The 20th annual Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival at the University of Maine at Augusta is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, April 29, at the Susan and Barry Farber Forum, 46 University Drive. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

The event features Reginald Dwayne Betts, the 2021 MacArthur Fellow and an award-winning author, poet, lawyer and outspoken advocate for criminal justice reform as its keynote poet.

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. This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required at

The festival also will offer a poetry workshop on Friday, April 8, a panel discussion on Friday, April 22, and an in-person keynote address by Betts on April 29.

Betts’ most recent work is largely concerned with effects of incarceration, including homelessness, drug abuse and 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 has lived a life that speaks to redemption, attending law school and working in public defense and advocacy, according to a news release from the university.

A poetry workshop with Maine Poet Laureate Julia Bouwsma is set for 4-5:30 p.m. April 8 via Zoom. This event will be limited to 15 participants. Those interested in participating in the workshop can email Ellen Taylor at for details.


Bouwsma is the sixth Poet Laureate of Maine and an off-the-grid homesteader, poet, librarian, editor and teacher. Bouwsma is the author of two poetry collections, “Midden” and “Work by Bloodlight.” Honors she has received include the 2019 and 2018 Maine Literary Awards for Poetry Book, the 2016-17 Poets Out Loud Prize, and the 2015 Cider Press Review Book Award. She is director of Webster Library in Kingfield, and teaches in the creative writing department at the University of Maine at Farmington.

A panel discussion on Literature and Social Justice will is scheduled from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 22. Panelists include 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 at

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.

For more information, contact Taylor at or 207-621-3114.

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