Poet and former Haystack Mountain School of Crafts Director Stu kestenbaum has been named Maine's Poet Laureate. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY CHARLES EICHACKER

Stu Kestenbaum named Maine Poet Laureate

AUGUSTA — Deer Isle poet Stuart Kestenbaum late last week was named the fifth Maine Poet Laureate exactly a week before National Poetry Month kicks off. He succeeds Maine poet Wesley McNair, who created the “Take Heart” column that featured a weekly poem in many Maine newspapers.

Kestenbaum, who directed the Deer Isle’s Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle for 27 years, is the author of four poetry collections, including “Only Now, Prayers and Run-on Sentences,” “House of Thanksgiving” and “Pilgrimage.”

Assuming the unpaid five-year post, the new Maine Poet Laureate says his main goal will be to “convey to people the way poetry can slow time down and make every day special.”

Right now, Kestenbaum says he is pondering what forms his outreach will take. His appointment has been well received.

“Stuart Kestenbaum writes the kind of poems I love to read, heartfelt responses to the privilege of having been given a life,” former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser said. “No hidden agendas here, no theories to espouse, nothing but life, pure life, set down with craft and love.”

Kestenbaum’s poems and writing have appeared in numerous small-press publications and magazines, including Tikkun, The Sun, Beloit Poetry Journal, Northeast Corridor and others, and on Garrison Keillor’s “The Writer’s Almanac” on National Public Radio.

Kestenbaum follows Wesley McNair, Betsy Sholl, Baron Wormser and Kate Barnes in the role of Maine Poet Laureate.


“Prayer for Joy”

By Stuart Kestenbaum

What was it we wanted

to say anyhow, like today

when there were all the letters

in my alphabet soup and suddenly

the ‘j’ rises to the surface.

The ‘j,’ a letter that might be

great for scrabble, but not really

used for much else, unless

we need to jump for joy,

and then all of a sudden

it’s there and ready to

help us soar and to open up

our hearts at the same time,

this simple line with a curved bottom,

an upside down cane that helps

us walk in a new way into this

forest of language, where all the letters

are beginning to speak,

finding each other in just

the right combination

to be understood.


Letitia Baldwin

Arts Editor at The Ellsworth American
In addition to editing the Arts & Leisure section, Letitia edits special sections including Out & About, Overview, Health Quarterly, Your Maine Home, House & Garden and Get Ready for Winter. She comes from Chicago, Ill, but has deep family ties to the Cranberry Isles. [email protected]

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