Jeff Thomson

Jeff Thomson

Thomson named Fulbright Distinguished Scholar

Jeffrey Thomson, University of Maine at Farmington associate professor of creative writing and poet-scholar, was recently named the Fulbright Distinguished Scholar in Creative Writing affiliated with the prestigious Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland.

As the 2012 recipient of the only Fulbright Award dedicated to creative writing, Thomson will serve a six-month residency at Queen’s University Belfast, beginning in January 2012. While there, he will teach creative writing, conduct a postgraduate poetry workshop and offer public readings of his published work and work in progress through the Seamus Heaney Centre and Queen’s University School of English. In addition, Thomson will be working on a collection of poems based on his ancestors’ emigration experience.

Thomson is the author of four full-length collections of poetry, two limited-edition art books and the coeditor of an anthology of emerging poets. In 2010, he was awarded the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance Maine Literary Award for Poetry for his fourth collection of poems, “Birdwatching in Wartime.” In addition, Thomson has been honored with a Fellowship in the Literary Arts from the Maine Arts Commission in 2008, a Creative Artists Fellowship in Literature from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts in 2006 and a Literature Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2005. He has also received fellowships from the Wesleyan Writers Conference, the Sewanee Writers Conference and Writers @ Work.

Gretchen Photo Release-1

Gretchen Legler

UMF Professor of Creative Writing Gretchen Legler receives prestigious Fulbright grant to teach in Bhutan

Gretchen Legler, University of Maine at Farmington professor of creative writing, was recently named a 2011 Fulbright Scholar to the Kingdom of Bhutan. A tenured professor with the distinguished UMF Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program, Legler is one of only two professionals to ever receive a Fulbright Award to the small Buddhist country in the eastern Himalayan Mountains.

Selected through a competitive process based on academic merit and leadership potential, Legler has been awarded a nine-month Fulbright grant to teach and do research at Paro College of Education in western Bhutan. The grant runs from October 2011 to early summer 2012, during which time Legler will be teaching college writing, creative writing and American literature. Established in 1975, Paro College of Education is part of the Royal University of Bhutan System that includes the country’s 11 public post-secondary schools.

“This is an unbelievable honor and opportunity,” said Legler. “I am delighted to have been selected by the Fulbright Program and to be able to challenge myself to grow as a writer and an educator while I learn about the spiritual and cultural legacy of the people of Bhutan.”

According to Legler, one of the most intriguing aspects of living in Bhutan will be learning about the country’s policy of measuring national success in terms of gross national happiness as opposed to the western economic indicator of gross national product. “I am very interested in the eastern idea of happiness, as I think many Americans are in these challenging economic times. I’m looking forward to learning more about the Bhutanese idea of happiness and well-being and creating opportunities to share that experience with my UMF students when I return.”

An author and scholar, Legler has written “On the Ice: An Intimate Portrait of Life at McMurdo Station Alaska” (Milkweed Editions, 2005), winner of the award for environmental creative writing by the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment; and “All the Powerful Invisible Things: A Sportswoman’s Notebook” (Seal Press, 1995.) She was a visiting scholar at the Cambridge University Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, England and a grantee of the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs: Antarctic Artists and Writers Program Fellowship.

Legler received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Minnesota.

The Fulbright Program, originally sponsored by the U.S. government in 1946, is designed to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.” Since its inception, it has provided almost 300,000 participants—111,000 from the U.S.—with the opportunity to study, teach, conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The Fulbright Program operates in 155 countries worldwide.

Wesley McNair, poet laureate of Maine

Wesley McNair

Wes McNair selected to read at Library of Congress National Book Festival

Wesley McNair, poet laureate of Maine and University of Maine at Farmington professor emeritus, is one of five state poets laureate who will give readings and sign their books at the National Book Festival held in Washington, D.C., this weekend.

Sponsored by the Library of Congress and held on the National Mall, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are the honorary chairs of the event and are scheduled to attend.

More than 100 authors and illustrators were invited to give presentations.

McNair has authored or edited 18 books, including poetry, essays and anthologies. His most recent volume of verse is “Lovers of the Lost: New & Selected Poems.”

McNair directed the creative writing program at UMF and also served as a visiting creative writing professor at Colby College in Waterville.

* Pat O’Donnell’s story “At the Beach, After the Fact” appeared in the September issue of Fogged Clarity, and two novels–The Perfect Taste and Necessary Places–are scheduled to be published by Cadent Publishing.

Student news:

Kate Baum, 2007 BFA  graduate, was recently hired by UMF as the Assistant Director of Alumni Relations.

Peter Biello, 2005 BFA graduate and 2008 MFA University of North Carolina at Wilmington, is an Announcer/Producer at Vermont Public Radio.

Cynthia Bracket-Vincent, as editor of poetry journal The Aurorean, offered for the first time in 2011 a yearly chapbook competition through Encircle Publications.  This year’s winner was Nectar by Lisa Bellamy.

Lee Cart, 2010 BFA graduate, is a book reviewer for The New Maine Times and Kirkus Reviews.

Ashley Crosby, 2009 graduate of the BFA Program in Creative Writing, has been working as Director of Social Media for the Cape Cod Baseball League.  She has accepted a position as Sports Information Intern at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.  She writes: “I love my internship, and I’m very glad I took this opportunity. I’ve learned so much in a very short period of time, I’ve met a number of very interesting people, I’m getting paid to write for a living, and Nashville is an amazing city to work and live in.”

David DiSarro, 2003 BFA graduate and 2011 PhD from Ball State University, is Director of the Writing Center and Assistant Professor of English at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts.

Juliette Guilmette, 1998 BFA and 2005 MFA from  Colorado State University, teaches at Kennebec Valley Community College, where she chairs the Humanities dept. She also is on the editorial board for the Beloit Poetry Journal.

Ako Kisuna, 1996 BFA graduate, is a patent translator in Japan, translating Japanese into English.

Julianne LaMay Lefler, BFA 1997 and MA Media Arts Emerson 2003, is the Digital and Calendar Editor at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Jason MacLeod, BFA 2002 and MFA University of Montana 2009, is adjunct professor (online) at Florida Tech University and Chapman University.  He recently bought a house in Portland.

Shanna McNair,  2002 BFA graduate and 2011 MFA, Stonecoast, is a founding editor of The New Guard, a Maine literary review.

Jesse Miller, 1999 BFA graduate and 2002 MFA Goddard College, is an adjunct professor at Kennebec Valley Community College.

Patricia Patterson King, 2000 BFA graduate, is Director of Marketing & Business Development at Payson Regional Medical Center, Payson, Arizona.

Jacques Rancourt, BFA graduate, Emerging Artist Fellow at the University of Wisconsin Madison, and a founding editor of the online literary journal Devil’s Lake (, was nominated this year for a Pushcart Prize by Poet Lore for his poem “Shank.”

Meg Reid, 2008 BFA graduate, has an essay in The As a University of North Carolina MFA program intern at Lookout Books, Meg was taken to the National Book Awards Ceremony.

Rachel Robbins, 2003 BFA graduate and 2005 MFA University of Southern Maine, is adjunct English instructor at the University of Maine at Augusta and Thomas College.

Kate Russell, 2006 BFA graduate and 2009 MFA University of Indiana at Bloomington, has a story coming out in the spring issue of the Beloit Fiction Journal.

BFA Faculty news:

In the spring of 2012 two of the Creative Writing faculty will be gone on Fulbright Fellowship exchange.  Gretchen Legler is in Bhutan, and Jeffrey Thomson is in Belfast, Ireland.  Their places will be filled by writers Jaed Coffin (A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants); Bill Roorbach (Temple Stream, etc); Carey Salerno (Shelter); and Shana Youngdahl (History, Advice and Other Half-Truths. to be published in 2012).

Michael Burke served on the Fulbright Screening Committee for Student Creative Writing awards.  He has had three articles in Down East during 2011 (February, August, and October), and another essay in the February 2012 issue.  He will facilitate a presentation with author and environmentalist Bill McKibben sponsored by the Maine Humanities Council in Belfast on January 20th.

Elizabeth Cooke has recently published a book for children co-written with Sociology Professor Jon Oplinger.  It’s called The Wicked Small People of Whiskey Bridge, and is available from Amazon.

Gretchen Legler’s essay  “Minding the Fence” is forthcoming in ISLE (Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment), and her essay “With the Animals” appeared in Matter Journal 14: Animal in December, 2011.

Pat O’Donnell has a novel coming out in early 2012.  Called Necessary Places, it will be published by Cadent Publishing of Blue Hill, Maine.  Her story “At the Beach, After the Fact” appeared in Fogged Clarity in September 2011; her essay “Translation” will appear in the anthology So Long, to be published by Telling Our Stories Press.

Luann Yetter recently had her book Portland’s Past:  Stories from the City by the Sea published by The History Press.

Wes McNair selected to read at Library of Congress National Book Festival