The Bookey Legacy: Twenty Years of Poetry at the Harlow

Ted Bookey reading at the Harlow Gallery in April 2015 – photo by Carol-Lynn Rossel (detail)

By Claire Hersom

Ted Bookey with his lovely wife Ruth at his side, has led a robust schedule of Friday night poetry readings at the Harlow Gallery for the last twenty years.  As of April 2015 he passed the leadership baton on. Bookey knows he started and stayed with something that ‘has endured because it filled a need’.   He also knows that the Harlow Gallery has been a gift to many for many reasons, but one unforeseen to him, was to conduct poetry readings ‘in the context of such a beautiful space; an art gallery surrounded by the beauty of another art form”.  Bookey recognized how that setting enhanced the poetry experience for both poet and guests.

Ted & Ruth Bookey

Bookey first read his own work at the Harlow Gallery in 1995, at the invitation of George Van Deventer, a poet whom Bookey calls the ‘grandfather’ of the Maine poetry renaissance.  Bookey remembers Van Deventer was sought out when the Kennebec Valley Art Association leadership was expanding their ‘cultural reach’ under a program called ‘The Spirit of the Harlow’.  Bookey read there with Van Deventer and Elizabeth Tibbetts, and from that time on, jumped on board organizing regular monthly poetry events at the Harlow Gallery.  He estimates that over 100 poets have read there at his invitation including all of Maine’s poets laureate: Kate Barnes, Baron Wormser, Betsy Sholl, and Wes McNair.  

With his own love of poetry and his belief it can and should be available to a wider audience, Bookey has used his wide connections in the poetry world to bring a well-rounded slate of readers to Central Maine by way of the Harlow.  He also has provided a place where many emerging poets were given their start, including the three new leaders of the Bookey Readings at the Harlow.  Bookey says he’s filled ‘with a gladness’ to be passing the poetry readings on to ‘people who truly love poetry as an art, but also appreciate it as an entertainment’. Because of this, he feels the new hosts can’t help but do an equally good job. Bob MacLaughlin, Claire Hersom and Jay Franzel have enthusiastically accepted Bookey’s invitation to organize and lead the Harlow readings for the 2015 year, and forward.

The Harlow Gallery on Water Street in Hallowell, opened in 1963, as part of the already established Kennebec Valley Art Association whose vision of the Harlow Gallery as a cultural center for the Augusta area came to life. Primarily an art gallery, the Harlow Gallery has succeeded beyond expectations, determining over 6,000 people yearly walk through its doors.  The Bookey Readings at the Harlow will continue throughout 2015. Look for upcoming dates on the gallery website at

poet Ted Bookey