Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival

Plunkett Breaks Out | Virtual Event April 30

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This past year has been challenging. We have been quarantining, masking, “pivoting,” rising up, breaking down, and just trying to keep it together.

To mark the events of this moment, the annual Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival will break out of its usual format to celebrate the University of Maine at Augusta’s (UMA) 2020-2021 academic theme of “Outbreak,” a topic inclusive of viral outbreaks, outbreaks of social justice, and outbreaks of creativity.

The Plunkett Festival will partner with the UMA Danforth Gallery to provide a virtual multifaceted literary and arts event on April 30, 2021. Additional details on the Danforth Gallery Exhibition are available here.

Baron WormserProviding the keynote for the event will be Maine’s former poet laureate (2000 – 2006), Baron Wormser. Wormser is the author of nine collections of poetry, as well as two texts on pedagogy, a memoir, and two collections of essays.  He is an avid defender of poetry, peace, and the power of language to make collective change. Wormser will speak on UMA’s academic theme of Outbreak, as well as read some of his work.

The April 30 event will be filled with readings, art exhibits, an art installation, and a performance by artist and UMA part-time lecturer, Patricia Brace.

The event will also recognize those selected to receive awards in the annual Student Poetry Contest, which invites University of Maine System undergraduate students and Maine high school students to submit poems for recognition.

This year two additional contests were added, the Outbreak! Writing Project, which will recognize written pieces including poems, flash fiction, short stories, creative nonfiction, essays, or any combination of blurred genres from the community and the Outbreak Project Exhibition, which invited Maine visual artists from UMA, high schools, and surrounding communities to submit work for a juried exhibition at the Danforth Gallery. Outbreak Project Exhibition awards will be announced during the April 30 programming.

Those receiving awards will read or display their works as part of the program.

A tentative program schedule* for April 30 follows:

2:00 pm Welcome
2:15 pm Student Poetry Contest Readings and Awards
High School Plunkett Poetry Contest Awards
UMS Plunkett Poetry Contest Awards
2:45 pm

Gallery Performance

by Patricia Brace followed by a Zoom Q&A with the Brace and Liz Rhaney, Heather Lyon and Riley Watts, artists who also have performed during the Outbreak Exhibition.

3:45 pm

Musical Interlude

“The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman
Scored by the University of Maine at Augusta’s Global Rhythms Ensemble
Directed by Brian Shankar Adler

4:00 pm Outbreak Exhibition Project Awards
4:30 pm Outbreak! Writing Project Readings and Awards
5:00 pm

Baron Wormser Keynote:

Outbreak Time, Three Poets from One Decade: Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath, Bob Dylan
via livestream

5:30 pm Baron Wormser Reading and Q & A
via livestream

*Times are estimated and subject to change. 

About the Plunkett Poetry Festival

The Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival, held in April each year, was established in 2002 to honor the memory and accomplishments of Terry Plunkett, an English professor at the University of Maine at Augusta for nearly thirty years. An outstanding teacher and mentor to many students, Terry was also co-editor of Kennebec: A Portfolio of Maine Writing, an annual magazine published by the university from 1977-1992 and distributed free throughout the state. Many Maine writers first saw their work in print in Kennebec, thanks to Terry’s encouragement and guidance.

A poet and fiction writer as well as a teacher and editor, Terry helped organize and direct the Maine Poets Festival, a hugely popular celebration of poets and poetry, which ran from 1976-1983 at UMA, the College of the Atlantic, and the Maine College of Art.

His son, Duff Plunkett, also a poet, was a champion of the arts in general and the Plunkett Festival in particular. He sat on the organizing committee for 17 years, where he brought his signature wit, creativity, and ingenuity to the festival program. In Portland, Duff was a mainstay at readings and a supporter of both developing and celebrated poets. He worked as an international economist, traveling extensively around the globe, especially in Africa. Fluent in at least eight different languages, Duff’s cultural breadth was extensive.

To honor the memory of both Terry and Duff, the festival has been renamed the Plunkett Poetry Festival.

Discover past Keynote Poets

Baron WormserProviding the keynote for the event was Maine’s former poet laureate (2000 – 2006), Baron Wormser. Wormser is the author of nine collections of poetry, as well as two texts on pedagogy, a memoir, and two collections of essays.  He is an avid defender of poetry, peace, and the power of language to make collective change. Wormser will speak on UMA’s academic theme of Outbreak, as well as read some of his work.

2021 Plunkett Poetry Festival

While we were saddened to have canceled the 2020 Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival due to the COVID-19 pandemic response, we are pleased to highlight the work of emergent poets from Maine’s high schools and universities. Below are the winning poets from the 18th annual poetry contest. Thank you to all who participated, and congratulations to the winners. Keep writing, all!

Poetry Contest

Undergraduate Contest Winners
High School Contest Winners
Martin Espada
Keynote Poet, Martín Espada. Image courtesy of David González.

Our keynote poet was Martin Espada.

Martin Espada has published almost twenty books as a poet, editor, essayist and translator. His latest collection of poems from Norton is called Vivas to Those Who Have Failed (2016). Other books of poems include The Trouble Ball (2011), The Republic of Poetry (2006), Alabanza (2003), A Mayan Astronomer in Hell’s Kitchen (2000), Imagine the Angels of Bread (1996), City of Coughing and Dead Radiators (1993) and Rebellion is the Circle of a Lover’s Hands (1990).

His many honors include the 2018 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, the Robert Creeley Award, the National Hispanic Cultural Center Literary Award, an American Book Award, the PEN/Revson Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. The Republic of Poetry was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The title poem of his collection Alabanza, about 9/11, has been widely anthologized and performed. His book of essays, Zapata’s Disciple (1998), was banned in Tucson as part of the Mexican-American Studies Program outlawed by the state of Arizona, and has been issued in a new edition by Northwestern University Press. A former tenant lawyer in Greater Boston’s Latino community, Espada is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Sharon Olds
Photo: Brett Hall Jones

Our keynote poet was Sharon Olds.

Ms. Olds’ indelible mark on American poetry began in the 1970s, and she continues to impress readers and audiences. Considered to be on of America’s greatest living poets, Olds has spent decades writing her truth: about love and sex, childbirth and death, social consciousness and the limits of self-knowledge. Winner of the 2016 Academy of American Poets’ Wallace Stevens Award, she was praised as an “American Mater, and a national treasure.”

Sharon Olds at UMA


  • Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival 2018
    Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival 2018

On April 21st, 2017 poet Naomi Shihab Nye was our keynote poet for our 15th annual Plunket Maine Poetry Festival. An internationally renowned writer, Naomi has over thirty publications that blend her life experiences and heritage as a Palestinian American, in poetry, fiction, and children’s literature. Poet Ibtisam Barakat has written, “Naomi’s incandescent humanity and voice can change the world, or someone’s world.”

Naomi Shihab Nye describes herself as a “wandering poet.” She has spent 40 years traveling the country and the world to lead writing workshops and inspiring students of all ages. Her experiences traveling in Asia, Europe, Canada, Mexico, and the Middle East, inform her work and her life, and she uses her writing to attest to our shared humanity.

Ms. Nye read from her work, answered audience questions, and signed hundreds of books.

Naomi Shihab Nye at UMA Part 1

Naomi Shihab Nye at UMA Part 2 »

Naomi Shihab Nye at UMA Part 3 »

Naomi Shihab Nye at UMA Part 4 »


  • Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival 2017
    Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival 2017

The Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival hosted Richard Blanco, on Saturday, April 9, 2016, at UMA. Blanco rose to fame after his inaugural poem for President Obama, “One Today,” went viral. He has since published two volumes of poetry and a memoir, The Prince of Los Cocuyos. As a Cuban-American, Blanco has become a spokesperson for immigration, as well as LGBT rights. Blanco read from his poetry and shared family photos to accompany his verse.

Richard Blanco at UMA Part 1

Richard Blanco at UMA Part 2 »

Richard Blanco at UMA Part 3 »


  • Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival 2016
    Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival 2016

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