Enough! Poems of Resistance and Protest is an anthology of poems by 27 Maine poets who, in the midst of a pandemic, of lockdowns and quarantines, of protests and death and struggle, took up their pens to give voice to what this time feels like. Praised by Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco as “a powerful, prevalent and unflinching collection of political protest poetry in response to systemic racism and economic injustice,” Enough! speaks directly to the moment in which we find ourselves. With photographs of Portland protests by documentary photographer Nicholas Gervin.
A powerful, prevalent, and unflinching collection of political protest poetry by Maine poets in response to systemic racism and economic injustice. These poems take a knee, a breath; they witness and name truths; they protest loud and clear, yet hold moments of silence between the pages. They amplify a nation in mourning, while rising in defense of human rights and civil liberty.
– Richard Blanco, Presidential Inaugural Poet and author of How To Love a Country
Claire Millikin, the co-editor of Enough! Poems of Resistance and Protest, writes that “George Floyd’s death became an emblem for injustice and the suffering it inflicts.” The poets in this anthology write about this injustice and suffering with urgency, precision, anger, sorrow, and empathy. Their words help us move more deeply into the world. These are not the words of headlines that skim the surface; this is language that helps us understand the very act of breathing both as reality and metaphor, and to help us see that we are inhaling and exhaling the same air together.
– Stuart Kestenbaum, Poet Laureate of Maine author of How to Start Over
By Dana Wilde, originally published here.
This year, 2020, has been maybe the most wearing, tearing time many of us here in the confines of America have ever experienced. The main part of the wear and tear, as with practically everything that happens, is mental. And whether you realize it nor not, what’s suffering the principal affliction is what Edgar Allan Poe called your Moral Sense. Your sense of right and wrong.
Accordingly, Littoral Books’ “Enough!: Poems of Resistance and Protest” is mainly about this summer’s swell of moral outrage about the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Daniel Prude, (add further names here), as well as the general injustice practiced on all kinds of routinely vilified minorities. Its main emotions, expressed by several dozen poets from Maine, involve anger, confusion, and to some extent desperation about widespread racial injustice. The collection is an effort to make some sense out of this outrage, as a way of pushing back against, and possibly leading to ways of changing, the situation.
Some of the poems just tell you straight on what’s making the poets angry, often with a stern dose of moral instruction for the reader. This kind of poetry Poe called “didactic”; it seeks to state the moral truth (as the poet sees it) directly to the reader’s intellect. “I write this poem / to wake you up”, says Reza Jalali’s “I Wrote This Poem for You,” mincing no words about his intent. Similarly, Maya Williams plainly states:
I want to write a poem to every Black and Brown fem with earbuds in their ears,
because all day in our shoes is a struggle for us, all days trying
to stay alive is a struggle for us, and we still wake up to walk up
and down, or run up and run down, Congress St anyway.
Some of this has a defiant, even militant feel. Penobscot elder Donna Loring’s preamble, “We Are the First People and the First Nations of This Country,” is a chant building toward the line: “The First People wait for retribution.” Other participants, especially the (presumably) white poets, feel a strong sense of moral duty, but are at a loss for what to do: “My soul is in great need” concludes Doug Rawlings’ “Talking White Man Privileged Blues Part I”. Similarly, Carol Bachnofer observes: “It seems I don’t know any prayers” in her entry “We’ve been too long asleep in the graveyards of our history.” Amid such variations, the didactic message is about the same throughout the book.
Other poems aim less for the intellect and more for the soul, to use Poe’s terms. Poems such as Leonore Hildebrandt’s emotionally incisive “Whose Order?” is an evocation, through a well-knit, patterned repetition of lines, of the tangled moral rot that led to the federal attack on the protesters in Lafayette Square in June. The care and precision with which Hildebrandt treats this material is characteristic of all her poetry, including a couple of others in this collection; to me at least, her poems cast the most beautiful lights on the material of this book. “When soldiers rush to harass and incite, / the nation’s windows go dark.”
Also somberly effective is editor Claire Millikin’s long rumination, “Elegy for George Floyd,” and several poems by Lisa Panepinto offer her characteristically evocative concision, including the poem “enough.” There isn’t space to name all the contributing poets, but UMO instructor Kathleen Ellis, UMA professor Ellen Taylor and Cafe Review editor Steve Luttrell all pitch in memorably. A battery of black and white photos by Nicholas Gervin illustrates the situation on the streets of Portland.
How this is all going to turn out, we don’t know, and that’s part of the trouble. What we do know from this collection is that the anger and anxiety many of us, most of us are feeling right now, is shared. So that’s some light in a distinctly Poe-like moral darkness.
“Enough!” is available through Littoral Books’ website and local book stores.
By Bob Keyes, originally posted here
The Portland press fast-tracked the project and is holding virtual launch events this month.
Until George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, Claire Milliken wasn’t a political poet. Floyd’s death under the knee of a cop turned her into one.
She began writing a seven-part elegy to Floyd the week he was killed, then pitched the idea of a book of protest poems to Portland-based Littoral Books, which liked the idea so much it fast-tracked the project. The result is “Enough! Poems of Resistance and Protest,” a collection by 27 Maine poets co-edited by Milliken and Littoral co-founder Agnes Bushell. It’s the third in Littoral’s series of contemporary Maine poetry books since the press relaunched two years ago. The writing is supplemented with black-and-white photographs by Nick Gervin, a Portland street photographer who chronicled the Black Lives Matter protests this spring and summer.
Bushell noted, Littoral’s roots are in the streets of Portland. “We began publishing women’s poetry in 1975, so protest is in our blood,” she said. “Staying silent is never brave and has never changed anything. We are a publisher. This is what we do. We are a vehicle for voices.”
Littoral will host a virtual book launch on Zoom at 7 p.m. Oct. 14 with a handful of poets reading their work, and Space Gallery in Portland will host a much larger event, also on Zoom and in conjunction with the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, at 7 p.m. Oct. 27 with 10 or more of the book’s poets. That event also will serve as a get-out-the-vote rally, Bushell said.
Among the poets who contributed are Myronn Hardy, a Black poet who teaches at Bates College. Arisa White, another Black poet, teaches at Colby. Donna Loring is a Penobscot elder, Vietnam veteran and adviser to Gov. Janet Mills on tribal affairs. Reza Jalali, who teaches at the University of Southern Maine, is originally from Iran.
As a white woman, Milliken wanted to do something substantial to contribute to the dialogue. “A lot of white people were saying ‘#BlackLivesMatter,’ but I wanted to do something that more than just a hashtag. I wanted to create a book that would last longer than a hashtag,” said Milliken, who lives in Virginia and Maine.
Gervin, who has self-published one book of street photography and is working on a second, hopes the words and images in the book help raise awareness about inequality in Portland and across the country. “I have always had a goal to bring awareness to these issues well before the current temperature of our country has reached the Fahrenheit it has now. To see this all come to light is an eye-opener and amazing and horrifying all at the same time. It’s a good thing people are waking up, but it helps to highlight the difficult road ahead that we have to get to where we want to be.”