About William Carpenter

William Carpenter, author and poet 


William Carpenter grew up in Waterville, Maine, graduated from Dartmouth, received a PhD at the University of Minnesota, and began teaching at the University of Chicago where he was Assistant Professor of English and Humanities, and the Inland Steel Postdoctoral Fellow. In 1970 he saw the startup announcement from College of the Atlantic and decided to change his life, becoming COA’s first faculty member, teaching there for forty-eight years.


For an insight into the college, and Bill’s impact, visit the 2019 Laurel Ceremony (at 33 minutes) to hear a tribute from former COA president Dr. Steven Katona upon Bill’s retirement, and Bill’s final Laurel Ceremony speech (at 52 minutes).


In 2019, the Maine State Legislature recognized William Carpenter with a “legislative sentiment,” an honor given to Mainers for their notable achievements. Said then-Senator Erin Herbig at the Statehouse ceremony, “Over the past half century, Bill has taught world literature, Shakespeare, creative writing, history, film, Maine mythology, poetry and more to generations of students. Thank you for inspiring present and future leaders, instilling a passion for literature and creative writing in your students and enriching the great State of Maine we all know and love.”  


Novels and Poetry

Bill Carpenter is the author of The Hours of Morning (1980), which won the AWP award, and Rain (1985) which won the S.F. Morse award. His third book of poetry, written in collaboration with the artist Robert Shetterly, was Speaking Fire at Stones. Bill’s poems have been translated into German and Urdu, and all three poetry books have been published in Germany. Read more of William Carpenter’s poetry here.


Bill’s first novel, A Keeper of Sheep, was nominated for the ALA gay/lesbian award in 1995 and has been translated into German and issued by Residenz Verlag. The Wooden Nickel (Little-Brown 2002) is a lobster- and whale-oriented novel of which the New York Times said, “Melville would have approved.” His latest novel, Silence, is about an Iraq War veteran’s return to his Maine hometown; it was selected by The Miramichi Reader as a 2021 Pick, and is a finalist for the 2022 Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance fiction award and Foreword INDIES Book of the Year in the War & Military category.


Bill’s work is widely represented in periodicals and anthologies, including The Maine Poets (2003). An extensive interview with him was published in The Cafe Review in 2020. His poetry and novels have been translated into German, and his poems have been set to music by Lori Lieberman, Amanda McBroom, and Tom Cipullo, and performed at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. Cipullo’s rendition of Bill’s “The Husbands” has been transformed into a short opera.


Bill has been awarded fellowships at both Yaddo and McDowell artist colonies and is also the recipient of the Pablo Neruda award and the Black Warrior award. Bill and the writer Donna Gold live in an old coastal inn and spend summers exploring Maine islands in their family sloop, Northern Light.



Read Bill’s poems “The Ice House” and “Night Fishing” at The Poetry Foundation

Read his poem “Fire” and hear it read by Maine Poet Laureate Stuart Kestenbaum on Maine Public Radio

Find more poems online, including “Girl Writing a Letter”, “Rain”, and “Ecuadorian Sailors”