Maine State Poet Laureate


Julia Bouwsma is the sixth Maine State Poet Laureate (2021-2026) and author of two poetry collections, Midden (Fordham University Press, 2018) and Work by Bloodlight (Cider Press Review, 2017), both of which received Maine Literary Awards. She is the Library Director for Webster Library in Kingfield, ME and also teaches intermittently in the Creative Writing department at the University of Maine at Farmington. Bouwsma lives and works on an off-the-grid homestead in the western mountains.


Our Arms Spread Out around It All: A History of Malaga Island through Poems

In 1912 the State of Maine forcibly evicted an interracial community of roughly forty-seven people from Malaga Island, a small island off the coast of Phippsburg that had been their home for generations. The erasure of the Malaga Island community included the removal of all dwellings and the island’s schoolhouse, the involuntary commitment of nine residents to the Maine School for the Feeble-Minded, and the exhumation and mass reburial of seventeen graves. This atrocity was followed by a century of socially-enforced silence and as a result, many Mainers today still do not fully know the story of Malaga.

This talk will pair a discussion of Malaga Island and its residents with a reading of poems from Julia Bouwsma’s award-winning collection Midden, considering both the history of this shameful event and also the process and implications of writing poems based on historic research.

An Introduction to Maine’s Current Poet Laureate

Maine Poet Laureate Julia Bouwsma will introduce her poetry by presenting poems from her two books, Midden and Work by Bloodlight, as well as newer poems from projects in progress. This talk will focus on the arc and progression of her work thus far, provide insight into both her poetic process and the role of the Poet Laureate, and include a Q&A.

Coordinator, Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition


Wendy is a 42-year-old addict in long term recovery. Formerly in residence at Southern Maine Women’s Re-entry Center, she is currently a Coordinator for the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition. As a recovery coach, Allen is passionate about helping others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope from active addiction into recovery.

Allen enjoy’s good conversation, baking, anything creative, and music. She is also a Facilitator for MHC Discussion Projects and winner of the 2022 MHC Facilitator Prize.


What if I Dared to Dream? 

This presentation is based around Allen’s personal journey from pre-addiction, active addiction and recovery. It focuses on the mind state of an addict, internal and external stigmas, how the addicted brain thinks, family affects, and what recovery looks like. 

This talk gives a “through the lens” view from someone that is affected by substance abuse disorder and shares insight into the struggles faced on a daily basis to find freedom from addiction. The message of this talk is that no dream is too big, and that change is possible.



Samara Cole Doyon is a second generation Haitian American and multi-generational Mainer–this state claiming half the roots of her family tree. She is a wife, mother, and teacher holding a BA in English from the University of Southern Maine and currently completing a Masters in Teaching and Learning.

She has been a regular contributor at Black Girl in Maine Media, has been featured in the Deep Water poetry column of the Portland Press Herald, and has authored children’s books Magnificent Homespun Brown (Tilbury House Publishers, January, 2020) and Magic Like That (Lee & Low Books, June 2021). 


Embracing Our Magnificence as an Act of Resistance

A discussion based on my debut children’s book, Magnificent Homespun Brown, and how systematically marginalized people survive and transcend oppression through unapologetic self-love and jubilation. 

Founder and Director, Franco-American Women’s Institute


Rhea Côté Robbins was brought up bilingually in a Franco-American neighborhood in Waterville known as the South End. Côté Robbins is the author of creative nonfiction, memoirs titled, ‘down the Plains,’ and Wednesday’s Child, winner of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Chapbook Award.

She is editor of Canuck and Other Stories, an anthology of translations of early 20th century Franco-American women writers who wrote about their immigration experience. Her poems and essays have appeared in many publications. She is the founder and director of the Franco-American Women’s Institute, FAWI.


Who Gets To Tell Story? 

Telling or hearing story while conscious of the human ecology—listening to story justly with social consciousness of equality. I would like to define what qualifies as “story.”  I believe essentially that every person, artifact, ritual, etc. is story.  Everything we know comes to us via story; we are surrounded by story.  Story is the microcosm of the macrocosm. Who, in the cultural milieu, gets to tell story?

Where Are the Franco-American Women in Your Community?

Using a Franco-American woman’s search and research as a model to address the issue of what, if any Franco-American woman wanted to know about Franco-American women and their history, where would they begin if they were not told or not allowed to know and value the contributions of the Franco-American women’s history?

Franco-American Women, Suffrage and Political Activity

What was Camille Lessard Bissonnette doing to promote women’s suffrage in 1910-1911, and what barriers did she face?  What was happening across the border in the QC/Canadian women’s suffrage movement, which started in 1912?  And who were the Franco-American women of Maine who served in the Maine State Legislature starting in 1935?  The lives of these women illustrate the history of women’s suffrage here, connects the present, and helps us understand how we got here.

Writer, Educator


Marpheen Chann is the author of an upcoming memoir titled Moon in Full: A Modern Coming-of-Age Story (Islandport Press, June 2022), a Maine politician, speaker, community organizer, and gay man of color.

As a gay, first-generation Asian American born in California to a Cambodian refugee family and later adopted by an evangelical, white working-class family in Maine, Marpheen uses a mix of humor and storytelling to help people view topics such as racism, xenophobia, and homophobia through an intersectional lens. 


​​Welcome Home: My Journey Through Foster Care, Coming Out, and Reuniting with Family 

Life is complicated and full of twists and turns. In “Welcome Home,” Marpheen shares his insights, lessons learned, and maybe a few laughs as he tells the story of being a second-generation Cambodian American who went through foster care and adoption, struggled with fitting in and adapting to a white-majority community, and coming out as gay to his devoutly religious family. 

Poet, Writer, Organizer


LaLa Drew is a poet, writer, organizer and facilitator. They experience life as a Black, Queer, nonbinary, transracial adoptee. Drew is creator of BloodLetting, a poetry night for queer and femme people of color and co-founder of PoC Meditation: Feeling the Body/Healing the Heart.

They are also a former blogger with Black Girl in Maine and former columnist with the Portland Phoenix. Their most recent work has appeared in Autostraddle, Sisu Magazine, Maine Sunday Telegram’s Deep Water, and Poliquads Magazine.

Scholar of Cultural Narratives


Gaudet is a member of the Humanities faculty and associate director of the University Honors Program at the University of New Hampshire, where she teaches courses on topics like addiction, criminality, and plagues.

She is the editor of What Is a Criminal?, a collection of essays by people with diverse knowledge of the U.S. justice system, which is forthcoming in 2022. She is also working on a scholarly collection about literature and addiction. She lives in Saco with her spouse and two children. 


Drug Tales: Old and New Stories about People Who Use Drugs 

The stories we know influence how we see the world. This interactive talk will discuss some familiar narratives about drug use, and explore how those stories can fail the people most affected by them. Participants will be invited to shape new narratives and imagine how to disrupt the conventions of drug tales. 

Stories of Epidemics

Are we living through a Biblical plague? Or are we feeling the wrath of the gods on our society, like Thebes in the time of Oedipus? This talk considers what stories, histories, and legends of epidemics have to tell us about how to understand our own time. 

Storyteller and oral historian


Before returning to her family home in western Maine as a freelance storyteller and oral historian, Jo Radner spent 31 years as a professor at American University in Washington, DC. There she taught literature, folklore, women’s studies, American studies, Celtic studies, and storytelling.

She is currently writing a book titled “Wit and Wisdom in the New England Village Lyceum,” about a 19th-century village tradition of creating and performing handwritten literary newspapers. Radner received her PhD from Harvard University and is a past president of the American Folklore Society and the National Storytelling Network.


Burnt into Memory: How Brownfield Faced the Fire

Drawing on interviews with townspeople, letters, photographs, and newspaper reports, Jo Radner tells the history of the furious 1947 wildfire that in a few hours destroyed almost all of the little town of Brownfield in western Maine.

Neighbors fought and fled the fire, saving what they could and supporting one another, then returned to the devastated town to rebuild their community. In the Brownfield citizens’ own words Radner tells an epic story of terror, courage, generosity, and hope. 

Family Stories: How and Why to Remember and Tell Them

Telling personal and family stories is fun – and much more. Storytelling connects strangers, strengthens links between generations, and gives children the self-knowledge to carry them through hard times. Knowledge of family history has even been linked to better teen behavior and mental health.

In this active and interactive program, storyteller Jo Radner shares foolproof ways to mine memories and interview relatives for meaningful stories. Participants will practice finding, developing, and telling their own tales.

Wit and Wisdom: Homegrown Humor in 19th Century New England 

Whatever did New Englanders do on long winter evenings before cable, satellite and the internet? In the decades before and after the Civil War, our rural ancestors used to create neighborhood events to improve their minds. Community members would compose and read aloud homegrown, handwritten literary “newspapers” full of keen verbal wit.

Sometimes serious, sometimes sentimental but mostly very funny, these “newspapers” were common in small villages across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont and revealed the hopes, fears, humor, and surprisingly daring behavior of our forebears. Jo Radner shares discoveries about hundreds of these “newspapers” and when possible, provides examples from villages in your region.