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Faculty Highlights - Steve Evans, Carla Billitteri, Benjamin Friedlander and Jennifer Moxley

Steve Evans

There’s a place for easy, popular, safe, mainstream — just not on Steve Evans’ bookshelf. Not in his classroom. And not at the National Poetry Foundation.

Poetry that appeals to the broadest possible audience is great, Evans says, but no single style has a monopoly on poetic truth, and an exclusive emphasis on “accessibility” can be a recipe for superficiality and triviality.

“It has to open up something for people, to show them something new, so that it’s worth having a mind,” says Evans, who writes and edits the poetry website Third Factory and is known for his critical work. “That’s where our commitment to the unexpected, the experimental, the avant-garde comes in.”

“I’m not part of the death-of-poetry camp by any means. There are more readers of poetry in this country right now than ever before. It’s not a mass market, but it’s a substantial market.”

Yes, Evans and his colleagues continue to redefine the canon, much as their predecessors did. Of course, they’ve embraced NPF’s editorial and publishing duties. And since NPF in some ways is better known internationally than in its own backyard, they’ve tried to put it in the spotlight.

But Evans has taken things a step further. Through the New Writing Series he established a decade ago that has brought nearly 150 of today’s most adventurous writers to Orono, he has made sure that poetry and contemporary literature have a living, breathing, dynamic presence on campus.

UMaine students not only attend poetry readings, they get to hang out with writers over coffee and spend time asking them questions about their lives and their work. Via the Internet and a variety of social media tools, Evans has ensured that this vital dialogue about poetry continues long after the poets have left campus and extends far beyond Maine’s borders. And this is just the beginning.

“We are set up to be a discomfiting presence, but that’s part of innovation,” he says.

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