Last Thursday, the New Writing Series hosted a special event celebrating the winner of the National Poetry Foundation’s third-annual Frank and Helene Crohn Edna St. Vincent Millay Prize at the University of Maine’s Soderberg Auditorium.
The New Writing Series, coordinated by Steve Evans — UMaine English professor and director of the National Poetry Foundation — hosts poets and fiction writers and is co-sponsored by the University of Maine’s Department of English and the National Poetry Foundation.
Frank and Helene Crohn established the prize in 2010 and named the annual Millay Prize for Poetry after one of Maine’s most notable poets.
James Brophy, this year’s winner, was chosen by poet and author Martin Corless-Smith and received $2,500. The event began with Brophy reading from his winning manuscript, “Kavafis at the Café: Poems in Search of C.P. Cavafy.”
When Smith came to the difficult decision to award the Millay Prize, he chose Brophy because his poems are grave and quiet. “The poems take up an atmosphere of another country and another time without having to feel forced or antiquated.”
Smith continued to explain the grace felt in the first poem of Brophy’s manuscript called “Small Republic” and praised the poet, saying his writing did not rush or shout and reflected a calmness and timelessness. Matin thought that Cavafy would have found Brophy’s manuscript as enjoyable as he did.
“Thank you, thank you,” Brophy responded to the applause. “I’ll try to retain the ‘calm’ that Martin saw in my poems.”
Brophy currently teaches at UMaine and Husson University. He views poetry as an apprenticeship to serve people and share ideas he admires.
According to Smith, translating poetry from another language is one of the most honorable forms of reading poetry.
“Writing a poem is quite easy, but reading a poem is not easy and shouldn’t be,” Smith said.
In the book “Nota,” Smith wrote, “Contradiction is one of the devices not in itself a sufficiency. The mark of a lyric is an impulse matched by its opposition, though not simply the balance of the two. Paradox is a swinging of energies.”
Last year’s prize winner, Jason Canniff, joined the audience this year. Frank and Helene Crohn were unable to attend — they have attended since the very first award given to Rachel Perry in 2010.
The event was recorded for later listening and with the intent that the Crohns would eventually hear it. The audience offered a collective “thank you” on the count of three for their generous gift and appreciation to poetry at UMaine.
The New Writing Series will continue Sept. 27, with a visit from Lily Hoang. The event will begin at 4:30 p.m. in Soderberg Auditorium. Attendance is free, but seating is limited.CORRECTION:
A previous version of this article had several spelling mistakes, including the names of Frank and Helene Crohn.