Longfellow Plaque Launches Brunswick Literary Arts Walk

Story posted February 01, 2007

A bronze plaque commemorating Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, designed by Bowdoin students and alumni working with A. LeRoy Greason Professor of Art Mark Wethli, will be unveiled in February during Longfellow Days' celebration of the 200th anniversary of the poet's birth.

The Longfellow plaque, which enshrines words from the poem "Keramos," is the first in a series of plaques to be installed in the sidewalks of downtown Brunswick as part of a planned literary arts walk.

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Written in 1877, five years before the poet's death, "Keramos" explores the universality of human experience through an extended metaphor of the potter working at the wheel. Longfellow was a keen observer of tradesmen at their crafts, a theme he explored in other work, including "The Village Blacksmith," published in 1841.

Born and raised in Portland, Longfellow graduated from Bowdoin College, along with his classmate, Nathaniel Hawthorne, in 1825. He served as Bowdoin's first professor of modern languages, creating his own textbooks for the courses, and residing with his bride, Mary Potter, in a home that later became the second story of the home of Brunswick's Civil War hero, Joshua L. Chamberlain (Bowdoin Class of 1852; Bowdoin president, 1871-1883).

In addition to Longfellow, the initial plaques will honor Hawthorne; Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, written in her husband Calvin's (Class of 1824 and a theology professor) Appleton Hall study); and author Robert P.T. Coffin '15. Each plaque is about two feet square, and commemorates Brunswick's illustrious literary tradition on Maine Street — the very same street traveled by the town's literary greats.

Quotes appearing on the plaques were selected by former Bowdoin College President Emeritus and Professor of English Emeritus A. LeRoy Greason, and former Curtis Memorial Library librarian Phyllis Fuchs.

The plaques were designed by a team of Bowdoin College visual arts students and alumni — Lily Abt '08, Serena Bartovics '07, Emma Sears '06, Allegra Spalding '08, Sean Sullivan '08, Kerry Twombly '08, and Mary Vargo '06 — working with Professor Mark Wethli.

The literary art walk project is financed through the gifts of individuals and businesses, including a gift from the Longfellow Days Committee.

The Longfellow plaque will be unveiled at the February 26 Brunswick Town Council meeting and at a poetry reading on Longfellow's birthday the evening of February 27. That event, complete with birthday cake, will showcase poems written by Brunswick fourth grade school children, as well as adult poets in the community.

For more information about the literary arts walk project, contact Peter Simmons at peter@bowdoinfestival.org

Story submitted by the Longfellow Days Committee.

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