This Week in English | April 25 – May 1, 2022

Guest Lecturers in Life Writing Seminar Led by Caroline Bicks

Students in Caroline Bicks’s ENG 402 course on Life Writing had two guest visitors this week: Jim Smith, Professor of Irish Culture and Literature at Boston College, Zoomed in to talk about his work with the advocacy group Justice for Magdalenes Research. He and his colleagues compiled testimonies from the survivors of Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries through their Oral History Project, and have been instrumental in achieving an official apology from the Irish State and the establishment of a compensation scheme for all Magdalene survivors. The class also was treated to a Zoom visit from Stephen King, who talked to them about his memoir On Writing. Some of our Master’s students joined in as well. In answer to one student’s question— “What is the worst piece of advice someone can give a writer?” — Mr. King replied without taking a beat: “Give up.” 

Millay Prize Reading on Friday at 4:30pm via Zoom

In the summer of 2009, Frank and Helene Crohn generously provided the National Poetry Foundation (now the Center for Poetry and Poetics) at the University of Maine with the means to establish an Edna St. Vincent Millay Prize for Poetry. The Millay Prize seeks to reward achievement in poetry at a crucial, early stage in a writer’s development while commemorating the legacy of one of Maine’s best known and most loved poets, Edna St. Vincent Millay, who herself received the gift of an education at Vassar College in part through the generosity of Caroline B. Dow.

The external judge for the 2021 award was Rae Armantrout. The author of more than ten collections of poetry, Armantrout has also published a short memoir, True (1998). Her Collected Prose was published in 2007. Her most recent collections include Finalists (2022); Conjure (2020); Versed (2009), which won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and a 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award, and was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award; Itself (2015); Partly: New and Selected Poems (2016); Entanglements (2017); and Wobble (2018), a finalist for the National Book Award. A keynote performer in the NPF’s conference on The Poetry of the 1970s in 2010, Armantrout also read in the New Writing Series in the fall of 2009 and the spring of 2002. 

Armantrout selected the following manuscripts for the 2021 Millay Prize: 

  • First prize to Adam Ray Wagner for “Faces and Forms”
  • Second prize to Christopher Thomas for “He Dreams Footnotes”

Both Wagner and Ray are current MA students. The celebration originally planned for fall of 2021 will take place on April 29, 2022 beginning at 4:30pm via Zoom (request link at 

English Department Recognition Ceremony

Come help us celebrate this year’s student and faculty accomplishments at a Recognition Ceremony to be held in the Writing Center (fourth floor of Neville Hall) on Monday afternoon, May 2, starting at 4pm. RSVPs are encouraged but not required. 

New Review by Professor Emerita Naomi Jacobs 

Naomi Jacobs, professor emerita of the Department of English, is the author of a review of Matthew Schneider-Mayerson and Brent Ryan Bellamy (eds.), An Ecotopian Lexicon (University of Minnesota Press, 2019) in the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture. Jacobs writes that “these authors write with urgency of the impending catastrophe of global climate change and mass extinction; yet their faith in human creativity and resilience, and in the transformational power of language, sustains a very welcome sense of utopian hope.”

More Advanced Kudos for Morgan Talty’s Night of the Living Rez

Morgan Talty’s debut novel Night of the Living Rez recently received a starred review in Kirkus and is currently in a Goodreads Giveaway (100 copies) which can be found here. The novel is due out from Tin House this summer. Talty joined the part-time faculty in English at UMaine in the fall and is teaching first-year composition and introduction to creative writing this spring.

Postcard from Abroad: Neily Raymond, Studying at Oxford

We’re delighted to have this “postcard from abroad” (well, okay—email) from Neily Raymond, who writes:

I’m beginning my second term as a Visiting Student at Oxford University. I’m realizing how lucky I am that my home college, Lady Margaret Hall, is on the outskirts of the city—the gardens are extensive, in rampant bloom, and everything smells of pollen. I might be spoiled for April in Maine. In any case, I’ve plenty of opportunities to study outdoors. My courses this term are one-on-one tutorials in Playwriting & Dramaturgy and Victorian Literature & the Environment. 

In my “free time” (free time is usually accompanied by scare quotes in Oxford) I’m serving as Section Editor for the newspaper Cherwell and as dramaturg for two student productions, Carrie and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’m also involved in the Oxford University English Society—I got to meet Merve Emre last term, Jeanette Winterson is next—and a friend and I are planning a literary tour of Ireland. She wants Joyce’s Dublin, I want Yeats’s Innisfree. Might take a few days.

Marge Irvine Contributes to New Volume on Food, Hunger, and Family

Margery Irvine is among the seventy “renowned New England writers” to contribute to Breaking Bread: Essays from New England on Food, Hunger, and Family, which will be published by Beacon Press in Boston in late May.  

A collection of essays by top literary talents and food writers, Breaking Bread celebrates local foods, family, and community, while exploring how what’s on our plates engages with what’s off: grief, pleasure, love, ethics, race, and class.

 Here, you’ll find Lily King on chocolate chip cookies, Richard Russo on beans, Jennifer Finney Boylan on homemade pizza, Susan Minot on the non-food food of her youth, and Richard Ford on why food doesn’t much interest him. Nancy Harmon Jenkins talks scallops, and Sandy Oliver the pleasures of being a locavore. Other essays address a beloved childhood food from Iran, the horror of starving in a prison camp, the urge to bake pot brownies for an ill friend, and the pleasure of buying a prized chocolate egg for a child.

Profits from this collection will benefit Blue Angel, a nonprofit combating food insecurity by delivering healthy food from local farmers to those in need.

Irvine has retired from full-time teaching, but she still teaches a section of ENG 309: Writing Creative Nonfiction every fall and says “she loves the class and the students—and the writing they do.”

Afrofuturism in the News—and in the Classroom

The Bangor Daily News reported on April 23 that the Maine Humanities Council has been awarded a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities “to teach people across Maine about Afrofuturism, a cultural movement most closely aligned with science fiction that typically portrays Black people in a technologically advanced future.” 

The news is timely because Carla Billitteri is offering a Senior Seminar on the topic of Afrofuturism in the fall of 2022, seats for which remain open. English 490 will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30-10:45am. Students interested in the topic but not meeting the prereqs are encouraged to seek instructor permission. Here is the first paragraph of Professor Billitteri’s detailed course description:

Afrofuturism is one of the most important and exuberant cultural movements produced by artists of the African diaspora, one that encompasses and often interlaces literature, music, and the visual, graphic, and kinetic arts. In the words of Elizabeth Reich, Afrofuturism is “expansive in its aesthetic, thematic, and political scope”; it is “a transnational, transhistorical, and continually arising form of Black art and expression tied to the political commitment to imagine Black life otherwise.”  

Semi-Staged Script Readings on May 3 

Rosalie Purvis writes:

I am thrilled to Invite you to join us for a series of semi-staged readings of new scripts in development by students in the writing for performance class, directed by students in the advanced directing class. 

Tuesday May 3rd at 7:30pm ET in the Cyrus Pavilion Theatre. Event is free and open to the public.

This Week in English 127 was sent to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the department on Tuesday, April 26, 2022. If you would rather not receive these weekly bulletins, please reply with <unsubscribe> in your subject line. Earlier installments are archived on our website. If you’re on Facebook, please consider joining the English Department Group.

If you would like to support the mission of the English Department, please consider a donation to the Annual Fund through this secure online portal. Wednesday, April 27, is this year’s Maine Day for Giving.