The annual Belfast Poetry Festival marks its 12th year with a full plate of ways to celebrate poetry, community and artistic possibility, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 14 and 15, at the American Legion Hall, Belfast Free Library and Waterfall Arts.

An all-arts festival with poetry as the driving force, the event combines variety show, short film festival, art exhibit, and literary showcase. All events except workshops are free and open to the public.

The 2016 festival will include a tribute to Maine poets who have died; readings by the Maine Postmark Poetry Contest winners; special guest and Maine Postmark Poetry Contest judge Connie Voisine; a master class workshop; a freewheeling shop talk; an open and energetic panel discussion on contemporary poetics; and a Saturday evening multimedia extravaganza of poetry, visual art and performing arts collaborations — all featuring 24 poets, nine visual artists and six performing artists from across Maine and beyond.

Friday evening will feature a variety of readings at Waterfall Arts, 256 High St., beginning 7 p.m., with a welcome reception at 6 p.m. Leading the Friday program is “With Loaded Arms: Readings In Memoriam of Six Maine Poets,” honoring Maine poets of recent memory who have died including Kate Barnes, Henry Braun, Theodore Enslin, Kenneth Frost, Russell Libby and Michael Macklin; this program is produced by the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance.

A featured reading follows by special guest and Maine Postmark Poetry Contest judge Voisine, poet and professor at New Mexico State University and a Maine native, as well as readings of all 10 winners of the seventh annual Maine Postmark Poetry Contest. Winners include Sally Jaskold of Belfast, first place, for “Bright Cloth, Foxhole,” Charles Brown of Owls Head, Margie Kivel of Rockport, Douglas “Woody” Woodsum of Smithfield, Leslie Moore of Belfast, Chloe Martin of Portland, Andrea Read of Somerville, Mass., Robert Farnsworth of Greene and David Moreau of Wayne.

Saturday morning will begin with a master class led by Voisine at Belfast Free Library, with a focus on honing one’s work. Admission is by application; for more information, email

The festival offers an opportunity to make new connections among its statewide audience at a lunchtime shop talk session hosted by poet Bruce Pratt, noon to 1:30 p.m. at The Bagel Cafe, 159 High St., an informal opportunity for poets to meet, exchange ideas about craft and discuss the writing life.

Saturday afternoon sees a return of last year’s popular panel discussion with “Bright Stars: A Panel on Extraordinary Contemporary Poets,” 2to 4 p.m. at the library. Panelists from a variety of backgrounds — publishing, performance, teaching, contemporary criticism — will survey some of the most exciting and groundbreaking poets writing today and what their work can teach us about the latest directions in American poetry. Panelists include Arielle Greenberg, Valerie Lawson, John Rosenwald and Shana Youngdahl. This is an open discussion, and audience participation is strongly encouraged.

Once again, the festival culminates in a Saturday evening celebratory showcase of poetry, visual art and performing arts collaborations, with a reception at the American Legion Hall, 143 High St., at 4 p.m. and showcase presentation from 5 to 7:30 p.m. featuring music, dance, live readings, projected artwork and more. The lineup includes poet Shana Youngdahl (Farmington) and poet and artist meg willing (Vienna); poet Sally Jaskold (Belfast) and artist Elaine Ng (Rockland); poet Welsea Sidon (Seal Cove) and dancer Kea Tesseyman (Camden); poet Michelle Lewis (West Bath) and artist Ariel Hall (Spruce Head); poet Penny Guisinger (Lubec) and artist Heather Lyon (Blue Hill); poet Elizabeth Kirshner (Kittery) and artist Jacinda Martinez (Rockland); poet Frank Giampietro (Farmington) and artist Jaap Helder (Belfast); poet Lee Sharkey (Portland) and artist George Mason (Nobleboro); poet Wren Pearson (Pownal) and musician Jamie Pearson (Pownal); poet and dancer Katherine Ferrier (Portland) and dancer Pamela Vail (Lancaster, Pa.); and poet John Rosenwald (Farmington) and poet and artist Ann Arbor (Farmington). Work by the visual artists will be on display at the Kramer Gallery of Belfast Free Library through the month of October.

The Belfast Poetry Festival, one of the few community-based, non-academic poetry festivals in the country, is now in its 12th year of production with support from Off the Coast, Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, City of Belfast, Belfast Free Library, Belfast Co-op, the Belfast Creative Coalition and the office of the Belfast Poet Laureate. For more information, including full lineup details, visit; email Jacob Fricke at; or check out Belfast Poetry Festival on Facebook or Twitter.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or