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Department of Recreation and Cultural Affairs News

Posted on: April 22, 2021

Stuart Kestenbaum & Rachelle Parker

May 16 Watershed

The South Orange Dept. of Cultural Affairs & Watershed Literary Events present a virtual reading with poets...

Watershed Literary Events, a spoken-word series sponsored by the Department of Cultural Affairs in South Orange, will host its second virtual reading of the year on Sunday, May 16, at 2 pm.  

The event will feature Columbia High School graduate and Maine poet laureate Stuart Kestenbaum and Maplewood poet and photographer Rachelle Parker. The event is free and open to the public and will feature a Q &A after the reading.

Zoom link:

Stuart Kestenbaum fell in love with Maine after college, but the CHS class of ‘69 graduate confesses that “deep down inside beats the heart of a Jersey boy.” Kestenbaum, Maine’s poet laureate from 2016-2021, spoke to a rapt CHS student audience in 2018, and “returns” to NJ thanks to the opportunities offered by the virtual format.

Former US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser notes, “Stuart Kestenbaum writes the kind of poems I love to read, heartfelt responses to the privilege of having been given a life. No hidden agendas here, no theories to espouse, nothing but life, pure life, set down with craft and love.”

Kestenbaum is the author of five collections of poems, and was host of the Maine Public Radio program Poems from Here and the host/curator of the podcast Make/Time. For 27 years, he served as the director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts on Deer Island.

Rachelle Parker was a resident of Montclair for several years before moving to Maplewood, NJ. She is the 2019 winner of the Furious Flower Poetry Prize-James Madison University, and won third prize in the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award in 2020 for her poem “I Worry About Atatiana Jefferson’s Nephew.” Parker is a fellow of VONA Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation, Tin House Summer Workshop Poetry, and Callaloo Creative Writing at Brown University. Her work appears in numerous publications, including Rhino Poetry, The Adirondack Review, and the anthology The BreakBeat Poets: Black Girl Magic. Her photographic work debuts in the Spring 2021 issue of Orion Magazine.

Writing about Parker's award-winning poem, "I Was a Monsoon Just Once,” poet A. Van Jordan notes: "The figurative language never feels forced, and the formal gestures—the control of the line, the music of the line—feel as natural as the spoken word.”

Watershed Literary Events hosts four readings a year, featuring both established and emerging writers with a connection to New Jersey. For updated information, check back with the South Orange Village website, or contact Peter Travers at


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