times said of his 2002 novel, “The Wooden Nickel” (Little Brown & Co.), “Melville would have approved.” The book is whale, and lobster, tale set off the Downeast Maine coast.
“Bill is one of those writers that drives me crazy; he is an incredible poet, and incredible fiction writer, and a really great guy. At my best I can maybe hit two of the three. Bill is the real deal,” said Dan Mahoney, editor-in-chief of Bateau Press. “We are really happy to have Bill Carpenter to close out the 2019 Bateau/Jesup Reading Series.”
Carpenter will also talk about the origins of the Maine Poets Festival, held on COA’s campus from 1976-1983. The gatherings grew from a small group of poets from Skowhegan, Machias, and Portland to scores from across the state.
“We beat the bushes to get every single poet in Maine to come to College of the Atlantic,” Carpenter said. “The festivals were totally democratic. It didn’t matter if they were famous, or they had been published, or hadn’t been published at all, they all got three minutes to read, and that was it.”
Carpenter, a central Maine native, holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Minnesota. Before coming to COA, he was assistant professor of English and humanities and an Inland Steel Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Chicago.
Bateau Press is a letterpress publisher of chapbooks and an annual magazine housed within College of the Atlantic. Bateau is committed to producing high-quality, well-designed, environmentally-minded products.
The Jesup Memorial Library works to connect people to ideas, people to information, and people to people. In 2018, the Jesup offered 373 programs that were attended by almost 9,000 people; 54,754 people visited the library, and our patrons checked out 41,935 items including books, DVDs, a telescope and much more. The Jesup has served as the public library for the town of Bar Harbor since 1911 and today is a modern public library that functions as a lively community and cultural center on Mount Desert Island.