July 31, 2006
UMFK Professor of English, Geraldine Cannon Becker, recently was nominated by the University's Environmental Council and University President, Dr. Richard W. Cost, to become an Institutional Representative as a member of the Academic Advisory Board for NEW-CUE (Nature and Environmental Writers-College and University Educators).
In their own words: "NEW-Cue, Inc. is a non-profit, environmental organization founded primarily to assist writers and educators who are dedicated to enhancing public awareness of environmental issues."
Professor Cannon Becker will communicate with NEW-CUE President, Barbara Ward Klein; other members of the advisory board; the program planning board; and with any interested faculty and students at UMFK to prepare for future NEW-CUE conferences, which take place every two years.
Cannon Becker participated in the Fourth NEW-CUE Writers' Conference and Workshop in honor of Rachel Carson, held at The Spruce Point Inn in Boothbay Harbor, Maine from June 13-16. The theme for this year's conference was "wilderness/wildness" and the work of Thoreau was featured prominently in conjunction with Rachel Carson.
Cannon Becker, who publishes poetry under her maiden name, was accepted to present several of her poems, including: "Walking-My Way," a sestina that stresses the importance of spending quality time with nature-and how to best leave when the time has come to go home; "Whisper Will," a poem that captures the sounds and rhythms of the natural world at night as heard through a screen, playing on the sound of a whippoorwill-delivered with the author's own "dainty twang;" and "Mountain Storm in Flat Shoals," a poem the author has recently revised to include a stanza about the flat topping of mountains for coal in Southern Appalachia.
"They wanted me to read more poems," Cannon Becker says, "so I was glad I had brought a few more with me. It is always a pleasure to have an interested audience. I read 'Dipped in Autumn,' because it is about taking responsibility for one's own actions-among other things, and ended with the "magical" poem recently published in Southern Revival, 'Kudzu and a Question Under Moon Shine,' which is still available to help those affected by hurricanes in 2005, to help schools and libraries restock shelves for the communities--for a donation of at least $10.00" (see Professor Cannon Becker for details on where to get a copy of the limited edition).
Shortly after her nomination as Institutional Representative, Cannon Becker was asked to lead a writing workshop at the NEW-CUE conference. They wanted someone to focus on revision, so with "An Eye on Re-VISION: Getting your NEW work Ready for Publication," Cannon Becker and the other writers gathered around a table to explore ways to tailor writing for appropriate audiences. They discussed suggestions for revising and submitting work for publication and ways to fit the process of writing and the process of revision into an already busy schedule. The two hour workshop ended with everyone exchanging email addresses. Before the conference was over, a couple of people had requested information about signing up for online writing courses with Cannon Becker.
"I got to meet a lot of wonderful people at this conference," Cannon Becker says. "One person that I didn't expect to meet was Bernie Quetchenbach, formerly a professor of English at UMFK. I had heard a lot about him from Scott Brickman and from Dave Hobbins, but to actually meet him was a treat. He was the session moderator when I presented my poetry, so he introduced me to the group. It was nice."
Cannon Becker had hoped to meet Franklin Burroughs, Jane Brox, and keynote speaker, Lawrence Buell, and she was not disappointed. She got autographed copies of books from each of these authors, and was fortunate to sit at their tables for dinner. "Jane, Frank and I had interesting conversations about our kin and about living in Maine. Frank said, as a person from South Carolina who had made a home for himself in Maine, he felt a kinship with me. I thought at the last minute to give him a copy of one of my poems from those I had brought to read and he was kind enough to send me a critique of it a few days after the conference had ended."
Professor Cannon Becker notes: "Franklin Burroughs is from the low country and I'm from the only mountainous area of South Carolina, on the northwest border. I've always lived on the edge. We all seemed to know about that. Jane Brox has written about her family, but no one in the family ever talks about what she has written. I have works like that. Jane made a statement about how a family's allegiance to a particular place can be freeing for a person of the family who moves away. That was an eye-opening comment. I see her point of view, and there are bars with the stars-on both sides."
Cannon Becker listened in awe of Lawrence Buell, thinking of how she might use his books in future science and nature writing courses at UMFK. "For a scholar of his stature and reputation, Buell was more down to earth than I had at first expected. He listened to my husband, Joe, talk about his dissertation and to me talk about teaching Jungian concepts, and he responded with interest. Bernie was at Buell's table, too. We all participated in lively professorial discussions in a relaxed atmosphere."
In addition to intellectual stimulation, planners had thought of fun, action-packed events people of all ages could enjoy in and around the Boothbay area. The Beckers took their children and visited the Maine State Aquarium. The group was given a special behind the scenes tour of the marine labs and library. Other groups went on kayak trips, nature hikes, tours of botanical gardens, or took photography workshops. There was something for everyone to enjoy and learn from at this exciting conference.
Professor Cannon Becker looks forward to working with NEW-CUE and to discussing ways other UMFK faculty and students can become involved in future events.
NEW-CUE holds a conference and workshop in honor of Rachel Carson every two years, and participates at varied events on an ongoing basis. As they noted on their conference agenda: "2007 will mark the 100th Anniversary of Rachel Carson's birth, and organizations across the country and around the world that have been named in her honor are already planning special events."
NEW-CUE will sponsor sessions at many of these events. For more information, visit its website at http://www.new-cue.org/ , or contact Professor Cannon Becker. The next conference is scheduled to be held in Boothbay Harbor June 10-13, 2008.