Profile on Visiting Writer Oliver de la Paz

By Robert Drinkwater Contributing Writer

    Oliver de la Paz, poet and College of the Holy Cross professor, is scheduled to come to UMF on March 7th and will read from his works at the Emery Performance Space as the first visiting writer of the spring semester.

   Despite living in Massachusetts, this is not de la Paz’s first time in Farmington. “I’ve visited Farmington about 11-12 years ago back when April Ossmann was the executive director of Alice James Books,” said de la Paz in an email interview. “I’ve also got a number of friends who teach and work in the area.”

   When it comes to inspiration for writing de la Paz said, “ I’m most inspired by what I am currently reading in terms of poetry. I write ‘dialogically’ or in dialogue with other works of art.”

   De la Paz mentioned that his poems will focus on one subject and paying close attention to something that someone may not notice. “For someone who wants to know about my poems and poetry I would describe it as obsessive and interested in closely looking at or regarding a subject,” de la Paz said. “I like to zoom in on things people don’t notice.”

   His children are also what inspires him to write. “Three of my children have special needs and two of them are on the autism spectrum,” de la Paz said. “I recently completed a book length collection of poems that is inspired by parenting and learning to understand what it means to be a parent of children on the spectrum.”

   De la Paz has been a lifelong writer, “I’ve been writing my entire life” said de la Paz, “ I became serious about writing poetry in my early twenties but had written poems at my leisure before then. When I took the work seriously I had applied to schools to apprentice with some notable writers including Alberto Ríos, Beckian Fritz Goldberg, and Norman Dubie at Arizona State University. That was back in the early 90’s.”

   When it comes to describing his poetry, de la Paz said, “Some days I describe my poetry as ‘a chore,’ others days I describe my poetry as ‘my lifeline.’”

   In terms of who has influenced him, de la Paz said, “My most pressing and important influence is often who I’m currently reading. Right now I’m reading a wonderful novel by Jon Pineda entitled ‘Let’s No One Get Hurt,’ I’m reading a new collection of poems by January Gil O’Neil entitled ‘Rewilding,’ and a book by Sarah Gambito entitled ‘Loves You.’”

   “In the past I was strongly influenced by the work of poet Larry Levis and Li Young Lee as well as my teachers whom I’ve mentioned,” de la Paz said, “And when I was starting out I was really strongly influenced by Sylvia Plath.”

   Creative Writing professor and Director of the Visiting Writers Series Jeffrey Thomson is also familiar with de la Paz’s work. “I’ve read his books and I knew him by reputation,” said Thomson. “He’s a good guy.”

   The Creative Writing program, along with The Writers Guild, sponsor the visiting writers events usually held in the Landing a couple of times per semester. They try to bring in six to seven writers per year.

   “People are doing exciting work in contemporary literature,” said Thomson.

UMF New Commons Project Selects Kendrick Lamar Album “DAMN.”

UMF New Commons Project Selects Kendrick Lamar Album “DAMN.”

By Jeremy Austin Staff Reporter


Kendrick Lamar’s album damn gets into his life and how he became a successful rapper. (Photo courtesy of Spotify)

For the month of February, the UMF New Commons Project is exhibiting their selection of rapper Kendrick Lamar’s 2017 album DAMN. as an essential work both to the students on campus and to the populace of Maine as a whole.

   The goal of the project according to its director UMF English professor Kristen Case is twofold. “The first,” Case said, “is we wanted to talk to people all around the state about cultural works… that they care about and hear about why they think they’re important.” Works included paintings, albums, movies, books, etc., and overall there were 160 submissions.

   “Another really important part of it,” Case continued, “is [helping] articulating some ideas about why the humanities matter.” These works all came from either UMF students or from folks all around the state, with the goal of creating both the sense of a cultural commons in the state as well as promoting the importance of the humanities.

   The album’s nomination, a video sent in by Kara Chandler of Oakland, made the case for why the album should be selected by the project. “As popular as Lamar is,” Chandler explains, “I feel like he doesn’t get the correct amount of recognition for the content of his songs that he deserves—especially for the songs on this album that target relevant topics in today’s society such as racial bias, poverty and police brutality.”

   Chandler describes the album’s first eight tracks, starting with the opening spoken word piece called, “BLOOD.,” and ending with the album’s lead single, “HUMBLE.” The songs cover a wide selection of social issues that Chandler goes through, including being black and famous (“YAH.”), poverty (‘FEEL.”), loyalty (“LOYALTY.”), and the notion that he’s the same on the inside as everyone else regardless of his skin color (“DNA.”).

   On selecting the album, Case said that Chandler’s video made a really convincing argument. “She basically talked about the impact it had on her as a high school student to be hearing this music,” Case said. “Many of us just felt moved by that argument and actually persuaded by it.”

   She went on to say that she and the others on the committee of faculty, students, community members and many others felt that this was an important experience for a high school student in a “rural, mostly white community” to have.

   The project’s assistant director, UMF postdoctoral fellow of Digital and Public Humanities Stephen Grandchamp, said in an email interview, “The original nomination video was particularly powerful in explaining how the album inspires today’s youth to become politically engaged. More than that, DAMN. is a fantastic example from an important contemporary artistic genre (hip hop) that is meaningful to our community.”

   Grandchamp also said of the entire project, “One of the aspects of the New Commons Project I love most is how it opens a discussion of artistic works among various populations in our community… Many of the most rewarding moments have been when these groups—students, faculty, community members, etc.—articulate why they believe a work, genre, or author is particularly important to them.”

UMF Intervarsity Fellowship Helping After the Hurricane

UMF Intervarsity Fellowship Helping After the Hurricane

Alexis Wyman-LaBelle  Staff Reporter


Students Jessica Doyon and Katie Franke working at the bake sale to earn money for the Puerto Rico trip in March. (Photo courtesy of Alexis Wyman-Labelle)

   The Intervarsity fellowship is preparing to go to Puerto Rico to help rebuild after the destruction after Hurricane Maria. The hurricane left the island without power and with an estimate over $8 million in damage.

   Intervarsity is a Christian fellowship on campus that partnered with ServeUp, a national organization that sets up missions trips, to make this trip happen. 20 students plan on attending this trip to Puerto Rico during spring break. Each of the attendees needs approximately $800 to attend. The plane tickets have been purchased by Intervarsity already so the students are hard at work trying to make enough money.

   Emily Murphy, a junior, is a participant who’s been actively involved with planning the trip is excited to attend. Murphy has been taking trips like these since her Freshman year, when a trip to New Orleans was offered.

   The goals of the trips taken are often to rebuild communities that have been destroyed by natural disasters. Intervarsity has never traveled to Puerto Rico before. Prior to this, they’ve traveled to New Orleans and Baton Rouge.  Murphy says these trips are the best weeks of her life.

   “Doing something meaningful for other people,” Murphy exclaimed, “is a great way to spend spring break.”

   The trip is currently being funded by the students who are participating. Funding opportunities such as a bake sale and bottle drive have been executed. The members and participants of the trip have also discussed holding a community dinner to help with the overall cost.

   Another attendee, Jessica Doyon, a junior, is an Intervarsity member who is attending the trip, thinks this will be a meaningful experience. “The goal is to take what we hear from the news and experience it ourselves,” Doyon said. Doyon is also excited about meeting new people, and forming new relationships with other students.
   Doyon is an education major who is currently focusing on age groups birth to 5-years-old and kindergarten to third grade.

   “This trip will be a  great way to connect,” Doyon said. “It’s a great way for people you see everyday to get closer with them. I can’t wait to spend my time helping people.”

   During the week the students are down there, the opportunity to interact with the community is available to them. They are able to play with the local children which will be especially fun for Doyon and Shaoning Gu.
   Shaoning Gu, an exchange student from Shijiazhuang, China is also attending the trip.

   “I know there are many homeless people there, I am hoping to build houses and play with the kids,” Gu said in an online interview. Gu is hoping to bring awareness of the people in Puerto Rico who need prayers and care to UMF. Gu is hoping by going on this trip, she’ll make friends and understand Christianity.

   The goal of the trip is to take what the students have heard in the news about the devastating hurricane and bring the experience back to Farmington, and how they can use it to benefit themselves and others. Students will learn about the different community style in Puerto Rico and how it differs from the United States.

The Fremont Street String Band Strums Their Way Into UMF

By Emma Pierce Contributing Writer

   On Feb. 3, the Fremont Street String Band, originally formed in Machias, performed at The Landing. From the sound check thirty minutes before the show started to the very end, the Fremont Street String Band put smiles on the faces of those who attended the show and plucked the audience members’ heartstrings.

   The show featured original songs from their album “Dirigo,” such as “Piscataqua,” referencing the famous Piscataqua River Bridge that connects Maine to New Hampshire via I-95, and connecting the bridge to the idea of love and inviting the comfortable feeling of home. They also performed covers of songs not featured on their album, such as a fun, fast-paced untitled mashup of songs ranging from “Low” by T-Pain to “Drift Away” by Dobie Gray, into one bluegrass performance.

   Landon Knittweis, one of the vocalists and songwriters for the Fremont Street String Band, thought long and hard about what his favorite song to perform was. Knittweis couldn’t pick a favorite easily, but he does love the people he performs with. “I just like the collaboration. I like the sound that we make. I couldn’t do this on my own. I don’t have enough skills,” Knittweis laughed.

   But the band is skilled. The group consists of five members playing a variety of instruments, some of the members playing more than one instrument. Ryan French plays the upright bass and provides a drum beat by hitting the back of it mid-song, Michael Giudelli plays the guitar and sometimes sings lead vocals, and Ryan Martin plays the banjo and offers back-up vocals to add to their harmonies. Alan Cook played the fiddle and the mandolin, and he can play anything he sets his mind to, according to the band’s Facebook page.

   During their UMF performance, the Fremont Street String Band tried their hand at connecting with the audience by talking and laughing amongst the band members between songs, but there was a vibe that the audience didn’t know what to do with such an interactive performance–not that it phased the band. “Tough crowd to get chuckles out of, but that’s alright. Not everyone appreciates our humor,” Knittweis cracked with French and Giudilli.      

   In general, the crowd energy at the show was comfortable and excited to hear live local music. Everybody who went was enthusiastic about the band or the genres of country, folk, or bluegrass music so there were plenty of positive vibes to spread to the band and the audience.

   The comfortable setting of The Landing fit the vibe of the Fremont Street String Band nicely. The audience members sank into the couches and loveseats and every wooden chair was accompanied by a person. The low stage created a more equal ground with the audience–literally and metaphorically–and a better established connection between the band and the audience.

   Jordan Shaw, Graduate Activities Coordinator at UMF, is in connection to the Association for Campus Entertainment (ACE) and the Landing to bring local music groups, comedians, and more to The Landing stage.

       “With this particular band, we were looking for something to grab people’s attention and interest at the beginning of the semester in hopes of convincing more people to stay on campus over the weekend,” said Shaw.

   Shaw’s connections with the Fremont Street String Band and Farmington came in clutch on that cold Saturday night–around 90 people gathered in The Landing to hear the band perform. Almost half of the people attending the show were were older than 25, one enthusiastic fan even brought a young child to watch the show.

   This concert is only the beginning for the Fremont Street String Band this year. On top of the shows they will be playing at bars and breweries, the band plans on attending a songwriting retreat in a couple of weeks.

   “I think we would like to record more music at some point,” says Knittweis, “but life is just happening and we’re kinda just, taking this one step at a time.”

      To hear more about events at The Landing, anyone is welcome to follow them on Instagram @umf_wae, find them on Snapchat @umflanding, or look around for posters in the Student Center advertising their events.

   To follow what the band is doing next and where they will be performing, follow them on Instagram @fremontstreetstringband or like their Facebook page.

Student Activists Make Themselves Known

By Emily Mokler Editor-in-Chief

   In response to the Jan. 28 Bangor Daily News (BDN) article about the experiences of two UMF students after reporting that they had been sexually assaulted, a coalition called Look Us in the Eyes (LUITE) has become an independent movement advocating for “changes with the way the university responds to sexual assault, provide education and work with a wide group of students who feel passionate about sexual assault prevention and Title IX rights,” according to Claudia Intama, an administrator for the Facebook group.

    In the time since the article’s publication, the group has grown to over 260 members, including UMS students, alumni, and faculty.

    Amy Fortier-Brown, a senior political science major, created the group within hours of the release of the BDN article. “I created this group because the BDN article made me feel betrayed by the University. I am not the type to sit and writhe in anger; I instead prefer to use that energy to change the situation. Thus, I decided I wanted to have a protest on campus to bring attention to this issue,” Fortier-Brown said in an email interview.

   LUITE is holding a peaceful protest in a common area on the UMF campus on February 15 at noon “to address the way that the University of Maine System handles sexual assault cases,” according to their Facebook page.

   “I obviously would like to create positive change on UMF’s campus to address sexual assault issues with a holistic approach. This includes improvements at all levels- students, faculty, and administration,” Fortier-Brown said.

   On February 6, one of the first steps of discussing sexual assault on campus since the BDN article was published was a panel hosted by the Campus Violence Prevention Coalition (CVPC) called “Campus Conversations Part One.” At this event, five panelists with various backgrounds came together to answer student questions. Intama, who is also the President of CVPC, worked as a moderator of the event.

    While LUITE is an independent student group, “CVPC is a university sanctioned group of students, faculty and staff that have the same goals in mind,” according to Intama.

   Intama acknowledges the role that the article has played in the increase of discussion about sexual assault on campus. “It really was the BDN article that sparked discussion and action here at UMF.  I am thankful for all the survivors who have been brave to tell their stories, and am glad to see the UMF community rally together to think of ways to increase knowledge, education and training around sexual assault and harassment,” Intama said. “Although the article painted UMF in a not-so-favorable light, the changes that are being talked about now are helpful and positive.”

   There is a bittersweet quality to the student response. “I love that people are involved and excited about this issue, but I am sad that we have to have this conversation. We have been failed,” said Fortier-Brown.

    Intama said that sexual assault “is a national issue, but our community is driven to make sure our university is safe and provides a supporting environment for all who attend here.”

   Fortier-Brown said that she “absolutely believe[s] that there are people here who are pioneers for change and want to ensure that UMF is safe and is living up to our high (and justified) standards. I have no doubt that admin[istration] is working with us to change.”

   Fortier-Brown also said that “if [administration] ever become[s] complacent, we are also here to push them to keep going and support them when needed. Overall, it is striking how well we- LUITE, Staff, and Admin- are working together.”

   Fortier-Brown said, “This is our #MeToo movement. Maine is late to everything.”

   A screening and subsequent discussion of the documentary “The Hunting Ground” was initially scheduled for January 30, but was changed to February 13.

   Students interested in being involved with CVPC may contact Claudia Intama or Jordan Shaw. Students interested in joining LUITE may contact Amy Fortier-Brown at