Monday, April 25, 2016

Monday Muse: New Maine State Poet Laureate

It's a great platform to be an advocate for writing.
~ Stuart Kestenbaum*

Stuart Kestenbaum has been appointed to the position of Maine Poet Laureate. The fifth poet to occupy the post, Kestenbaum succeeds Wesley McNair. His appointment is for five years.

For information on the honorary, unpaid post and additional related resources, see my profile of Betsy Sholl.

As Maine's state poet, Kestenbaum, who often gives readings and lectures on creativity and craft, aims to re-establish a Maine poetry festival and to celebrate the literary legacy of the state. He is quoted in a Blue Hill Peninsula Chamber of Commerce article as saying, "I'm so honored and grateful to have been selected. . . I hope to make connections between writers and other creative disciplines and to celebrate poetry's power to transform us—poet and reader alike—in unexpected ways."

* * * * *
Poetry makes people nervous, until they're engaged
in it. That's when they realize it's what they needed to hear.*

Former director of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, writer and cultural project consultant Stuart Kestenbaum is the author of four poetry collections: Only Now (2014), Prayers and Run-on Sentences (2007), and House of Thanksgiving (2003), all three from Deerbrook Editions. He also is the author of Pilgrimage (Coyote Love Press, 1990), available through some resellers. Kestenbaum contributed the introduction to the 1985 anthology In High School I Believed That Poetry Existed Only to Make Me Feel Stupid, published by the Maine Department of Educational and Cultural Services.

Kestenbaum, a Deer Isle  resident, also is the author of The View from Here: Craft, Community, and the Creative Process (Brynmorgen Press, 2012) and editor of a collection of essays, Technology and the Hand: A Studio-based Symposium (Haystack Mountain, 2002); he is a co-author of Vision & Legacy: Celebrating the Architecture of Haystack (Brynmorgen Press, 2011).

Stuart Kestenbaum writes the kind of poems I love to read,
heartfelt responses to the privilege of having been given a life.
No hidden agendas here, no theories to espouse, nothing but
life, pure life, set down with craft and love.
~ Ted Kooser**

Some subjects that run throughout Kestenbaum's elegantly written poetry, which can be humorous and often is deeply meditative, are time and its passage, memories, mortality, the natural world, and sense of place.

Following are excerpts from three poems:

The moment you slide into the back seat of the taxi
you know life is measured, the dollars

on the meter already, and then every quarter mile,
half mile, every extended wait bumper-to-bumper

adding to the fare. [. . .]
~ from "The Metered Life" in House of Thanksgiving

when the day falls out of the sky
it is as surprised as I am to see
all this sunrise splashing at my face. [. . .]
~ from "Winter Morning Prayer" in A Deep Blue Amen

When I wake I am still carrying the night with me,
the trembling wind we are awash in, and the wind
outside howls or does what the wind does, which is
not howl but knit trees and leaves together [. . . .]
~ from "Prayer I Should Have Prayed Last Night" in
Prayers & Run-on Sentences

Kestenbaum's poems have been read at The Writer's Almanac (see links in Resources below) and have appeared in numerous literary publications and magazines, including Beloit Poetry Journal, Maine The MagazineNortheast Corridor,  PersimmonSoul-LitSun magazine, Tikkun, and Verse Daily.

Among the anthologies that include Kestenbaum's poems are Maine in Four Seasons: 20 Poets Celebrate the Turning Year (Down East Books, 2010), edited by Wesley McNair; The Maine Poets (Down East Books, 2003), edited by Wesley McNair; Good Poems for Hard Times (Penguin Books, 2005), selected by Garrison Keillor; Take Heart (Down East Books), edited by Wesley McNair; and Collection of Poems (Four Annual Terry Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival, University of Maine-Augusta, 2006).

Among Kestenbaum's honors are a Distinguished Educator Award from James Renwick Alliance (2008) and Honorary Member of the Council (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts), the latter awarded in March 2016 at the council's annual conference. Kestenbaum also is an Honorary Fellow of American Craft Council. In 2016, he was a visiting writer at Alfred Ceramics, where he presented a talk about creativity, making, the writing process, and his own work. In 2015, he was named one of "50 Mainers Boldly Leading Our State" by Maine The Magazine.

Kestenbaum's wife is visual artist Susan Webster. (View some of Webster's and Kestenbaum's collaborations. Also see Kestenbaum's limited-edition collaboration with papermaker Amanda Degener and calligrapher Jan Owen, A Deep Blue Amen, 2013; this also may be viewed at Cave PaperAbecedarian Gallery, and Vamp & Tramp Booksellers. The artist's book was inspired by and contains Kestenbaum's poems. In addition, see Kestenbaum's collaboration, Water Prayers (2010), with Nancy Manter; edition size, 30.)


Photo Credit: Deerbrook Editions

All Poetry Excerpts © Stuart Kestenbaum

* Quoted from Bob Keyes's article (See link below.)

** Ted Kooser's opinion of Kestenbaum's poetry is quoted widely, including in Maine Arts Commission's news release; Letitia Baldwin's article "Stu Kestenbaum Named Maine Poet Laureate", Ellsworth American, March 24, 2016; and Penn State News, October 5, 2015.

"Meet Maine's Fifth State Poet Laureate", Maine Arts Commission, March 23, 2016

"Maine's New Poet Laureate" at Deerbrook Editions

Bob Keyes, "Stuart Kestenbaum Named Maine's New Poet Laureate", Portland Press Herald, March 25, 2016

Stuart Kestenbaum Profiles Online: Find Maine Writers, Maine Home + DesignPoetry Foundation,

Stuart Kestenbaum Poems Online: "Prayer in the Strip Mall, Bangor, Maine" and "Only Time", Both at Portland Press Herald; "Prayer for the Dead" at American Life in Poetry; "Prayer for Joy" and "Prayer for the Dead", Both at Poetry Foundation; "Psalm", "Starting the Subaru at Five Below", "April Prayer", "A Cold Rain the Day Before Spring", "Prayer for What is Lost", "In Praise of Hands", and "Harmony", All at The Writer's Almanac (Audio Available); "I Am Fishing for God" at Verse Daily; "Hermit's Dream" at The Penland Sketchbook; "Prayer for Joy" at FaceBook (2015 Reading at Penland); "April Prayer" at A Year of Being Here; "In Praise of Hands" at Soul-Lit: A Journal of Spiritual Poetry; "Psalm" at Wyoming Arts Council; "Open Window" at Maine The Magazine; "Prayer for What is Lost" at Ride Dance Write; "Starting the Subaru at Five Below" in Good Poems for Hard Times on GoogleBooks; "Prayer I Should Have Prayed Last Night" at Persimmon; "Harmony" at Words for the Year; "I Am Fishing for God" at Beloit Poetry Journal (pdf); "Post Office Box" at Heidi's Table; "Prayer for Joy" At Scrappy Cat Blog; "Mr. Fix-It" at The New Maine Times; "Prayer in a Strip Mall, Bangor, Maine" at Crystal Bridges Blog; "Leaving Home: Route 2 from Maine to Vermont" at Maine Home + Design; "The Metered Life" and "House of Prayer", Both at Rimon Berkshires Resource Center for Jewish Spirituality (High Holiday Poetry and Prayers); "Poem for Joy" at The JournalVerse; "Spring Prayer" at Dancing Crow Yoga; "April Prayer" at Long Looking LLC; "Psalm" at A Year of Reading Blog; "Prayer for Joy", "The Light", "Essence", "April Prayer", "Mr Fix-It", and "Starting the Subaru at Five Below" (all pdf), All at Maine Writers in Take Heart Archive; "Prayer for Joy" at NewPages; "Prayer for the Dead" at Plaza Jewish Community Chapel; "A Cold Rain the Day Before Spring" at Favorite Poems Anthology on Tumblr; "Laughter" at The New Maine Times

List of Poems in Sun Magazine

Kestenbaum's poem "Prayer for the Dead" was written for his brother Howard Kestenbaum, who died in the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Kestenbaum's poem "In Praise of Hands" is a broadside created in 2008 in an edition of 100 by Carolee Campbell.

Kestenbaum's poem "Grief Arrives" appears in Jan Owen's artist book Requiem (2009).

The McNair anthologies, Take Heart: Poems from Maine (2013) and Take Heart: More Poems from Maine (2016), are at Amazon. Kestenbaum's poems appear in various editions. The books are available from Down East Books.

Stuart Kestenbaum, "Moving On and Staying Still", The Craft School Experience, June 11, 2015

Bob Keyes, "Author Q&A: Maine Poet Stuart Kestenbaum Expresses Optimism and Awareness in 'Only Now'", Portland Press Herald, April 13, 2014

A good writing quote from Kestenbaum at the Visit Maine site: "Spending time with people who work with physical materials and figure thing out, I began to see words as a material, too, and understand that any kind of creating is a relationship between the maker and the material. Editing is working with those materials, building a structure. If I make a mistake, it doesn't mean I have to crumple up the paper. I can learn to listen to the words and continue the shaping."

"On Stuart Kestenbaum's Only Now", The Line Break, June 22, 2014

Jennifer Rooks, Interview with Stuart Kestenbaum, "Why We Make Things: A Maine Craftsman's Journey", Maine Public Radio, May 20, 2015 (Audio Available)

Kristen Andresen, "Finding a Poet in a Haystack", Bangor Daily News, July 21, 2003 (Google Newspapers)

Video: "Stuart Kestenbaum Reads at Penland" on YouTube (2015)

Video: "Paul Trowbridge Watercolors, Stuart Kestenbaum Poem" on YouTube (2012)

Stuart Kestenbaum on FaceBook

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