Publisher who taught writing at UMaine dies

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ORONO (AP) – Constance Hunting, noted poet, publisher and longtime teacher of creative writing at the University of Maine who embodied “what a literary life is all about,” died Wednesday. She was 80.

Hunting suffered a massive stroke last week at her home in Orono and died at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

Hunting founded the Puckerbrush Press in 1971 and began publishing poetry and other work by aspiring young writers. Seven years later, she founded the Puckerbrush Review, a journal of poetry, essays, short fiction and reviews, often by writers from Maine.

A native of Providence, R.I., and a graduate of Pembroke College, Hunting started out at the University of Maine as a part-time lecturer after her husband, Robert, was hired in 1969 as chairman of the English Department.

Hunting’s first book of poetry, “After the Stravinsky Concert,” had been published shortly before and the department was abuzz at her arrival. “We knew a significant poet was among us,” her longtime colleague, Professor Burton Hatlen, recalled.

After her husband retired about 12 years later, Hunting assumed a higher profile at the university and moved up quickly to associate professor. She was named a full professor in 1995, a remarkable achievement for a woman whose formal education ended with a bachelor’s degree.

“She really did it on the strength of her career as a poet,” said Hatlen, who is also director of the National Poetry Foundation. He described Hunting’s work as “elegant … mildly ironic and always very civilized, with a broad sense of cultural heritage.”

In addition to writing more than a dozen books of poetry, Hunting edited two books about poet May Sarton.

Friends and colleagues remembered Hunting for her clarity and precise use of language in both her poetry and her daily interactions.

“She was definitely a person everybody looked up to, one of the arbiters of beauty and taste in the department,” said Margo Lukens, its chairwoman. “She was the embodiment of what literature is for and what a literary life is all about.”

Hunting’s husband died in 1997. Her survivors include their two children, Sam Hunting and Miranda Goulden.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete.

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