Maine Poet Laureate

Maine’s Poet Laureate position is an appointment designed to promote poetry throughout the state while honoring an eminent Maine poet for his or her achievements.  The position was established by Maine statute in 1995. To be considered for this appointment, poets must be full-time Maine residents and have a distinguished body of poetic work.

Julia Bouwsma 

Poet Laureate - Stuart Kestenbaum

Poet Laureate - Julia Bouwsma

Julia Bouwsma lives off-the-grid in the mountains of western Maine, where she is a poet, farmer, and small-town librarian. She is the author of two poetry collections: Midden (Fordham University Press, 2018) and Work by Bloodlight (Cider Press Review, 2017). She is the Library Director for Webster Library in Kingfield, Maine.

Bouwsma is the recipient of the 2019 and 2018 Maine Literary Awards for Poetry Book, the 2016-17 Poets Out Loud Prize, the 2015 Cider Press Review Book Award. She has received writing residencies from the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Vermont Studio Center, Monson Arts, and Annex Arts in Castine.

She contributes poems and book reviews to Cutthroat, Poetry Daily, Poetry Northwest, RHINO, River Styx, and other journals. Bouwsma, a former Managing Editor for Alice James Books, currently serves as an instructor at University of Maine at Farmington and on the Community Advisory Board for Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance.

Learn more about the history of Maine’s Poet Laureate, and enjoy reading some more poems by Julia Bouwsma. 

See also: "Who is Julia Bouwsma?" - Homesteader, librarian, Maine’s new poet laureate: Julia Bouwsma seeks to foster connection through poetry by Maine Public. 


January 5, 2023

AUGUSTA, MAINE--Julia Bouwsma, Maine’s poet laureate, wrote and recited an original poem for the second inauguaration of Governor Janet Mills. The poem entitled "This Home We Carry" was presented before the 131st Maine Legislature and a crowd of 2,500 people at the Augusta Civic Center on January 4, 2023.

Photo Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald

This Home We Carry 

What if home begins as simply as a bucket? With light flaming

the trees toward morning and a familiar rocking weight, home

swinging at our side as we go about the chores. Home knocks

our leg into the rhythm of our footsteps—lulling, bruising us

to a terrain we have already memorized, cartography we now know

without knowing, like the curve of a lover’s temple, how it fits

flush to our palm: each rut in the woods trail, each concrete

crack in the sidewalk, every expanse of field or lake below snow,

granite screeing mountain crests, granite spurring the coastline

to chains of cliff and island, our strength indistinguishable

from our beauty, our beauty rooted to our hardness, rooted

to this glacial till and soil beneath our feet. Chop wood, they tell us

when times are hard, carry water. And so we do, and some days

it seems we do nothing but carry, have been carrying such a long time,

and the bucket in our hands is plastic, probably, reddened

knuckles around a cracked grip, or the bucket is galvanized steel

or the bucket is spun aluminum, but before that it was wood

and before that it was animal hide or it was birchbark or it was not

a bucket at all but a basket—woven strips of the brown ash tree

or the reed, ashindi, its earthy scent carried across the Atlantic

from Somalia to weave again a new carrying, home held

in the knowledge of hands teaching new hands; for in this vessel

we carry cinders, ashes, which are the spent remains of yesterday’s fire

but also the memory of its warmth, and in this bucket are the words

of our ancestors, the stories our ancestors told in their languages

which maybe we never learned to speak, though we carry

the recollection in this bucket, along with the harms done

to or by them, carry it inside the silences we did learn, carry it

with dirt and rocks, with manure, woodchips, sawdust, rivets

and welding rods, with a ship’s manifest or a changed name,

a broken treaty, mulch or wilting root-ripped weeds, carry with grain

for the chickens, with grain for the pigs, with salted herring to bait

the lobster traps, carry with all the ghosts and bones of our history,

with the maps history has made of our ghosts and our bones,

carry in this bucket with the sweet scent of frost-burned apples,

with the clear cold sugar the maple trees bleed in the spring,

with the water of the Penobscot, the St. John, the Kennebec,

the Androscoggin, with peonies cut and glistening nectar,

their heavy blossoms both home and food for the ants, carry

along with some root vegetable we have dug fresh from the earth,

planted and tended with our own two hands, potatoes or carrots

perhaps, or the foraged green pungency of ramps or fiddleheads,

some gift we are carrying now up this steep hill or along the street

as a promise to our children or their children, carrying to eat

or to store through another winter, carrying separately, each of us,

but all at the same time, carrying still across each new day until

our carrying becomes a chorus—a linking, a lifting, a gathering—

this offering we share with those we love, our arms outstretched

to one another as we say, Here, I have brought you a taste of our home.


April 5, 2022

We asked Maine Poet Laureate Julia Bouwsma to bury a poem in the state's Bicentennial Time Capsule. Maine became a state in 1820. The time capsule won't be opened for 100 years.