First Friday features Stuart Kestenbaum

MOUNT DESERT — The First Friday Coffeehouse at the Northeast Harbor Library returns on Feb. 6 with a celebration of poetry.

Kestenbaum-Stuart+The evening begins at 7 p.m. with 45 minutes of open mic. All performing artists are welcome. Simply sign in on the list inside the door. The session is hosted by bluesman Blue Gene. Each participant has about 10 minutes to perform.

At 8 p.m., Stuart Kestenbaum of Deer Isle will read his poetry. Kestenbaum is the author of four collections of poems, “Pilgrimage” (Coyote Love Press), “House of Thanksgiving” (Deerbrook Editions), “Prayers and Run-on Sentences” (Deerbrook Editions) and “Only Now” (Deerbrook Editions). He also has written “The View from Here” (Brynmorgen Press), a book of brief essays on craft and community. Until recently, Kestenbaum was director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, a position he had held since 1988.

When asked how a person becomes a writer in America, he tells a story about when he was a boy growing up in New Jersey, riding in a car with his dad. He said, “The air smells like gasoline.” His father liked the line and told him to write it down. Kestenbaum’s father said, “That’s what poets do, they wrote things down.” Kestenbaum said, “He could have told me that’s what lawyers do. He encouraged me to write.”

When you read a poem, Stuart said, “it’s not like reading a novel, where you’re pushing on to the end. Reading a poem, you stay on the page. You pause, take time to appreciate something.

“In moments of celebration or need, people turn to poems. They signify a different time and meaning. They have a subtle and enduring place in America.”

After the reading, Kestenbaum will take questions.

Refreshments in support of the Greenhouse Project at MDES will be on sale throughout the evening. There is no admission charge, but donations are always welcome.

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