The Maine Humanities Council has awarded a grant of $1,000 to the Belfast Poetry Festival. This grant will dedicated to producing a panel discussion and public forum on Poetry as a Force for Social Dialogue, hosted by guest poet Elizabeth Gordon McKim Saturday, Oct. 17, at 2 p.m. at Belfast Free Library, 106 High St.

McKim has wide experience using poetry to explore social issues and foster community engagement. She has published five books of poetry, most recently “The Red Thread,” and co-authored a manual on teaching children to engage their world through poetry, “Beyond Words: Writing Poems with Children.” McKim is a teacher, performance poet and spoken word artist; and has been an adjunct professor for 40 years in the department of Creative Arts in Learning at Lesley University. She is the poet laureate of the European Graduate School in Switzerland, poetry editor of POIESIS in Toronto and teaches from a multi-arts trans-cultural perspective.

For the panel discussion, McKim will host a robust public conversation about the possibilities and challenges of using poetry as a force for social dialogue in turbulent times. The proceedings will be recorded for radio, web, and community TV rebroadcast; and will be subsequently prepared as a documentary handbook for governments, nonprofits and arts organizations for furthering their own work using the arts to engage community.

This event is free and open to the public, and audience participation is strongly encouraged. It is hoped that as many voices as possible will join this conversation.

Other panelists will include Kathleen Ellis, UMO professor of English and organizer of the annual Poets/SPEAK! event at the Bangor Library; Joel Lipman, previous poet laureate of Lucas County, Ohio, and co-director of the community Toledo Poets Center; Arielle Greenberg, columnist for American Poetry Review and co-editor of the anthology Gurlesque; and Toussaint St. Negritude, current Belfast Poet Laureate and author of “Upheave.”

“Poetry has always carried the torch of social conscience,” said Jacob Fricke, chairman of the festival’s steering committee. “Poetry is a tireless innovator in forms of speech, a voice for breaking out of social and journalistic strictures. It’s indirect and symbol-using, a meeting place and ‘safe space’ for parties with differing experience, persuasions and views … the original alternative medium.”

“As a nation, we are experiencing a brutal and divisive year, rife with events precipitating an urgent need for social dialogue,” said former Belfast Poet Laureate Ellen Sander. “It is imperative that the arts be a vehicle to further this conversation.”

The 11th annual Belfast Poetry Festival also will feature a night of McKim’s poetry and performance; workshops with McKim, St. Negritude and others; a night of showcased collaborative work featuring poetry, visual art, and performance arts; and a lively open mic. For more information, visit belfastpoetry.org.

Using literature, history, philosophy, and culture, the Maine Humanities Council brings people together in conversation that crosses social, economic, and cultural barriers. For more information, visit mainehumanities.org. Other sponsors of this year’s Belfast Poetry Festival include Off the Coast, Front Street Shipyard, the Belfast Co-op, the City of Belfast, Belfast Free Library and private donors.

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