Terry Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival
Plunkett Breaks Out
A hybrid event of visual and literary arts, Friday, April 30, 2021.
This past year has been challenging. We’ve been quarantining, masking, “pivoting,” rising up, breaking down, and just trying to keep it together.
To mark the events of this moment, UMA’s 2020-2021 academic theme is “Outbreak,” inclusive of viral outbreaks, outbreaks of social justice, and outbreaks of creativity. Accordingly, the annual Plunkett Festival is changing it up. We’re partnering with our friends in the UMA Danforth Gallery and calling makers and writers of all kinds to contribute to a multifaceted literary and arts event scheduled to take place on April 30, 2021.
And while we’re hoping this event will be in person, we’re ready to take it virtual if necessary. The day will be filled with readings, art exhibits, an art installation and performance by artist Patricia Brace, and a special presentation by Maine’s former poet laureate, Baron Wormser.
Please consider contributing to one or more of our calls for creative work below.
Contact Ellen Taylor, Professor of English, for more information: email@example.com.
About Terry Plunkett
The Terry 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.
To honor his memory…
In Terry’s spirit, the annual Plunkett Poetry Festival encompasses diverse Maine voices: young and old, emerging writers and those who are well published, traditional and experimental forms. To encourage new writers, the Festival also includes poetry contests for high school and university students as well as an open microphone.
A featured poet highlights the festival program; this year the poet is Sharon Olds. Past years have included Richard Blanco, Naomi Shihab Nye, the U.S. poet laureate Donald Hall and the Maine poet laureates Betsy Sholl and Wes McNair.
Because Terry worked to make poetry accessible to all, the Plunkett Poetry Festival is always free and open to the public.
Related to the Festival is the UMA Terry Plunkett Maine Writers Collection in the Katz Library. Established in October 1999, the Plunkett Collection consists of books and videos by and about Maine authors. The primary focus of the Plunkett Collection is contemporary Maine fiction and poetry.
Discover past Keynote Poets
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!
Undergraduate Contest Winners
- 1st Place – “Helen’s Garden”
by Alyson Peabody
University of Southern Maine
- 2nd Place – “Mood Indigo: Homage to Duke Ellington”
- 3rd Place – “A Childhood, Pre Solstice”
by Grace Sleeman
University of Southern Maine
High School Contest Winners
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.
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
On April 21st, 2017 poet Naomi Shihab Nye was our keynote poet for our 15th annual Terry 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
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.