University of New England - Innovation for a Healthier Planet

Sue McConkey papers, 1912-2001

Full finding aid (pdf) | Digitized material

Collection Scope and Content

This collection contains biographical material, including family photographs, and transcripts from interviews with McConkey. Other items include published articles about the writer and her work, material associated with the Poetry Fellowship of Maine, and chapbooks containing some of her poems. Also found in the collection is correspondence from McConkey addressed to the Maine Women Writers Collection curators and to Jeffrey Lee, a poet she mentored throughout the 1970s and ’80s.

Biographical/Historical Note

Born in 1911 in Littleton, New Hampshire, Lillian “Sue” Goldberg lived in the Conway area until her marriage to Thomas Wright McConkey in 1934. The two settled on a hilltop farm, Star Hill, in Alfred in 1947. McConkey did not start writing until she was about 40, when she was encouraged to try writing poetry, and attended a Breadloaf summer conference. Her first volume of poetry, The View From Douglas Hill, was published in 1958 by Wake-Brook House, a small press specializing in hand-crafted books. Her second and third books, Hold Bright the Star and Jade Bough, White Shadows, came out five and ten years later, also from Wake-Brook House. McConkey’s poetry is described as spare, clean and acute, and she was regarded as master of the forms of Tanka and Haiku.

She was highly regarded for her encouragement of young poets, who came from around New England to “Star Hill Poetry Day,” a program founded by McConkey and her husband. McConkey was president of the Poetry Fellowship of Maine from 1962-63, and received several awards from the Maine Writers Conference, as well as honorary degrees from Nasson College in 1971 and Westbrook College in 1980. She was well-known as a speaker and for her involvement in national patriotic and literary organizations.