Stuart Kestenbaum of Deer Isle was among 23 poet laureates from across the country to win $50,000 for being named a Poets Laureate Fellow by the Academy of American Poets. With the fellowship, Kestenbaum will partner with The Telling Room in Portland to develop Voices of the Future, a podcast and radio initiative that will feature the words and voices of young Maine writers.

“The focus is introducing these young writers – voices of the future – to new audiences,” he wrote in an email.

Stuart Kestenbaum Photo courtesy of the Maine Arts Commission

As part of that effort, Kestenbaum also will feature their work on his Maine Public radio program “Poems from Here.”

In total, the Academy of American Poets distributed $1.1 million to state poet laureates and another $75,000 to 13 organizations that will support the programs.

“As we face the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are turning to poetry for comfort and courage. We are honored and humbled in this moment of great need to fund poets who are talented artists and community organizers, who will most certainly help guide their communities forward,” Jennifer Benka, president and executive director of the Academy of American Poets, said in a statement.

In addition to Kestenbaum, other laureates receiving funding are: Honey Bell-Bey of Ohio; Tina Cane, Rhode Island; Tina Chang, New York; Nnamdi Chukwuocha and Al Mills, aka the Twin Poets of Delaware; Rosemarie Dombrowski, Arizona; Beth Ann Fennelly, Mississippi; Angelo Geter, South Carolina; Margaret Gibson, Connecticut; Rodney Gomez, Texas; Elizabeth Jacobson, New Mexico; Susan Landgraf, Washington; Maria Lisella, New York; Porsha Olayiwola, Massachusetts; Alexandria Peary, New Hampshire; Emmy Pérez, Texas; Mary Ruefle, Vermont; Janice Lobo Sapigao, California; John Warner Smith, Louisiana; Laura Tohe, Navajo Nation; Amie Whittemore, Tennessee; and Assétou Xango, Colorado.

Kestenbaum has written five books of poetry, including his most recent, “How to Start Over” from Deerbrook Editions, released last year. He has been Maine’s poet laureate since 2016.


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