UMF welcomes Maine’s newest Poet Laureate to Creative Writing Dept

By: Jessica Gervais, Contributing Writer

FARMINGTON – The University of Maine at Farmington recently welcomed Julia Bouwsma as the new professor of creative writing; Bouwsma also had the honor of being named Maine’s Poet Laureate earlier this summer.

Bouwsma has been writing poetry since she was in the third grade.

“I tell people I either wanted to be a poet or a pirate…I really liked pirates,” Bouwsma said.

Penelope Lawrence, a family friend and professor at Yale who came to her elementary school and volunteered to teach a class, was a huge influence who started her off on her writing career. Lawrence would take ‘adult poems’ as opposed to children’s poems and teach the kids about them, the students then memorized poems and got prompts they had to write about, according to Bouwsma.

It would seem that Bouwsma has always held a wild and free-running imagination right from the very early beginning.

“Poetry was sort of my first love with writing and it still is,” she said.

Because Bouwsma was only just recently elected as Maine’s Poet Laureate she said she is listening and learning every single day to find out more of what the title means, however she has plenty of ideas of how to utilize the title on her own.

To her being Maine’s Poet Laureate means more opportunity to know fellow Maine poets and work with them to expand Maine’s poet community. Bouwsma said she’s in the “throwing mashed potatoes at the ceiling to see what sticks” stage of her journey as a poet laureate. She expressed that she has many project ideas and just isn’t yet ready to share them. Although she did share that throughout her five-year term she plans to find other poets to collaborate with.

“I always think more minds are better than just mine.”

She explained that Maine is a wide state with very many different broad communities, there are plenty of chances to grow the poetry community. Teaching poetry is really important to her and she hopes to help grow connections between poets and the public, private, and home-school systems to further expand these connections.



From Former Beaver to Published Poet: Zackary Lavoie

From Former Beaver to Published Poet: Zackary Lavoie

By Emilee Eustis Contributing Writer

Zackary Lavoie is a pickleball master, a heavenly singer, the owner of a guinea pig named Gerald, and now a pu-

2017 Graduate Zack Lavoie published his first chapbook in early 2018.(Photo courtesy of Zack Lavoie

blished writer. The UMF graduate is making waves in the business of poetry writing with his recently released chapbook Upheavals.

   Though Lavoie majored in English, his interest has always been in poetry. “I find a lot of beauty in the brevity of [poetry],” said Lavoie. “It forces one to read intensely, and I think that is a great thing.”

   Today, Lavoie works as an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Specialist Editor for a global platform and edits documents for those whose language is not primarily English. But when Lavoie is not editing, he is feverishly working on his poetry.

    During Lavoie’s time at UMF, he was awarded with the Alice James Books Director’s Chair Fellowship, which gave the benefits of working one-on-one with publishers to strengthen his skills. Like many successful writers, Lavoie’s publication did not come without struggles.

   “Grammar plays a different sort of role in the book. Capitalization, spacing, and even spelling all shift and wobble, and letting that happen is difficult,” Lavoie said, “Sort of like holding the leash of an angry, out of control, ten-thousand-pound dog.”  

   Through his journey, Lavoie has made many connections to remind him that the struggles are worth the outcome. “I’ve been lucky enough to meet some really wonderful poets, editors, and other incredibly influential folks while writing Upheavals,” said Lavoie. After two years of meeting and greeting, long editing processes, and publication work, Lavoie’s chapbook Upheavals has made it to print – but his work does not end there.

   Lavoie has much to celebrate, but he understands that work cannot always be perfect. Lavoie quickly learned that it is easy to become “to

Zack Lavoie’s chapbook, “Upheavals.” (Photo courtesy of Zack Lavoie)

o poetic” and let a poem become bigger than it should.

   “It’s important to remember to be observant, and sometimes that means narrowing your focus to little moments,” Lavoie said. But Lavoie also realizes the boundaries that poetry can challenge, and said, “It’s our jobs as poets to translate it.”

   Lavoie has poems online and in print in Empty Mirror Magazine, OCCULUM Journal and Dirty Paws Poetry Review, with his next piece waiting to be published in the Longleaf Review. As for more books, Lavoie said he has a manuscript for a full length that is being worked on, but it is “still in infancy.”

   On April 12th, Lavoie will be attending a reading at the Farmington Public Library with Jeffrey Thomson, a UMF poet and professor, and another UMF grad, Audrey Gidman.

   Copies of Lavoie’s chapbook can be purchased online at Amazon, online and in-stores at Barnes & Noble, at the Farmington Public Library, and on his website