9780823280988: Paperback
Release Date: 4th September 2018

Dimensions: 203.2 x 228.6

Number of Pages: 96

Edition: 1st Edition

Series Poets Out Loud

Fordham University Press


Written by
Julia Bouwsma
Foreword by
Afaa M. Weaver
Paperback / £17.99


In 1912 the State of Maine forcibly evicted an interracial community of roughly forty-five people from Malaga Island, a small island off the coast of Phippsburg, Maine. Though Malaga had been their home for generations, nine residents (including the entire Marks family) were committed to the Maine School for the Feeble Minded in Pownal, Maine. The others struggled to find homes on other islands or on the mainland, where they were often unwelcome. The Malaga school was dismantled and rebuilt as a chapel on another island. Seventeen graves were exhumed from the Malaga cemetery, consolidated into five caskets, and reburied at the Maine School for the Feeble Minded. Just one year after the start of the eviction proceedings, the Malaga community was erased.

Midden confronts the events and over one hundred years of silence that surround this shameful incident in Maine’s history. Utilizing a wide range of poetic styles—epistolary poems to ghosts, persona poems, erasure poems, interior poems, interviews and instructions, poems framed both in the past and in the present—Midden delves into the vital connections between land, identity, and narrative and asks how we can heal the generations and legacies of damage that result when all three of these are deliberately taken in an attempt to rob people of their very humanity. The book is a poetic excavation of loss, a carving of the landscape of memory, and a reckoning with and tribute to the ghosts we carry and step over, often without our even knowing it.

Foreword: Midden, When Glory Comes xiii

I Walk My Road at Dusk 1

The Way Home 3

Dear ghosts, I pick the list 5

The Story of Fire 6

Their Objects 7

Shipwreck at New Meadows 8

Bas-Relief: Jake Marks 9

Dear ghosts, in winter my camp on the hill becomes 10

Interview with the Dead 11

Dear ghosts, because you tell me to, I begin again 16

So Many Things 17

The Tray of Spades 18

Dear ghosts, my neighbor catches you with her camera 21

The Schoolteacher Answers the Call 22

Sestina Fragments: Our Teacher Prays for Bread 25

Dear ghosts, I wake wishing my body 27

No Man’s Land 28

Annie in the Boat 30

Dear ghosts, how can we stop the sunlight spinning the story 31

John Eason Stops Preaching 32

This Is Our Home Now 33

Sucker Fish 35

What William Marks Knows, Age 3 36

Dear ghosts, with a red pencil I draw a map. 37

Each Morning Drowns in Open Air 38

The Procedure 39

Upon Opening Another Folded Day 40

Feeble-Minded 41

Dear ghosts, because you are dead and restless 42

Lottie Marks Dreams Escape 43

Dear ghosts, there was a man who lived here 44

Lottie Marks on Silence 45

Agent Pease’s Defense 46

Midden 48

Dear ghosts, when I said all I ever wanted was land 49

Yellow Surprise 50

How to Build a Houseboat 51

Shed Night 52

Potter’s Field 53

Dear ghosts, you say all our bones are made of paper 54

Paddling the Storm 55

Descendant’s Riddle 56

Untold 57

Dear ghosts, this land harvests the body to rubble. 58

Erasure 59

Saudade 61

Final Invocation for Ghosts 62

Afterword 65

Notes 69

Acknowledgments 73

Julia Bouwsma (Author)
Julia Bouwsma is the author of Work by Bloodlight (Cider Press Review, 2017).

“With a fiercely intelligent listening, Midden reveals Julia Bouwsma’s imagination and research as she investigates the early 20th-century history of Malaga Island, Maine and the devastating state violence against a 'mixed-race' fishing community of white and African Diasporic people who lived there. Bouwsma employs lyric, persona, and lyric narrative to investigate these histories of violent displacement, gentrification, and incarceration. Here 'each page [is] a rupture of self' and the tongue 'becomes the prism / of fracture, land of washed green light—' She reminds us of how porous the bodies of a place and its people are, how loss is written into the bodies of both. When the dead are asked, 'What did you leave behind?' they answer: 'Our arms spread out around it all // until our hands could not / meet our hands.' In Coming to Writing, Hélène Cixous writes: 'If you do not possess language, you can be possessed by it…' It seems to me that Julia Bouwsma has, with imagination and humility, somehow committed her language to such possession. Her work is shaped by the elemental: bonelight, sea, snow, 'mud that will never / wash out of the hem,' her memory’s hem.”

Aracelis Girmay
Kingdom Animalia and the black maria

Julia Bouwsma’s chilling tale of the quietus of Malaga Island is shattering in its simplicity. The ease with which an ‘undesirable’ culture can be summarily disappeared is not a grim aberration relegated to a long-ago past—it’s a monster of the here-and-now. This is a chilling commentary, compassionate and character-driven, penned by a poet who is resolute and relentless as witness.

Patricia Smith

Vividly reimagined and gorgeously rendered, Julia Bouwsma’s Midden gives voice to the citizens of Malaga Island, off the coast of Maine, who early in the twentieth century were removed from their homes, their lives destroyed. Bouwsma writes, ‘I tried to write the island / to life.’ In this devastating and beautiful collection, she does just that, as she expands the field of documentary poetics. These poems bear witness to the tragedy of Malaga Island and demand that we remember our country’s violence to people and land. Julia Bouwsma’s voice is eloquent and urgent.

Nicole Cooley

Maine Literary Award - 2019


Julie Suk Award - 2019