Called "the successor to James Wright and John Keats, with a marvelous ear for the music of contemplation" by Rita Dove, Plumly is an honored member of department life. Plumly's volumes of poetry (most recently, Against Sunset , Orphan Hours, Old Heart, Now That My Father Lies Down Beside Me , The Marriage in the Trees ), criticism (Argument and Song ), and biography (Posthumous Keats ) have garnered many awards and wide-ranging praise over a forty-year career in letters. His writing has been called "visionary verse from one of America's most memorable lyricists," "musical, multifaceted," and "deeply personal." In the past two years, however, Plumly's writing has attracted a new level of praise. Old Heart (WW Norton, 2007) won the LA Times Book Review's Poetry Book of the Year prize and was nominated for a National Book Award. Robert Pinskey named Posthumous Keats: A Personal Biography as his favorite book of 2008. Pinskey wasn't alone; Plumly's stirring biography appeared on several prestigious top ten books of the year lists. In 2009, the University of Maryland and the Center for Literary and Comparative Studies honored Plumly with a two-day conference in Tawes Hall featuring guest speakers David Baker, Morris Dickstein, Linda Gregerson, Terese Svoboda, Susan Wolfson, Duncan Wu, and David Wyatt.
Other honors won by the state poet laureate include a Guggenheim Fellowship, three NEA Fellowships, the Ingram-Merrill Foundation Award, six Pushcart Prizes, and nominations for the National Book Critics Circle Award aand the William Carlos Williams Award.