Death of Portland Poet Unites Two Camps

(family photo)

By Timothy Gillis

PORTLAND – The death of Michael Macklin, a Portland poet and editor at the Cafe Review, has united two sides of the poetic divide – page and stage. He was at Breadloaf writers’ camp in Vermont with students from Waynflete School, on May 19, when he passed away. The tributes to him have been pouring in, and both the page poets of the Cafe Review and the stage poets of Port Veritas are in accord: the man was a verse godsend.

Steve Luttrell, editor of Cafe Review, said an upcoming issue is going to be dedicated to him.

“We, at The Café Review, are planning a festschrift to our beloved late colleague, poet Michael Macklin (1949-2012) for the Summer 2013,” according to the Cafe Review website. “Michael served on our staff for nearly a decade, first as reviews editor then as a poetry editor.”

There were also spontaneous readings last week at Local Sprouts and Mama’s Crowbar. Wil Gibson, of the Port Veritas poetry slam team, joined the page crowd of Luttrell and former poet laureates Wesley McNair and Betsey Scholl, among others, at Local Sprouts, last Monday night. There were also representatives from the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, of which Macklin was a board member.

“He was the first dude that made it seem like I could get published,” said Gibson. “Here was this Cafe Review editor, looking at my work. It was the first time I felt validated from that older literary crowd.”

Gibson said Macklin’s interest in his poems drove him to write more poems instead of performances, and to focus on the craft of rewriting.

At the regular “Poetry on Tap” at Mama’s Crowbar later that night, Gibson and other members of Port Veritas, read from the poems of Macklin to pay tribute to their poetic godfather. Gibson read “Life and Death of a Poet,” “Frame and Finish,” and “Before Coffee.”

“He read everything I wrote,” Gibson said. Macklin used to do the Tuesday night reading at the North Star. “He was there every time. He’d be in the front row, ready to talk with me when I was done. He’d accentuate the positive. He circled stuff I wrote and would rant and rave about it. Telling me what was good. Other people focus on the negative, and criticize – not him,” Gibson said. “This is the dude who edited you even when you didn’t want it.”

Ryan McLellan, host of Mama’s Monday reading and a member of Port Veritas, said he was the best editor he’d ever known. He read a haiku for Macklin that he had just written.

Nate Amadon, also of Port Veritas, said he has been reading poetry in Portland for thirteen years. When he came to Portland, the scene was down. “Everyone was mad about the piss and vinegar anger around slam poetry. He walked away from the scene. He wanted nothing to do with it.”

The slam scene now is much nicer, with audience members snapping fingers when a poet drops a line to encourage the sudden memory. In the old days, readers who faltered were often heckled and jeered. Michael Macklin was one of the rare types of people who was comfortable with either approach to poetry – the written or the spoken word. Amadon finished the impromptu tribute with “Resurrection,” the last poem Macklin had published in the Maine Sunday Telegram.

Poets—including his former students—interested in contributing a poem or poems (up to five) written for Michael Macklin, about him, or with him in mind are asked to send their work to The Café Review, c/o Yes Books, 589 Congress Street, Portland, Maine 04101. Please include a short biography of 50 words or less with your poems and a S.A.S.E. (We are waiving the $1 reading fee for these submissions only.) E-mail submissions will not be accepted. Anyone with questions, or information to share, may contact us at, through our individual e-mail addresses on the Staff link, or at 207.775.3233.

“Driftland,” Macklin’s book of poems is available at Longfellow’s bookstore.


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