The bicentennial celebration of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's birthday will include lectures, poetry readings, performances, and yes, even cake.

The third annual Longfellow Days: the annual celebration of community runs from February 10 through February 27 and honors the life and work of the world-renowned poet, Maine native, and graduate of the Class of 1825. The events are sponsored by Bowdoin and the Brunswick Downtown Association.

Unlike previous years' events, when the celebrations centered around a specific Longfellow poem, this year's festivities emphasize his overall legacy.

"Instead of picking a specific poem, we chose to honor the 200th birthday of Longfellow in a more general sense," said Claudia Knox of the Brunswick Downtown Association.

Planned events will be held on the Bowdoin campus and at several Brunswick locations. According to Knox, this will help to "bridge the gap between Bowdoin and the rest of the Brunswick community in a meaningful sort of way." All of the events are free, another way in which Knox said the celebration will bring the community together.

"We didn't want cost to be an inhibitor to celebrating," Knox said.

The Longfellow Days kick off with Brunswick and Topsham events on February 10 with a poetry slam and a documentary about one of Longfellow's best-known poems, "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere."

On February 23, noted biographers Charles Calhoun and Christoph Irmscher will present a joint lecture, "Longfellow at 200: Why Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Was the Most Famous Bowdoin Graduate Ever." Calhoun, author of "Longfellow: A Life Rediscovered", and Irmscher, "Longfellow Redux," have each written extensively on the life and works of Longfellow.

"The common myth about Longfellow is that he was a stuffy Victorian with a long beard who wrote sentimental ditties," Irmscher wrote in an e-mail to the Orient. Instead, Irmscher asserts that the work of Longfellow was intended to be read by the common man, regardless of social class or educational background.

"[His work] was meant for the masses...[he] saw to it that so many of his books were available in editions that were affordable. He was a poet of the people."

Following the lecture by Calhoun and Irmscher, current Bowdoin students will read several of Longfellow's student letters, including one addressed to his sister and another to his parents. In them, he eloquently and affectionately describes daily life at the College, his living situation, and his studies. (He writes to his parents, "I find I have sufficient time for the preparation of my lessons and for amusement.")

On Saturday, February 24 in Kresge Auditorium, performances by Maine's Poet Laureate Betsy Scholl, a Topsham ballet school, the Bowdoin woodwinds, and the campus a capella group The Longfellows, will honor Longfellow through verse, dance, and song.

On February 26, a facsimile of a bronze plaque commemorating Longfellow with a short excerpt from his poem, "Keramos," will be unveiled at a Brunswick town meeting. Crafted by Lily Abt '08, Mina Bartovics '07, Emma Sears '06, Allegra Spalding '08, Sean Sullivan '08, Kerry Twombly '08, Mary Vargo '06, and Professor of Art Mark Wethli, the plaque will be set into the lower Maine Street sidewalk (between Pleasant Street and Mason Street) this spring or summer.

The Longfellow plaque is the first in a series of four as part of a planned downtown literary arts walk. The other plaques will commemorate Nathaniel Hawthorne (Class of 1825), Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Robert P.T. Coffin (Class of 1915), all respected and well-known authors.

"Because Brunswick is such a historical town, [we] wanted to make a meaningful monument" said Bartovics. "The hope is that people will pause to read these plaques, and take a moment to think about what each one says."

Professor Wethli sees the plaques as "an expression of civic pride in these authors' ties to Brunswick."

"I'm very proud of the work this group of students accomplished together, and delighted that their designs, as well as the words and sentiments they convey, will add something to the community of Brunswick for many years to come," added Wethli.

The Longfellow Days will conclude on February 27?Longfellow's actual birthday?with a poetry reading by Brunswick fourth-grader students at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Pleasant Street. Cake, courtesy of Wild Oats Bakery, will be served afterward.

"Our approach has been that the Longfellow Days should be about fun," said Knox. "It should be about getting together, exchanging ideas, and having a good time, especially in the middle of winter."

Click here to access a full schedule of events [external link].