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UMaine English Professor considered for $100,000 poetry award


Jennifer Moxley, a University of Maine english professor, is a finalist for the Claremont Graduate University’s Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.

Recognized for her sixth and most recent book, “The Open Secret,” Moxley is one of five mid-career poets in consideration for the $100,000 award.

“It is a nice surprise,” Moxley, who didn’t know she was being considered for the award until she was announced as a finalist, said.

“The Open Secret” was submitted to the competition by Moxley’s publisher, which the poet explained is typical in publishing. In fact, Moxley enjoyed a similar surprise last year, when she received the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America.

Moxley explained that although there is no strict definition for a mid-career poet, “the idea is that you’ll still keep writing,” which is certainly Moxley’s plan. The professor and poet was on sabbatical last year, which gave her the chance to focus on her writing — an opportunity which is usually only available to her when classes aren’t in session.

Between instructing classes and administrative duties, teaching takes up almost all of Moxley’s time.

“It’s not a total disconnect,” Moxley said. “Sometimes the things I’m teaching and researching will end up affecting my work later. But, just in terms of the hours to craft new work, it’s hard to do it when you’re preparing classes and commenting on student work.”

For example, Moxley claims that working on the course, “Topics in Literature: Orpheus and Eurydice,” was very influential on her work.

Moxley completes most of her writing during the summer at her home in Orono, which she describes as a typical professor house.

“There are books everywhere,” Moxley said.

In the summer, Moxley moves around the house, handwriting her poetry before typing it up on her laptop.

“A lot of writers go on writing retreats,” Moxley said. “But I like to be at home with my cat and my husband.”

Her favorite spot? The screened-in front porch.

Moxley started writing at about 20 years old, which she describes as relatively late. She originally wanted to be a painter and occasionally incorporates her artistic abilities into her writing.

“Just recently, I wrote a series of poems that I made drawings to,” Moxley said. “They’re unpublished, but it was more of a fun thing to do.”

Although she does not yet have a solid timeline for the release of her next book, Moxley estimates that book seven will be available in the next few years. Generally, her books are three to five years apart.

The winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award will be announced in March, which leaves Moxley waiting for just over a month.

“Almost as long as the Academy Awards!” she joked.

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