Friday, April 07, 2006

Maine writers lose a friend

The Maine writing community lost one of its shining lights on Wednesday, with the passing of Constance Hunting. The longtime University of Maine writing professor, who taught both creative writing and literature, was a champion of both the writers and the literature that captured Maine, without the jaundiced eye towards its people and places and the materialist revisionism that Down East and other similar publications specialize in.

What made Hunting special was her love of literature and writing that was uniquely Maine. While Maine’s small press community continues to contract, Hunting’s Puckerbrush Press (founded in 1971) turned out books about Maine, poetry and other regional works that mattered, for over 30 years.

When I was a student at UMaine in the 1980s, Hunting was a member of the faculty that exuded the intellectual integrity and passion that professors all used to possess, back before a college degree became just another commodity. Consequently, Hunting had the resepect of all the students, even those of us who weren't writers, at the time. I can remember attending poetry readings on campus she had organized and put on, because I wanted to familiarize myself with Maine writing and its practitioners.

UMaine president, Robert Kennedy, accurately captured Hunting’s place in the college’s community, as quoted in the college’s newspaper, the Maine Campus, “Her creativity was a gift to our community, and her positive influence on countless students is a wonderful legacy. My thoughts go out to her family and friends at this difficult time."

Hunting was someone who appreciated literature and its unique appeal and understood that books and writers didn’t necessarily need to be commercially viable, to matter. Hunting serves as a beacon and an inspiration to small press publishers, everywhere. For over three decades, Puckerbrush Press provided a place for writers to find support and a platform for their works. Like most publishers who care about the melody and cadence of the written word, irrespective of its inherent dollar value, Hunting labored in a small, but very important corner of the publishing universe.

Because of her tireless promotion of Maine and the literature that captured the Pine Tree State, many might be surprised to know that Hunting wasn't a native Mainer, but "from away," moving here from Rhode Island in 1968, at the age of 43. When she arrived in Maine, she immediately embraced and identified with Maine’s unique culture (a culture that continues to slip away and become a caricature, thanks to many of the current crop of publishers operating in the state). Hunting never sought to exploit her adopted state, nor its denizens. For Maine writers like Carolyn Chute, Sanford Phippen and James Kelman, Hunting helped provide a place that launched them to a wider audience. She also helped to introduce a new generation to the works of May Sarton. In addition, she continued to be a champion of first-time Maine writers.

Here is a good profile of Hunting and Puckerbrush Press, from the Maine Perspective. Here is another article on Hunting, from 2001, in UMaine Today.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Sam Hunting said...

Thanks for the kind words about my mother and Puckerbrush Press.

In conjunction with other members of the Maine literary community, I'm working out a way to continue the Press.

One obvious way forward into the digital era ("literature for the 21st Century") would be to create a web site, which I am doing. So, stay tuned.

sam_hunting2004@yahoo.com

2:23 PM  

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