Midden charts the fragmented stories of the citizens of Malaga Island, whose mixed-race community was destroyed by the state of Maine in 1911. The residents were scattered, many incarcerated in the Maine School for the Feeble-Minded, others dying destitute. Poet Tess Taylor, staff writer for NPR, describes Bouwsma’s achievement:
Shuttling between the early 20th century and the cabin in Maine where Bouwsma now lives and farms, the poems summon and live with their ghosts with enormous, deliberate tenderness. "All winter, I tried to write the island/ to life, labored// these voices, the people torn/ up" she writes, before adding "all winter, the beaver hung in my shed,/ her body frozen and still, / upside down in the dark."
Midden was selected for the POL Prize by poet Afaa M. Weaver from over 200 manuscripts submitted. The POL Prizes Series, edited by Elisabeth Frost for Fordham Press, publishes two poetry titles annually in an international competition. Excerpts from the winner of the POL Editor’s Prize, Henk Rossouw’s Xamissa, have also been honored: selections have just been published in the anthology Best Experimental Writing 2018 from Wesleyan University Press.