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#MaineCanvas: UMaine alumna challenges poetic form through familiar emotional vignettes

University of Maine alumna, Megan Ashe, submitted three pieces of poetry to the new “Maine Canvas” initiative. The “Maine Canvas” is an online art space for students to submit pieces of their choice to an online portfolio on the Maine Campus’ website. 

Ashe recently graduated from UMaine last December with a major in English and minors in political science and legal studies. Currently, she is working in Bangor at a daycare. During her time at UMaine, she was involved with the Maine Campus and Her Campus.

Ashe is also the poetry editor for The Open Field, an undergraduate literary publication in UMaine’s English department. Students can submit their poetry work and any sort of creative writing to this publication.

The first poem Ashe submitted for the “Maine Canvas” is titled “Night’s Fling.” 

“[In class] we were asked to write a poem using one vowel,” Ashe said. “I pieced it together like a puzzle using the letter ‘I,’ deciding which words would work together.”

“I wrote about how when you go out to places and see couples on first dates or people dancing with each other, how do they feel in the morning?” Ashe said. “Or right now? How do people feel initially when they meet up? Are they thinking about the future or just in the moment? It’s written from a hazy perspective. It’s also in the first person perspective because I was trying to use the letter ‘I.’”

Ashe is well-versed in poetry, as she did her senior capstone on it. When writing her poems, she begins with writing how she feels before going back and editing the structure and organization of the stanzas. 

“I usually start with how I feel and not how to organize the poem,” Ashe said. “I write with my feelings and then edit it by going back and formalizing it. I always feel like I could add more to my work, so [“Night’s Fling”] is the most recent of many of its versions. I’ve been working on this poem for a year or two.”

The second poem Ashe submitted is titled “She’s Not a Number Say Her Name.”

This poem was also originally an assignment given in one of her undergraduate English classes, where she was assigned to write a poem where you must say someone’s name.

“I was inspired from watching ‘Athlete A’ on Netflix about the USA gymnastics sexual assault issues,” Ashe said. “Plus, I am passionate about women’s rights and the #MeToo movement. You always see statistics rather than the names of individual people. Everything boils down to a number, and every time you look up SA [sexual assault] on the internet, it’s about the numbers and not about the people.”

Ashe pulled from those statistics, including naming some famous people in the poem. 

“‘Redacted’ symbolizes those who consider reporting what happened but aren’t sure or want to remain anonymous,” Ashe said. “It’s to show support for those who aren’t ready to share their story but are just as important. The structure of the poem resembles legal court report documents.” 

The red open brackets in Ashe’s poem were chosen because she feels the people in her poem aren’t victims, but rather that they are strong. She felt no word could fully capture how strong they are. The brackets allow readers to interpret or put in the word they feel is appropriate. For Ashe, no word did it justice.

The final poem that Ashe submitted is titled “The Kind Of Poetry I Want.”

In one of her undergraduate English classes, Ashe read a poem by Hugh MacDiarmid, a Scottish poet who wrote a poem of the same name. The assignment was to study and analyze MacDiarmid’s poem and be inspired to create a similar poem. She decided to turn it into a piece that represented everything she would want to see in her ideal poem.

“This poem is a list that sheds light on what I value in my own writing,” Ashe said. “I first started writing when I felt sad, overwhelmed or anxious to navigate how to manage it. I’d sit down and write. Poetry is a way to make a bad situation or feeling into something beautiful. It turns negativity into feeling productive. Don’t shy away from your madness. Take all those feelings and make them into something beautiful. Draw on past experiences and make them into something inspirational.”

While Ashe is continuing down a different professional path and creating poetry into more of a hobby lately, she is still pursuing opportunities to get her work out to the public.

“I used to think I wanted to be an English professor, but I decided that it’s kind of something I want to keep more as a hobby,” Ashe said. “I think it’s more meaningful to me and I kind of just do it as I feel. I would like to keep getting my work out there and keep publishing through smaller presses. I would like to publish a book of poetry … compile and cut poems into a small book people can buy. Right now, I’m just looking to find more inspiration to write in my life.”

These beautifully crafted poems were created with the help of Ashe’s supportive professors in the UMaine English department who got her to where she is today.

“I want to give a general thank you to all my past professors,” Ashe said. “They really inspired me to learn more and to keep loving writing. I love the UMaine English department, and I appreciate all that they taught me.”

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