Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival

The 2024 Plunkett Poetry Festival was held on Saturday, April 27th.

Our keynote speaker was Brian Turner.

Turner is best known for his poems about serving in the Iraqi war, and these poems resonate today given current global conflicts. His poems are empathic and intersectional, often showing multiple points of view and the ripple effects of violence on a community.

Life of a Poet: Brian Turner

here bullet cover brian turner

Plunkett 2024 Festival

Panel Discussion on Publishing

2:45 – 3:45 pm
Farber Forum, Jewett Hall, UMA Augusta Campus

  • Steve Luttrell of Café Review: International Journal of Art and Poetry
    Café Review is a quarterly publication, dedicated to bringing the art and poetry of the world to Maine and the art and Poetry of Maine to the world for the past 35 years. The journal rose from the cafes of Portland, where some of the poets organized to put local open readings into print. Overtime, the monthly edition became quarterly, and visual art became an integral part of the review. Submissions from around the country and beyond. The journal continues to be created by an all-volunteer staff committed to the muse.
  • Maya Stein of Kerning Journal and Toad Hall Edition
    Toad Hall Editions is a small press located in mid-coast Maine and launched in March 2021. We are a small team: Amy Tingle (Creative Director), Liz Kalloch (Design Director), and Maya Stein (Editorial Director). We offer an alternative publishing platform to those whose work lives in the liminal spaces and who struggle to find themselves represented in the more traditional publishing arenas. We publish the work of women and gender-diverse writers—progressive, LGBTQIA+, minority, or otherwise still-too-often unheard voices. We look for authentic and inspiring writers, poets, and artists, both new and established, whose work we will help to refine, publish, and promote. kerning | a space for words is our biannual journal, featuring poems, short fiction, personal essays, and creative nonfiction centered on a new theme for each issue. For more information about our work and upcoming calls for submission, visit
  • Agnes Bushell of Littoral Books
    Littoral Books is an independent literary press based in Portland, Maine, dedicated to publishing beautiful books by writers and artists from Maine and New England. Originally founded in 1975, it was one of the founding presses of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. Since 2018, the press has published four or five books a year, including novels and works of non-fiction, books of short stories and poetry, and nine volumes in our Contemporary Maine Poetry Series, one of which, Enough! Poems of Resistance and Protest was the recipient of the 2021 Maine Literary Award for Anthologies.

    Littoral Books is proud to be a Maine press, and to play an active role in Maine’s literary community through their monthly virtual program, Littorally Alive! and by holding live readings and other events, such as the Portland Poetry Festival which we initiated in 2023. Their goal as publishers is to create books which reflect the richness and diversity of our state and offer readers the dual pleasures of insightful writing and beautiful design.

Keynote Event

4:30 – 6:00 pm
Farber Forum, Jewett Hall, UMA Augusta Campus

  • UMA Jazz Students
  • Welcome by President Cushman
  • Student Poets Introduced by John McLaughlin
  • Keynote Presentation
  • Q & A

Student Poetry Contest Winners

High School Division

University of Maine System Division

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

Our Keynote Speaker was Brian Turner

Turner is best known for his poems about serving in the Iraqi war, and these poems resonate today given current global conflicts. His poems are empathic and intersectional, often showing multiple points of view and the ripple effects of violence on a community.

Student Poetry Contest Winners

High School Division

University of Maine System Division

molly mccully brown
Molly McCully Brown

Our keynote speaker was Molly McCully Brown.

Brown is the author of the essay collection Places I’ve Taken my Body— which was published in the United States in June 2020 by Persea Books, and released in the United Kingdom in March of 2021 by Faber & Faber— and the poetry collection The Virginia State Colony For Epileptics and Feebleminded (Persea Books, 2017), which won the 2016 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize and was named a New York Times Critics’ Top Book of 2017. With Susannah Nevison, she is also the coauthor of the poetry collection In The Field Between Us (Persea Books, 2020).

Brown’s poems and essays have appeared in The Paris Review, Tin House, The Guardian, Vogue, The New York Times, The Yale Review, and elsewhere. She currently teaches at Old Dominion University. Visit Brown’s website for more information.

Student Poetry Contest Winners

HS 1: Coach on My Left Sleeve, by Clara Eve Landry
HS 2: Hit, by Ali McArdle
HS 3: No Lox, by Daniel Buswell

UMS 1: Southern Ohio, Specifically, by Vincent Herrington
UMS 2: Magnetic Resonance, by Chantelle Flores
UMS 3: Genesis, by Paige McHatten

Keynote Speaker Reginald Dwayne Betts

Reginald Dwayne Betts
Photo: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

The 20th Annual Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival featured Reginald Dwayne Betts, poet, essayist, and activist as its keynote poet in person at the Fireside Lounge in the Randall Student Center. The participation of Betts, as well as other festival programming, connected the Plunkett Poetry Festival to UMA’s 2021-22 academic theme: Race and Social Justice.

Betts’ most recent work is largely concerned with effects of incarceration, including homelessness, drug abuse, domestic violence, as well as fatherhood and the possibilities of grace and love. As a man who experienced the criminal justice system as a teenager and transformed his life upon his release, Betts does more than write exemplary verse, he has lived a life that speaks to redemption, attending law school and working in public defense and advocacy.

Baron Wormser

Providing 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