Arrowmont Connections Update: Stuart Kestenbaum is awarded a $50,000 grant and shares recent poetry film, “We Fall and Get Up”

Arrowmont instructor Stuart Kestenbaum shares an update on a recent piece in Poems from Here, his initiative as Maine’s Poet Laureate. He will be returning to Arrowmont in Fall 2021 to teach WORDS AND IMAGES with co-instructor Susan Webster.

Last month, Stu 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.

Stu works in collaboration with Maine Public Television and the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance to celebrate Maine’s bicentennial with short films of Mainers speaking poems by Maine writers.


“The poetry films were developed as a way to celebrate Maine’s bicentennial, with Mainers speaking poems written by Maine writers.  These speakers range from Governor Janet Mills (who is also a writer), to the tribal ambassador of the Penobscot Nation, artists, boat captains, contractors, dancers, and the student writers from the Telling Room.  I particularly wanted to include writers from the Telling Room, since many of them are recent refugees and immigrants to our country.  Maine is one of the oldest and whitest states in the country, and this poem, written by recent immigrants, and spoken by young people, seemed a good way to celebrate our state’s future while we were honoring its past.”

“We are because you are.”

Stu shares a recent piece, “We Fall and Get Up” – a found poem assembled by poets Mihku Paul and Gibson Fay-LeBlanc from statements made by a roomful of people at the East End Community School in Portland on World Refugee Day in 2015. This group of people, from many different cultures and places, shared food, conversation, and stories as part of a series of events organized by community leaders and local writers.

For Stuart, this project brings him hope.

“The speakers of the poem are young writers from the Telling Room,” writes Stu.  “The Telling Room serves a diverse group of youth from all backgrounds and of all abilities, including youth who are a part of Maine’s growing community of immigrants and refugees (student writers from 38 countries have participated).

Readers are:

  • Maryam Abdullah
  • Finn Gilbert
  • Aurelie Kaleka
  • River Louten
  • Ladislas Nzeyimana

Stuart Kestenbaum’s original Arrowmont Connections blog post:

The Press Herald article about Stuart Kestenbaum’s grant award:


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