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UMFK English Professor Publishes Book of Poetry

August 25, 2008


University of Maine at Fort Kent Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing, Geraldine Cannon Becker has published her first book of poetry entitled, Glad Wilderness (Plain View Press, 2008). Cannon Becker publishes creative writing under her maiden name.

The title poem was the first poem the author wrote while living in Saint Francis, Maine. The book also includes poems about the house she now lives in on Pleasant Street in Fort Kent and the construction that has taken place ever since she and her family first took up residence in the home known as the old Sylvain house.

Glad Wilderness is a collection of poems with roots in the heritage and traditions of the Southern Appalachian Mountains where the author grew up. The poems feature a variety of speakers in settings that are sometimes interconnected, with intricate threads woven throughout.

In the first poem, a speaker tells her companion, who wants to travel away from their local area: “We’ve stumbled into soft brown apples / and scattered hard brown seeds.”  The last poem, in the collection, references an apple tree that is unique to another region -- a place where the speaker has ended up settling down, far from her original home:  “The seeds must have come to this place more than 200 years ago,/ but the parentage of the only known mature tree is unknown.”  Glad Wilderness is about living on the edge, overcoming obstacles -- without and within -- and finding a certain ability to rejoice in the midst of uncertainty.

The author found herself listening to rhythms and picking up intriguing patterns in speech.  Certain phrases lingered in her mind, allowing her to write poems like “Passing Phrases on Porch Construction” and a key poem in the series of three triolets (which have been admired by Form aficionado, Lewis Turco), “Triolet on a Line From Our Carpenter.”  Cannon Becker notes, “The triolet is a French form and when I first heard the line about angles, I knew it would fit the Triolet form perfectly.  The art is built into the craft -- and that is akin to the form and function of quality carpentry.  The work speaks for itself.”

Geraldine Cannon's many voices in this collection form a choir, each poem a soloist in turn, while the others hum and clap around it. In the virtuosic story-telling of her Southern personae, a world comes vibrantly into focus. In addition to her narrative gifts, Cannon gives us imagery that stuns with its originality and its rightness. Here is the marvelous close of the first poem in the book: "We are left / with so many wrinkles / if we could spread our skin out, / we could glide." Susan Ludvigson, Poet, author of Escaping the House of Certainty: Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 2006)

Professor Cannon Becker currently teaches writing (Composition I & II, and Poetry Writing I) and literature (20th Century Poetry) classes at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.