Posts Tagged ‘Poet Laureate’


Poetry Resources

May 14, 2018

Wes McNair

During Poetry Month, former Maine’s Poet Laureate, Wes McNair launched a new poetry website for teachers and learners called The Lyric Moose.  If you’re looking for a resource that will help you teach or learn about free verse poetry and how to write about it, check out this compendium of six programs, with a wide range of interactive instruction, including videos, craft exercises, teaching assignments, author interviews and poem lists.

While visiting the site I found the resource 20 Maine Poets Read and Discuss Their Work compelling. The resource includes 20 short videos in which a diverse group of contemporary Maine poets read two poems apiece and explain their beginnings as poets, their influences, and their themes. Gibson Fay LeBlanc and Megan Grumbling are two of the 20 poets featured. For several years they have both provided workshops for the Commission’s Poetry Out Loud program.


“The website includes links to poetry projects for teachers that I’ve developed with Colby College Special Collections and Information Technology Services. There are six links in all, and three of them were sponsored in one way or another by the Maine Arts Commission.”

It is wonderful to see the impact that Wes continues to make on education in Maine and beyond. THANK YOU Wes for your contributions!


Congratulations Gabrielle!

March 17, 2017

Gardiner Area High School Senior Gabrielle Cooper

Gardiner High School Senior Gabrielle Cooper Maine Poetry Out Loud State Champ
Natalie Lisnet, senior at Bangor High School, is runner up

AUGUSTA, ME, MARCH 13– The Maine Arts Commission is proud to announce that Gabrielle Cooper, a senior from Gardiner High School, won the Maine Poetry Out Loud State Finals and is on her way to the nationals in Washington, D.C. in April. Natalie Lisnet, a senior from Bangor High School took runner-up. Cooper won the championship in three rounds of readings among 10 finalists representing Maine’s northern and southern regionals.

The Maine Arts Commission organizes the poetry recitation contest in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. Jennifer Rooks, public affairs host and producer at Maine Public Broadcasting Network was the master of ceremonies for the event at the Waterville Opera House. The event also featured music from the Maranacook Chamber Singers and a reading by Maine Poet Laureate Stuart Kestenbaum.

Poetry Out Loud Maine Champion Gabrielle Cooper poses with her first place trophy. It was Cooper’s first time competing in the state and regional finals. She will now move on to Washington D.C. to compete in the national championship.

“I think that when a poem works and a poet gets to the point where he or she wants to get, it’s because they made a discovery in their work,” Kesterbaum said while speaking to the finalists during intermission. “I think when you spoke those poems, you were making that same discovery in the words that the poet made.”

All 10 contestants recited two poems by memory before intermission, at which time the panel of four judges selected five finalists. In the final round of five, Cooper recited “To Be of Use,” by Marge Piercy, a poem Cooper said, is about the value of hard work and how nice it is to see progress in your efforts.

In her spare time, Cooper enjoys horseback riding, playing in her school band and volunteering with Spectrum Generations’ Meals on Wheels program. Cooper will attend Dartmouth College next fall, where she hopes to pursue a degree in economics.

After the event, Cooper thanked her mom and English teachers for all the support and effort they put into helping her along the way.

Maine Poetry Out Loud State Finalists: (left to right): Emma Beyor, Kate Hodgson, Amran Mahamed, Skyler Vaughn, Arielle Leeman, Antyna Gould, Gabrielle Cooper, Natalie Lisnet, Jordan Bryant and Sabrina Small.

“They helped me a lot with practicing after school, during my study halls, breaking down my poems for me, and giving me feedback after the regional competition,” Cooper said. “That’s been a great help. It’s been nice to spend that time with them.”

Cooper will receive $200, as well as a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books for Gardiner High School. She will then represent Maine at the National Poetry Out Loud Finals in Washington D.C. on April 25-26. Cooper will compete for the first place award of a $20,000 scholarship. In total, $50,000 in prizes and school stipends will be awarded to the top 10 finalists and their schools.

In addition to Cooper and Lisnet, the other state finalists were: Emma Beyor, Erskine Academy; Kate Hodgson, Camden Regional High School; Amran Mahamed, Deering High School; Skyler Vaughn, The Maine Girls’ Academy; Arielle Leeman, Morse High School; Antyna Gould, Medomak Valley High School; Jordan Bryant, Greely High School; and Sabrina Small, Maine Coast Waldorf School.

For more information about Poetry Out Loud, and for how your school can participate next year, visit or contact Argy Nestor, Director of Arts Education, Maine Arts Commission at Videos of the Poetry Out Loud state and regional finals will be made available on the Maine Arts Commission youtube and Facebook page:

The Maine Arts Commission supports artists, art organizations, educators, policy makers, and community developers in advancing the arts in Maine. For more than 50 years the Commission has encouraged and stimulated public interest and participation in the cultural heritage and cultural programs of our state; has worked to expand the state’s cultural resources; and encouraged and assisted freedom of artistic expression for the well-being of the arts, to meet the needs and aspirations of persons in all parts of the state. Additional information is available at


20 Maine Poets

September 3, 2016

New website brought to you by Wes

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 3.17.40 PMThis is to announce the launch of a new website called 20 Maine Poets Read and Discuss Their Work. To access the site, simply click here

Prepared by former Maine Poet Laureate Wesley McNair with the help of the technical staff at the University of Maine at Farmington, the website features videos of a variety of Maine’s contemporary poets, who read two poems apiece selected from their work and discuss where their poetry comes from and how they write it..

The website’s videos are supplemented by biographies of the poets and a special section called “In Memoriam,“ offering samples of work by five poets who died during McNair’s laureateship. The site will give general readers an appreciation for the richness and diversity of today’s Maine poetry. It will also provide teachers and students with an important online resource for coursework in creative writing and Maine literature.

20 Maine Poets Read and Discuss Their Work is the culmination of a statewide initiative McNair began as poet laureate. Future links on the website will feature  videos, readings and activities derived from his other initiatives, including “Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry,” “The Maine Poetry Express,” and “Written Word, Spoken Word and Hip-Hop.” Stay tuned!


Maine Poet Laureate Announced

March 24, 2016

Stu Kestenbaum

Meet Maine’s Fifth State Poet Laureate -Stuart Kestenbaum of Deer Isle Assumes Mantle

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 9.05.21 PM

Stuart Kestenbaum

AUGUSTA, MAINE–The Maine Arts Commission (MAC) is thrilled to announce the appointment of Maine’s fifth state poet laureate. Stuart Kestenbaum, a resident of Deer Isle, will succeed Wesley McNair, who held the position since 2011. By legislative statute, the State Poet Laureate is appointed for a five-year term and may be reappointed for a second consecutive term. Kestenbaum’s predecessors include, in addition to McNair, Kate Barnes (1996-1999), Baron Wormser (2000-2005), and Betsy Sholl (2006-2011).

“When I was at Haystack I would frequently read poems—often by Maine poets—to artists who came from all around the US and other countries,” Kestenbaum said in a recent interview. “I wanted to give them a sense of place—of Maine—of its ingenuity and tenacity and of poetry’s power to slow the world down momentarily and let us see what’s most important.”

Stuart Kestenbaum is the author of four collections of poems, Pilgrimage (Coyote Love Press), House of Thanksgiving (Deerbrook Editions), and Prayers and Run-on Sentences (Deerbrook Editions) and Only Now (Deerbrook Editions). He has written and spoken widely on craft making and creativity, and his poems and writing have appeared in numerous small press publications and magazines including Tikkun, the Sun, the Beloit Poetry Journal, Northeast Corridor, and others and on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac.

“Stuart Kestenbaum writes the kind of poems I love to read, heartfelt responses to the privilege of having been given a life,” Ted Kooser, from 2004-06 the nation’s thirteenth poet laureate, wrote in regard to Kestenbaum’s Prayers and Run-on Sentences. “No hidden agendas here, no theories to espouse, nothing but life, pure life, set down with craft and love.”

Kestenbaum retired in 2015 as the longtime director of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. He is currently the chair of the American Craft Council, for which he was elected an honorary fellow in 2006. This month he was also named an honorary member of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) during NCECA’s 50th annual conference in Kansas City, MO.

“Stu’s work beautifully captures the quirky, rural characteristics that make Maine unique and beloved,” said Julie Richard, Executive Director of the Maine Arts Commission. “The selection committee was unanimous in recommending him to the Governor to be Maine’s next Poet Laureate.”

Maine’s Poet Laureate position is an appointment designed to promote poetry throughout the state while honoring an eminent Maine poet for his or her achievements. The position was established by Maine statute in 1995. To be considered for this appointment, poets must be full-time Maine residents and have a distinguished body of poetic work.

“I’m so honored and grateful to have been selected as the state’s poet laureate. I hope to make connections between writers and other creative disciplines and to celebrate poetry’s power to transform us—poet and reader alike– in unexpected ways,” Kestenbaum added.

To learn more about the Maine Arts Commission’s current and future programs please go to You may also join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @MaineArts.


The Maine Arts Commission shall encourage and stimulate public interest and participation in the cultural heritage and cultural programs of our state; shall expand the state’s cultural resources; and shall encourage and assist freedom of artistic expression for the well being of the arts, to meet the needs and aspirations of persons in all parts of the state.

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