West Paris poet Dennis Camire poses with a copy of his recently published book, “Anthology of Awe and Wonder,” at the Advertiser Democrat offices May 29. The book is Camire’s second collection of poems to be published by Cumberland-based Deerbrook Editions. Evan Houk/Advertiser Democrat

WEST PARIS — West Paris poet Dennis Camire recently released a new poetry book, “Anthology of Awe and Wonder,” and continues to teach, advocate, and promote poetry in Maine.

His second full-length volume of poetry, both of which were published through Cumberland-based Deerbrook Editions, “Anthology” meditates on different ways humans experience awe and wonder in the world.

“The book’s in four sections and every section is just exploring the various ways that awe and wonder might appear in our life,” Camire said. “Whether it’s learning scientific facts, or hearing an inspiring story, or walking the Norway preserve.”

About 70% of the poems in “Anthology” have been published in national and international journals. Some of them also have appeared, or will be appearing, on Maine Public Radio.

The general theme of Camire’s newest collection came from the nonfiction book “Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life” by Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.

“What he does in that book is explain that there are seven or eight contexts for awe, one of them is nature,” Camire said. 


He said he is often inspired to write poetry after reading scientific facts or discovering new information about nature, as in the case of “Upon Learning that Bees Taste with their Feet.” Camire enjoys exploring “how the knowledge of science creates a sense of mystery.”

“There’s a genre of poetry that Whitman and the Romantics really decanted where you can look at beauty and celebrate beauty,” Camire said. “This book is more in that genre. It’s more about ‘let’s look and see what the beauty and wonder is all around us and maybe try to be more conscious of that.’”

Other times he is inspired by reading an article in a news publication like The Guardian, which detailed a story of a woman who cut her husband’s hair outside while he was dying from cancer, who then noticed that the birds would come and pick the hair up and add it to their nest.

“When he’s dying, she’s conscious of how the birds are taking it and taking a part of him,” Camire said. 

“It’s not just full-throated ‘life is great!’” he said of the book. “It’s a lot of time in the context of something difficult too.”

In addition to writing and reading poetry, Camire is active in promoting the ancient art form in Maine.


He started the nonprofit Maine Poetry Central, which worked to establish the Portland Poet Laureate Program in 2007 and oversaw and curated it for a decade. In 2018, the Portland Public Library took over the stewardship of the program.

“It’d be good to have more city poet laureates,” Camire said.

He also hosts a monthly open poetry read at Obscura Café and Drinkery in Lewiston on the third Thursday of the month.

Camire also hosted a “round-robin” poetry event at the Gem Theater in Bethel, where categories would be changed throughout the night to allow for a variety in themes for poets to riff on.

“You never know what you’re going to read and you never know how it’s going to connect,” Camire said. “So it keeps it fresh for the reader and the audience.”

The Gem has now invited Camire back to host at least two events per year, with the next one scheduled for September, which is planned as a celebration of unknown Maine poetry with former Maine poet laureate Julia Bouwsma.


“People who knew little about poetry apparently really got into it,” Camire said of the Gem event. “I think if you present poetry in an interesting way, it can engage the community and the contemporary culture, despite all these gizmos we have to distract ourselves.”

Camire also curated a poetry column in the Sunday edition of the Lewiston Sun Journal called “In Verse Maine Places and People” for a few years.

“That’s why I do what I do because there are so many great poets, you just can’t give them all their due props,” Camire said.

Camire grew up in Biddeford and says he “wasn’t supposed to go to college,” as he was on a track in school to study as a mechanical draftsperson at Central Maine Community College, where he currently teaches writing as an adjunct instructor.

However, “at the last minute,” he decided to attend the University of Maine at Farmington for history, where he eventually discovered the magic of poetry.

“I avoided taking writing for a year-and-a-half because I thought I would fail out of college,” Camire said. 


He then took a poetry course with Wesley McNair, Maine’s poet laureate from 2011-2016, where he says he got the bug.

“I just saw something beautiful happening inside of poetry, and that hooked me,” Camire said.

In graduate school at Wichita State University, Camire studied with Albert Goldbarth, the only poet in the U.S. to win the National Book Critics Circle award twice, who was influential on Camire’s style.

At Wichita State, Camire won an Association of Writers and Writing Programs intro journal award, where his poem was one of only about 20 submitted from colleges across the country that was selected for inclusion in national magazines.

That is how he got his publishing start, but he admits it has been an uphill battle since then, involving lots of trial-and-error in submitting pieces for publication.

“Publishing is a struggle,” Camire said with a laugh. “It’s still a crapshoot.”

Despite the struggle, Camire remains steadfast in his commitment to awe and wonder and the meaning of it all, especially concerning poetry’s role.

“I’m really interested in science and learning of the really interesting things about biology and science,” Camire said. “I’m really interested in how science and traditional religions and spirit connect, and how they’re saying the same thing even though they don’t know it.”

Camire’s books are currently available at deerbrookeditions.com and Amazon. His first book “Combed by Crows” has been featured in Maine bookstores. He plans to get his new volume, “Anthology of Awe and Wonder,” into bookstores this summer as well.

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