"What makes a midden? Pile into a heap the following: driftwood siding of a dismantled shed; pacifier tips, bitten off; blown glass bowls splintered by mallet blows; fish entrails, undesirable; your treasured shawl, a crude dresser, whatever else didn’t make it into your tablecloth sack before they torched the place; ashes. Julia Bouwsma’s Midden does not promise completeness: when she invokes the inhabitants of Malaga Island—an interracial community of forty-five who were forcibly evicted from their homes by the State of Maine in 1912—she realizes that most of the story is gone. However, writing from her off-the-grid farm in the hills of western Maine, she channels a poetics not unlike the act of tilling, a process which begins with the discovery of what the land has accumulated. If you want to know history, dig for the wreckage, the ruins beneath our feet. 'For every sorrow that’s been dug from you,' Bouwsma writes, 'here is a pile of rubble twice as high.'"
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.