Julia Bouwsma, director of Webster Library in Kingfield, has been named Maine’s sixth poet laureate. Her plans for her tenure include increasing accessibility to poetry and spotlighting underrepresented voices. Photo courtesy of Maine Arts Commission

KINGFIELD — Maine’s newest poet laureate is Julia Bouwsma, a Franklin County community member and director of Webster Library in Kingfield.

“It’s an incredible honor. I was very surprised and I am really excited,” Bouwsma said in an interview. “I’m really excited about the prospect for what we can do.”

Bouwsma has lived in Maine since 2005 and served as director of Kingfield’s library since 2015.

Though she hails from Connecticut, Bouwsma believes she “really became a poet in Maine.”

“Maine is in my poems,” she said.

Her work surrounds themes of “place and relationship to the landscape.” She writes about life working her land in New Portland — “raising animals, the gardens, gosh even splitting firewood … the daily labor of homesteading” all make recurring appearances in her work.

Bouwsma considers her poetry about homesteading a “connective experience.”

“Even when poetry doesn’t always feel accessible to a lot people, I’ve had some really interesting conversations with people who responded to some of those poems because the subject was familiar,” she said. “I want to write about daily life. Because I think that we all need more words for that.”

Bouwsma said she loves poetry for its “messiness,” its ability to connect “difficult things and beautiful things.”

Bouwsma also has published a book of poetry on “the state of Maine’s eviction and erasure of the Malaga Island community.”

The book tells the story of an interracial community of 47 people living on an island of off Phippsburg that were forced from their homes. Bouwsma experimented with different forms of poetry and writing to tell that narrative because ” it was such a terrible story to tell that I couldn’t figure out the right way to tell it so I tried every way I could think of.”

Akin to her work about Malaga Island, Bouwsma hopes to spend her tenure as poet laureate “reaching voices in our state that we haven’t been able to in the past.”

“I’m really interested in providing access for poetry especially in more rural parts of Maine,” Bouwsma said.

While Bouwsma sees Maine’s poetry scene as concentrated in the south and on the coast, she’s hoping to shine a light on poetry coming from Maine’s underrepresented areas.

“I’d really like to meet our farmer poets and our logger poets and our fisher poets and all of that. More indigenous poets. Meet more poets who are new Mainers … immigrant voices,” Bouwsma said. “Everyone living in Maine has a Maine story and all the poets living in Maine have a Maine poetry story. And I want to learn those stories and figure out what we can do with them together.”

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