By: Max Lorber, Arts and Culture Editor
The Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance is breathing life back into the Maine Chapbook Series. The series is set to be published in the spring or early summer of 2020, marking the first Maine Chapbook in 20 years. It will contain a selection of poems written by a state resident with cover art designed by a Maine artist.
“As an organization that supports all writers, we want the Chapbook Series to highlight the wide array of writers living and working in Maine,” said Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, the current director of the MWPA.
A chapbook is a short collection of work usually under 40 pages in length and are often small enough to fit in a back pocket. Generally, they are inexpensive to publish, thus cheaper in price. They are integral for emerging poets who wish to get their work into print and out to the public.
“Submitting to journals and magazines is one important way to have poems out in the world, but there’s nothing like that first chapbook or full-length collection,” Fay-LeBlanc said.
Winning a contest like this and getting a collection of poetry into print has the potential to turn an amateur poet’s desire for recognition into a reality.
According to Fay-LeBlanc, even getting a collection of work together for submission can help a poet view their work through a different lens. Poetry submissions are being accepted until October 15. The winner of the contest will receive 500 dollars and a notable lift in their literary profile
Esteemed poet, Martha Collins, has been tapped to judge the submissions and select the collection that will eventually be printed. She has published several books of poetry herself, including Blue Front, White Papers, and Admit One: An American Scrapbook. Her latest collection Because What Else Could I Do is set to be released by The University of Pittsburgh Press.
The Maine Poet Laureate, Stuart Kestenbaum, started The Maine Chapbook Series in 1983 with the Maine Arts Commission. The MWPA eventually took over the contest and publication of the chapbook until 1999, the last year it was released. In 1991, the contest was judged by Donald Hall and the winner was Betsy Sholl. Hall went on to serve as Poet Laureate of the United States. Sholl went on to serve as Maine State Poet Laureate.
Next year, the Maine Chapbook Series will be rotating on three-year cycle, Next year’s contest will be in fiction prose. The following year will be in nonfiction.
The MWPA is headquartered on the third floor of the Glickman Library on USM’s Portland campus. It is one of the few organizations with the sole intention of upholding and steering Maine’s literary culture. In the Glickman Library, the MWPA regularly holds advisory workshops for local writers, as well as discussion forums for professional authors.