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Voices from The Heart of Home: Maine Poets

Saturday, March 31 - 3:00pm - 5:00pm
Location: Main Library
Audience: Adults, Seniors

We’re kicking off National Poetry Month a day early with a special event in March! Join us at 3:00 p.m. on March 31st in the Rines Auditorium at Portland Public Library for Voices from the Heart of Home, a Saturday afternoon reading with a group of great Maine poets. 

This event was inspired by a remarkable collection of poetry by Kifah Abdulla, Ekhlas Ahmed, Mihku Paul, Karin Spitfire, Robert Gibbons, Terry Grasse, and Joseph Coleman, all of whom will be reading. Poet Gary Lawless was given the 2017 Constance H. Carlson Public Humanities Prize by the Maine Humanities Council, and each month he selects a poem for their “Notes From An Open Book” monthly e-newsletter. All of this event’s poets have had poems featured there, and those poems can be seen here. 

Their voices touch on deep waters—nature, culture, conflict, peace, place, being. Rivers flow through these poems, along with whales, canoes, smelt shacks and forests, birch bark, pink granite, a prison cell, the call to be heard and the power of a woman’s voice. In them, you’ll find the dream of a small window, just the size of a hand, opening into a brighter place…

Gary Lawless will M.C. the event; we’ll begin reading at 3 and wrap up before the library closes at 5. We’ll hope you’ll make it! Please contact Elizabeth Hartsig at with any questions. 

Poet Biographies 

Kifah Abdulla is a poet, artist, writer, teacher, activist, and world citizen. Born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq, he published his first book of poetry, Dead Still Dream, in 2016. He reads his poetry accompanied by music (Oud, and Cello). He is the Arabic calligraphy instructor at MECA/CS, Arabic language instructor at The Language Exchange, founder of the International Arabic Language Day Event, and co-founder of the first Arabic language-learning website in Maine. Abdulla is involved in many cultural and artistic projects and has exhibited his art in many places and galleries in Maine. He was a POW during the Iraq-Iran War, and spent over eight years in Iranian prisons. Abdulla lives and works in Portland, Maine.  

Ekhlas Ahmed is a human rights activist, community organizer and an educator, who left her beloved home of Sudan at the age of 12 and is now resettled in Portland, Maine. If she is not being flown around the state advocating for herself and other refugees or pulling her hair out from teaching 8th graders at Westbrook Middle School, she is cooking her soul away in the kitchen. In the 20 seconds that she has free each week, she is enjoying dinner with friends, and writing poetry to capture her life here in the US or to reflect on her life back in Sudan.  

Joseph Coleman is an American poet. Born in Augusta, he now spends his time between Maine and New York City with his wife, British actress Janet Mcteer and son. His poems and short stories have appeared in EsquireThe New CriterionThe New Yorker and Vogue 

Robert Gibbons moved to Portland in 2004 on the heels of his 3rd book of prose poems, Body of Time. In a Portland Phoenix cover profile, Alex Irvine wrote, “It is a tribute to Gibbons’s skill and lack of pretense that he can name check like a cultural-studies professor one minute and in the next, etch a perfectly detailed portrait-in-motion of a flower girl outside Old South Meeting House in Boston. His conversation is the same way. He wants the ideas that are important to him to be important to you, but he’s not an evangelist.” His 10th book, Animated Landscape, 2016, is published by BlazeVOX Books, Buffalo. Gibbons is currently Research Associate at Colby College, Waterville.  

Terry Grasse is a visual artist, poet, and a veteran of the Vietnam War. He lives in Lisbon Falls, Maine.  

Mihku Paul is a Maliseet writer and visual artist who grew up on the banks of the Penobscot river in Maine.  She is a graduate of the Stonecoast MFA program in creative writing at USM.  Mihku also received a traditional education from her grandfather, Ray Paul, a Maliseet elder from Kingsclear, N.B.  Her work has been shown at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, The Glickman Library in Portland, the Area Gallery at USM and featured on the cover of Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the United States. Her poetry has appeared in PoiesisCabildo QuarterlyDawnland VoicesPort City PoemsI Was Indian II and others. Her first book of poetry, 20th Century PowWow Playland was released in 2012 from Greenfield Review Press. Mihku lives and works in Portland.  

Karin Spitfire is an Maine artist who chooses mediums to match her need for expression. Starting out as a dancer and performance artist, Spitfire’s primary forms now are poetry and artist books that lend themselves to the use of movement, words, and all manner of image-making, including painting, print-making, and letterpress printing!  

Gary Lawless is co-owner of Gulf of Maine Bookstore in Brunswick, Maine, and publisher of Blackberry Books. He received an honorary Ph.D. from USM, and recently spent a month in Venice as artist in residence with the Emily Harvey Foundation, working on a forthcoming book “How the Stones Came to Venice.”