June 6 Poetry and Events

Listen to a poetry reading of the 2022 version of “Until the End.”

Flashback to June 6, 1999:

Some highlights of the day, my favorite being the UK’s #1 Song: Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) – Baz Luhrmann. A mix of music and spoken word, absolutely worth the listen. That one’s been in my Spotify liked songs for quite some times.

Meanwhile, in the US #1 Song: If You Had My Love – Jennifer Lopez. Clearly the UK had the better choice in the music department.

Of course, there was also the largest jailbreak in Brazilian history. And Anne Haddy, the Australian actress passed away.

And finally, June 6, 1999, was the birthday of this poem. In 2010, eleven years after its birth, it found publication in the literary journal Legendary.

Here it is, on its 23rd birthday…(and I ask: Are you older or younger than this poem?)

Until The End 

Too often I am fed 
only my inadequacies. 
My right arm too weak to hold 
up the ceiling.  And in the left 
my still-born son. 

My legs that could not run fast  
enough to catch my ghost as 
she left me. 

I could not be nourished on these. 
My weakness ever starving me. 

Yet, constant is my blood pulsing, 
never surrendering.  Even after defeat. 
Even after I am captured. 

Always, the sacrifice dies screaming, 
kicking violently at the face of God. 
Once she is tied to the stake, and 
the torch is pressed to the timber 
the vow is made stronger.  Fire 
burns belief hotter. 

The damned cannot alter allegiance. 
It is too late.  Conviction is forever. 

This is my strength:  In all of my failure 

I have not surrendered. 

(c) Kay Kestner - 1999

Coffee Mate and Unrequited Love

In May of 2016, Kelly Ann Jacobson edited and released Unrequited:  An Anthology of Love Poems about Inanimate Objects. 

The anthology was well received and found a favorable review in Quail Bell Magazine.

Here is just a snippet of that review:

“What is also quite interesting is how each section of the anthology carries similar tones in how the poets addressed their objects… As Ann (Kay) Kestner bluntly states at the start of her poem “Coffee Mate,” “Coffee//is the longest//committed relationship//I have ever had,” which hints at the mindset of the poet, but also creates a mood that the reader might empathize with easily.” – Alex Carrigan, Quail Bell Magazine.

You can read Alex Carrigan’s full review of Unrequited:  An Anthology of Love Poems about Inanimate Objects here.

Copies of the anthology can be purchased through Amazon.

Coffee Mate
(Published under Ann Kestner)

is the longest
committed relationship
I have ever had.

My lips
make out
with its mug
every morning, afternoon
and evening.

throughout the day
I reheat it,
blow kisses at it,
whisper I love you,
what would I do
without you.

I stopped adding sugar
years ago.  It wasn’t
a necessary ingredient
and there has never been
any saccharine
in our relationship.

I am happy even when it is decaffeinated.
That’s when you know
you really do love it.

A Boy Named Kevin and the Cursed Name

Pennames, pseudonyms…they’re common among writers.  I’ve used plenty of them.  This, however, has not been limited to my writing.

Let’s start with the very first announcement of my existence in this world.  They didn’t have ultrasounds back then.  You didn’t know what you were getting until the kid popped out, started screaming, and the doctor told you it’s this or that.

Somehow the announcement of my birth went something like this:  The calls went out to all the family members, “It’s a boy named Kevin.  Mother and child are doing well.”

Yup, there I was, a boy named Kevin. 

I’ll clarify here.  There was absolutely no confusion over my sex at birth.  I was clearly a cis girl.  No doubts about that. 

Next came the birth certificate.  My parents choose a name for both a boy and a girl.  Kevin if it’s a boy.  Kristin, with tin, not ten, if it’s a girl.  They wrote the names down.  Not hard to spell, but my mother was dyslexic and essentially illiterate.  She really needed it written down.

Of course, she forgot to bring the paper with how to spell Kristin to the hospital.   Only the name Kevin went to the hospital with her.

Then comes the nurse wanting the name for the birth certificate.  My mother didn’t have the paper with Kristin on it.  All she could remember was that they decided to spell it tin, not ten.  Here comes the dyslexia (which I, of course, inherited).  She couldn’t figure out if it was kris or kirs.  She went with the wrong one.  Kirstin.

The actual pronunciation took a few years to nail down and various names were employed early on.  I vaguely remember my father giving up on it and just calling me Mishalyn for a while.  But somewhere around the age of three, they eventually decided to pronounce Kirstin as curse-tin.

But back at the hospital and now to the second round of phone calls.  Announcement number two went like this, “It’s not a boy.  It’s a girl.  We’re not sure what the name is.”

To this day, I’m convinced that no one knows what my name is.  I’m still a bit befuddled by it. 

As a result, I’ve spent my life going by whatever remotely sounded like my name:
Kristen, Kiersten, Christine, Christina, Christian, etc.

The total misunderstandings of my name:
Urstin (my mother swears that’s a real name) and Thurston.

Then there’s my middle:
Ann, and its variants Annie and Anna.

A pleasant relief to my classmates in Spanish class was:
Isabel (we had to use a Spanish name in class).

Plus, the nicknames close friends came up with when we were teens:
Kay Kay and Nitsrik (Kirstin spelled backwards).

Ah, and now to the three decades of pennames.  At this point, you should understand why there have been so many of them.  Here’s the list, vaguely in order, as best as I can remember:

Kirstin Kestner, Kirstin A Kestner, K.A. Kestner, K. Kestner, Isabel Kestner, Isabel Sylvan, and Ann Kestner.

Oh, yes, there’s more.  Somewhere around 2014, I came up with the idea to divide my poetry into various characters and created a fictional group of poets, who, through their writings interacted with each other.  A poet friend of mine thought the idea was either genius or insanity.  Turns out, it was insanity.

That group of poets, The Odd-Bound Group, included:
Anna Lyn, April Lyn, Daniel Ward, RJ Stuart, Joan Marie George, and Maggie Pfeiffer.

After all of that, it was time to simplify my personal and writing life.  I finally decided to take half of the nickname my closest and most beloved friend called me:   Kay.  Short for Kay Kay.  Although April (or Lirpa) hasn’t called me Kay Kay since she passed in 1996, I like the thought of keeping a little bit of her with me by keeping a little bit of the name she called me.  If there was anyone in my life who truly had the right to name me, April (Lirpa) was the one.

So, now, it’s Kay.  Okay?

A Collaboration Under the Rainbow

In collaboration with the Ministry of Artistic Intent and the Water Witch Poetry & Reading Series, Poetry Breakfast held an editor’s roundtable reading at the Water Witch Coffee House this past Thursday.

Greeting us as we gathered was a lovely rainbow over the Water Witch Coffee House.

The evening began with a workshop on submitting poetry for publication in literary journals, led by Poetry Breakfast’s founder and editor, Kay Kestner. Who was also the evening’s featured reader.

After the open mic portion of the night, Kay gave a little guidance on Poetry Breakfast’s esthetic and then let the group have a go at being guest editors for the night.

Poetry Breakfast would like the thank the wonderful artists, musicians and poets that helped review poetry submissions and bring a few new flavors to our menu.

Guest Editors:

Sean Navat Balanon – Sean is an artist from Old Bridge, NJ.  He has a BA in Music Technology from Stevens Institute of Technology.  Sean illustrates and makes video art.

Jon Davies – Jon is a musician, writer, and vagrant who has traveled throughout the United States.

John Flood – John is a local photographer, poet and musician focused on documenting and exposing the vibrant Monmouth County arts scene.  

Charles Ignar –  Charles is a local emerging poet.  He is a mainstay at the Water Witch Poetry Workshop & Reading where he shares his work and enjoys hearing the diverse work of other poets.

Chelsea Palermo – Chelsea is the founder of the Ministry of Artistic Intent. She is the hostess and organizer of the Water Witch Poetry & Reading Series.  In 2013 she was nominated for Poet Laureate of Asbury Park.  She graduated with her MFA in Poetry from Drew University.

Patricia Rinaldi – Patricia is a poet and regular attendee of the Water Witch Poetry Workshop & Reading Series.  She consistently brings encouragement to all the poets at the Water Witch.

Our Mystery Guest Editor – Though he chose to remain anonymous – anonymous is certainly not the word to describe this vibrant poet, writer, and musician.  He has actively participated in and fiercely promoted the local poetry and music scene for many years and he continues to draw attention to new and emerging artists in Monmouth County.