February Author Talks

“Where Corals Lie”

by Malcolm Shick, Ph.D.

Wednesday, February 27

6:00 - 8:00 PM

Lecture Hall

Books will be available for purchase.

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About the book and presentation

Along with images from his book, Dr. Shick will be talking about how corals have become part of humanity’s cultural heritage. Seen as rainforests of the sea, coral reefs have become emblematic of the fragility of marine biodiversity, their declining health a warning sign of the human-driven climate change that has produced warming seas, ocean acidification, and rising sea levels. Looking at corals as builders of islands and protectors of coastlines, as building materials themselves, as well as at the myriad ways in which diverse corals have come to figure in art, medicine, folklore, geopolitics, and international trade, Professor Shick’s book Where Corals Lie (Reaktion Books, London) reveals how the threatening has become threatened—and recalls the danger this poses to humans.

For millennia, corals were a marine enigma, organisms that confounded scientific classification and occupied a space between the animal and plant kingdoms, and even had mineral properties. Our cultural relationships with corals have been similarly ambiguous. The danger posed by unseen underwater reefs led to an association of corals with death and interment that has figured in literature, poetry, music, and film, while the bright redness of precious Mediterranean coral was associated in European and Indian mythology with its bloody origin. And yet, coral skeletons have long been prized as jewelry and ornament, featuring prominently in antique cabinets of curiosities.

The book is embellished with a wide range of biological illustrations, underwater photography, and fine art, many examples of which will be shown in this talk that opens the door onto these most peculiar of animals and explores the synergies among fine art, literature, music, mythology, and science, telling us “Where Corals Lie” in the human experience and imagination.

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About the author

Dr. Malcolm Shick is professor emeritus of Zoology and Oceanography at the University of Maine, where he served on the faculty for 40 years, first in the Department of Zoology, then the Department of Biological Sciences, and finally the School of Marine Sciences. He earned his B.S. and M.A. degrees at the College of William & Mary in Virginia and his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University.

Professor Shick conducted field research on reef corals in Bermuda and on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, with complementary laboratory studies in Orono, and at the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Centre Scientifique de Monaco. He was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1984) and received UMaine’s Presidential Research and Creative Achievement Award (1992) as well as the Presidential Outstanding Teaching Award (2014). He has served on the advisory boards of the University of Maine Museum of Art and the Maine (Collins) Center for the Arts. In addition to his many scientific publications, he recently (2018) published his second book, Where Corals Lie: A Natural and Cultural History, which emanated from his teaching and research.

You can find out more about Dr. Shick and his work on the UMaine staff page by clicking here.

Book reviews

Shick_Review Quotes from the publisher:

Charlie Veron, author of  “Corals of the World” and “A Life Underwater”

“Spectacularly illustrated, beautifully written, and compellingly original, Where Corals Lie takes us from bizarre notions of antiquity to today’s environmental crises in a triumphant amalgam of art and science.”

Robert Calcagno, CEO, Oceanographic Institute—Prince Albert I of Monaco Foundation

“Coral bleaching is one of the fastest and most significant consequences of global warming. Where Corals Lie stands out by giving cultural and spiritual significance to this environmental disaster. Shick masterfully brings forward the symbolical and intellectual value of corals and leads us to the crucial question: are we really willing to lose such a treasure?”

Vicki Buchsbaum Pearse, Institute of Marine Sciences, University California, Santa Cruz

“As a biologist familiar with corals, I found this book’s concept extremely appealing and intriguing. Its all-embracing scope combined with the author’s wonderful curiosity and diligent scholarship have together resulted in a remarkable collection of richly illustrated accounts and stories. I know of no other book like it.”

Nancy Knowlton, Smithsonian Natural History Museum

Where Corals Lie takes the reader on a widely ranging and richly illustrated tour of corals, not just their biology and currently threatened state, but also how their history interweaves with ours. It is beautifully written and deeply informed on an astonishing range of topics—a book where science shares the table with figures as diverse as Ovid and Obama.”

March Author Talks

“"Trash Detail: Stories" and "Forms and Shade: Poems" 

by Bruce Pratt

Bruce Pratt will discuss writing in difference genres and well as read from both of his books. There will be time for questions following Bruce's presentation.

Bruce is an award-winning short story writer, poet, and playwright. He is the author of the novel The Serpents of Blissfull from Mountain State Press, the poetry collection Boreal from Antrim House Books, The Trash Detail: Stories from New Rivers Press, and the poetry chapbook Forms and Shades from Clare Songbirds Publishing. His fiction, poetry, drama, and essays have appeared in more than forty magazines, reviews, and journals across the United States, and in Canada, Ireland, and Wales. He is the editor of American Fiction.


Bruce teaches at the University of Maine and through workshops sponsored by the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance.

You can find out more about Bruce on his website.

Books will be available for sale.

Pratt edits American Fiction, for which he won the Midwest Independent Publishers Association’s Gold Medal for Volume 13 and is the past Director of the Northern Writes Project at Penobscot Theatre Company in Bangor Maine. He graduated from Franklin and Marshall College with a BA in Religious Studies in 1973, The University of Maine with an MA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing in 2001, and The University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA in 2004 with a degree in creative writing. He and his wife, Janet, live in Swanville Maine.


Bruce Pratt’s poems are smart and accomplished. He keeps a close watch on the natural world, and an even closer one on human nature. Boreal is a collection which extends pleasure to insight on every page.  

-Gerald Costanzo

A memorable outpouring of passion and paradox, Pratt’s pitch-perfect poems entwine uncertainties into a retrospective which rather than striking back at experience, holds it gracefully, gratefully, close at hand. Again and again I’m drawn back into these poems of faith, deeply rooted in a man standing firm, chest-deep in the current of each passing, uncertain moment, any desire to be rescued not out of fear but because someone looked for you and not finding you where you should be / dove into the waves for love.          

-Dzvinia Orlowsky


A 2008 Pushcart Award nominee, Pratt’s novel, The Serpents of Blissfull, was published by Mountain State Press in 2011, and his short story collection The Trash Detail was published in 2018 by New Rivers Press. He won the 2007 Andre Dubus Award, and was a runner up or finalist for the 2007 fiction award from Georgetown Review, the 2007 flash fiction prize from Mindprints, the 2006 Ontario Prize, the 2005 Rick DeMarinis Short Story Award, and the 2003 Fiction Award from Dogwood. His short fiction has also appeared in The Greensboro Review, The Boston Fiction Annual Review, The Dos Passos Review, WordSmitten Quarterly Journal, Briar Cliff Review, Portland Magazine, Watchword, The Staccato Literary Magazine, The Gihon River Review, The Dalhousie Review, Puckerbrush Review, Cooweescoowee, Existere, Vermont Literary Review, Hawk and Handsaw, The Blue Earth Review, Diner, Roanoke Review, Potomac Review, The Wisconsin Review, The Platte Valley Review, The Binnacle, Apocalypse, Crosscut, Stolen Island Review, and The Trust and Treachery Anthology


Pratt’s poetry collection Boreal is available from Antrim House Book, and his chapbook, Forms and Shades will be published in February 2019 from Clare Songbirds Publishing. He was the winner of the 2007 Ellipsis Prize in poetry, a finalist for the Erskine J. Poetry award from Smartish Pace, and his poems have appeared in: The Book of Villanelles from Knopf’s Everyman Series, the anthology Only Connect, (Cinnamon Press, Wales) Veils, Halos and Shackles, International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women, (Kasva Press) Smartish Pace, Revival (Ireland), Puckerbrush Review, The Hiram Poetry Review The Naugatuck Review, The Poet’s Touchstone, Rock and Sling, Red Rock Review, Iguana Review, Sin Fronteras, The Tipton Journal, Crosscut, The Unrorean, Heartland Review, Wild Goose Poetry Review and The Goose River Anthology.

Nonfiction and Journalism

His nonfiction has appeared in The Truth About The Fact Anthology, Yale Anglers’ Journal, Vermont Literary Review, The Hartford Courant, Bangor Daily News, Salty Dog, Bangor Metro, and Portland Magazine.


His play Electrolysis was performed at the 2008 Maine Short Play Festival and included in the 2nd Annual Northern Writes Festival, and his short play Polygamy appeared in Literal Latte in 2009. Barter a one-act was included in the 2010 Maine Play Festival and The Northern Writes Festival, where it won an audience choice award. Wednesday? was featured in the 2010 0-60 Longwood Play Festival in Virginia, and at Words and Wine in New York City. Beaching, a ten-minute play was part of the 2011 Northern Writes Festival and won the audience choice award. Schubert’s Monkey was one of three short plays chosen for the 2012 Northern Writes New Works Festival, and Memories of Paradise appeared in Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature, and in the 2013 Maine Play Festival. His play full-length play The King of France won the 2016 Meetinghouse Theatre Lab's play competition, and his full length play Radio Silent won the same award in 2017. In August 2018 the same group will present a number of his one-act plays.