New Venue for 20th Annual Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival

This year’s festival will offer a variety of events throughout April, including a panel discussion on April 22, and culminates with an in-person keynote address by Betts on April 29.

Reginald Dwayne Betts
Photo of Reginald Dwayne Betts by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

The 20th Annual Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival at UMA will feature Reginald Dwayne Betts, “2021 MacArthur Fellow, award winning author, poet, lawyer, and outspoken advocate for criminal justice reform” as its keynote poet for an in-person event* at the Kennebec Savings Bank Fireside Lounge on April 29, 2022 at 7:00 pm (doors open at 6:30 pm).

This event is free and open to the public, however, registration is required for in-person attendees. For those who do not wish to attend in person, the event will also be live-streamed on Zoom.

The participation of Betts, as well as other festival programming, will connect the Plunkett Poetry Festival to UMA’s 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.

This Plunkett Poetry Festival 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.

*In accordance with University of Maine System COVID-19 protocols in place at this time, face coverings are required for anyone attending events in UMS facilities.

Panel Discussion – April 22, 2022

A Panel Discussion on Literature and Social Justice will be held on Friday, April 22, from 4:00 – 5:30 pm. Panelists will include Julie Bouwsma; Samaa Abdurraqib, Poet and Maine Humanities Council Educator; Jaed Coffin, memoirist and essayist; and Joseph Jackson, poet and director of Maine Prisoners Advocacy Coalition. This event will be held via Zoom. Those interested in attending should register to receive the webinar link.

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.