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

Jennifer Moxley

Poet and editor Jennifer Moxley studied the avant-garde tradition of the 1960s and has since redefined it in her own work. NPF brought her to UMaine, where she has become a fierce advocate for keeping the foundation alive, relevant and thriving.

“When we got here, we already had a sense of this as a poetry place,” says Moxley, whom The Nation dubbed “a girl genius” in its review of her 2009 book Clampdown. Moxley serves as poetry editor for The Baffler magazine, and is well-respected in the field for her translations, most recently of the French poet Jacqueline Risset.

Her drive to sustain UMaine’s commitment to innovative poetry isn’t just about celebrating the legacy of her friends and mentors Burton Hatlen, Constance Hunting and Sylvester Pollet. It’s about staking a claim for poetry at a time when its presence has been diminished or cut entirely on many college campuses.

“Where else in the United States is there still a hub for the avant-garde, politically infused, radical poetic traditions of the ‘70s, where they’re part of that alternative counterculture tradition, as opposed to academic or mainstream?”

It’s unusual for a land-grant institution to specialize in something like avant-garde poetry, but in doing so, the UMaine English Department has earned an international reputation on par with schools that have much larger budgets.

Moxley says it’s imperative that UMaine continues to be a place where emerging poets and young scholars can publish their first work. A place that keeps redefining the canon. A place that continues to be at the center of contemporary literary conversation.

“When I think about other institutions (where poetry is central), I can count them on one hand,” Moxley says. “It’s not like ‘poetry’ travels in a package from college to college. Poetry is often marginalized. Just to be in a place that centralizes poetry is really kind of rare. It becomes a point of pride.”

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