In today’s Audience section, you will find a new feature that highlights the good work of Maine poets.

The weekly series, “Take Heart: Conversations in Poetry,” results from the efforts of Maine’s new poet laureate, Wesley McNair, and the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Working in tandem, they will present one poem each week by a Maine poet from the past or present.

The poems will be short — 30 lines or fewer — and speak to a theme with a broad appeal.

The first poem in the series is from Deer Isle writer Stuart Kestenbaum. He is best known as director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, but Kestenbaum also is a first-rate poet. He has published three books of poetry, and his poems have been featured on Garrison’s Keillor’s popular public radio broadcast “The Writer’s Almanac.”

In “April Prayer,” he writes about something we all can relate to: the coming of spring, the opening of maple buds and the radio fund drive, when operators are always standing by.

McNair hopes “Take Heart” returns poetry to the masses. Back in the days of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, poets were stars and known across the world. Over time, poetry has become somewhat relegated to academics. “Take Heart” should help change that, he said.

“This is a chance for our poets to break free from their cliques and speak to general readers,” said McNair. “A lot of people may not know who John Keats is, or Walt Whitman or T.S. Eliot, but they have done their homework by living a life. The poet’s task is to speak to that life.”

This series comes at an interesting time. The arts are under siege, targeted by budget-cutters at the local, state and federal levels. McNair sees it as his duty to remind people that the arts not only are valuable, but worthy of a good fight.

“Take Heart” is part of his fight.

“There are some people in the arts who are upset about the political realities of the day. They simply want no part of it. They want to pick up their marbles and go home. That is the wrong impulse. This time is an opportunity to think more deeply about the work we do as creative people,” he said.

“The value of art seems to be in play. I intend to play harder.”

 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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