Maine’s outgoing Poet Laureate Stuart Kestenbaum, shown early last year with Gov. Janet T. Mills, says he is “grateful to live in a state where our Governor Janet T. Mills writes poetry and supports the arts.” PHOTO COURTESY OF STUART KESTENBAUM

New Maine poet laureate sought



AUGUSTA — The Maine Arts Commission has launched its search for a new state poet laureate to succeed Deer Isle poet Stuart Kestenbaum for a five-year term. Applicants are sought for the position to promote poetry throughout the state while honoring a Maine poet whose work can inspire an understanding and appreciation of the craft of poetry for Maine people.  

During his tenure from 2016 to 2021, Kestenbaum used his position to share poetry in many different mediums, including his “Poems from Here” collaboration with Maine Public, which features a new Maine poem each week. He is the author of five collections of poems, most recently “How to Start Over” (Deerbrook Editions, 2019). He also authored the essay collection “The View from Here” (Brynmorgen Press, 2012).  

“We are so grateful to Stu for his wonderful work as poet laureate,” said Arts Commission Executive Director David GreenhamGreenham will facilitate the process for selecting Maine’s sixth poet laureate. “We see this as a wonderful opportunity to recognize another member of Maine’s thriving community of poets.”   

The Maine poet laureate review committee will include: Maine Governor and poet Janet Mills, the Maine Humanities Council’s Associate Director Samaa Abdurraqib, North Haven poet and novelist Susan Minot, Maine Writers & Publishers’ Executive Director Gibson Fay-LeBlanc and Maine State Librarian James Ritter.   

Maine’s other poet laureates have included: Kate Barnes (1996-1999), Baron Wormser (2000-2005), Betsy Sholl (2006-2011) and Wesley McNair (2011-2016).   

The poet laureate position was established by Maine statute in 1995. The poet laurate’s specific duties are minimal to ensure incumbents have maximum freedom to work on their own projects during their tenure. While the position does not include a stipend, all expenses are paid for appearances and programs, which include an annual lecture and reading of his or her poetry; participation in the Maine Arts Commission’s administration of the national “Poetry Out Loud” project; as well as appearances and events to broaden appreciation and understanding of, and participation in, poetry in Maine communities. Each poet laureate brings a different emphasis to the position.  

To be considered for this appointment, poets must be full-time Maine residents and have a distinguished body of poetic work. Applicants must submit up to five poems, totaling no more than 10 pages, as well as a one-page statement outlining their vision for the public role as poet laureate and a resume no later than June 1. To apply, use this link: https://forms.gle/NCTAQx9kNWJLNAKr6.    

For questions, email David Greenham, executive director of the Maine Arts Commission, at david[email protected]  

 

Editor’s note: In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic spread swiftly and Stuart Kestenbaum was unable to deliver his bicentennial poem “Kingdom of Beauty” on Statehood Day, March 15.   

“Kingdom of Beauty”  

By Stuart Kestenbaum  

There are so many beauty salons in Maine,  

you see them everywhere, in old brick buildings  

of refurbished downtowns, in strip malls,  

in trailers, in cities and villages.  

Our beauticians must be doing more than cutting hair,  

they must be making beauty itself.  

How else to explain its abundance all around us:  

The way the first light of morning touches  

the tops of the spruce trees across the harbor,  

or a mackerel sky blankets the heavens,  

or the way the fog drifts over the barnacles  

working quietly in the waves without us.  

How else to account for the blue light  

in the deep snow, the soft drift  

of fallen apple blossoms in May’s air,  

or the crimson of the blueberry barrens  

where the glacial boulders work their slow way  

over the land. Even if our beauticians haven’t  

manufactured all of this, and we gratefully  

acknowledge the touch of the divine hand  

wherever we look, they remind us that our hands  

can help make beauty too. We can see  

the evidence everywhere: In the circles  

of burned rubber made by the pick-ups  

dancing over the black top, in the curve  

of a canoe’s bow rippling a silent lake,  

in the space inside the split ash basket,  

in the prayer of a white steeple,  

in the patched quilt on the bed,  

in the sure way an elegant knot is tied to hold  

a load on a trailer, for aren’t work and beauty  

a partnership? Think of the hands that held  

the chisels and wedges to build foundations  

of granite block. Let us praise the ingenuity  

it takes to cut and lift and place ancient stones  

to bear the weight of the present and the future.  

Two hundred years later, a house still standing,  

faithfully greeting today’s light 

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