By Andre Madore, Staff Writer
To commemorate their 40th anniversary of publishing poetry, Alice James Books (AJB), a Farmington-based and yet nationally recognized press, sponsored their very first poetry reading affiliated with the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) on Friday, in UMF’s very own Emery Arts Center. The event showcased three of AJB’s newest published poets: Tamiko Beyer, Suzanne Parker, and Angelo Nikolopoulos.
Named after Alice James, the sister of famous poet and novelist Henry James and philosopher William James, AJB was founded in 1973 by a group of seven poets in Cambridge, MA, with the goal of publishing and giving a voice to women poets. Today, Alice James Books not only publishes women authors, but men as well. Alyssa Neptune, AJB’s Managing Editor, said the press focuses on publishing “established and emerging poets with a particular emphasis on involving authors in the publishing process.”
Though AJB is located in the small Maine town of Farmington, it enjoys national recognition and participates in several national events. “We host several other events annually,” Neptune said, “such as our Kinereth Gensler Award book launch party at Poets House in NYC.” Neptune also added that Alice James Books “participates in AWP’s conference and bookfair each year wherever it is held in the US.”
Surprisingly enough, until Friday night, Alice James Books has never hosted a poetry reading with the University. “This is the first time AJB has sponsored a reading at UMF,” said Neptune, “so tonight will be a special milestone, in which I hope we can continue the tradition in the future.”
Neptune said the event was important to AJB because it not only provided students with tangible examples of poetry and successful authors, but it gave the audience “a chance to talk to the authors and other members of our board in person, [exposing] AJB to the Creative Writing community here on campus.”
Showcased at the reading were the works of Tamiko Beyer (AJB board President), Suzanne Parker (board Vice-President), and Angelo Nikolopoulos (board secretary). Beyer read from her book We Come Elemental, which focused on nature, sexuality, and the body. Next was Suzanne Parker, reading from her work Viral, an extended elegy for Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student who committed suicide in 2010. The event concluded with a reading from Angelo Nikolopoulos’ work Obscenely Yours, a kind of tribute to gay sexuality and human longing.
The event attracted 35 people, an even mix of students, faculty, and townspeople. In attendance was UMF’s very own President Foster, along with faculty members and American Poet Wesley McNair, Poet Laureate of Maine and professor emeritus at UMF.
Also in attendance was Professor Jeffrey Thomson, Associate Professor of Creative Writing at UMF and the director of the Writers Series at on campus. Thomson was impressed with the three poets, and enjoyed hearing each one of them. “It was a trio of great, very diverse voices.” he said. “I mean, they were all really different and all very skilled. I found things to like in everybody!”