Carriage House Programs bring poetry to the community

by Mary Ellen Cagnassola
The Carriage House Poetry Series, held in Fanwood’s Kuran Arts Center, is a place for noted poets and local unknowns alike. Initiated in 1998 by writer and Fanwood resident Adele Kenny, the poetry program has flourished as a stage for artists of various ages and origins.
   “It’s a comfortable, non-judgmental place for people with a mutual appreciation of poetry,” said Kenny, who also directs the poetry series.
The 19th-century building dedicated to the arts was formerly known as the Fanwood Carriage House, for which the poetry series is named. At one time, the Gothic Revival structure housed horses and carriages needed to transport visitors to and from the railroad station. The property has been under the care of many owners and served an array of purposes since it was first built circa 1750, but now it welcomes poetry lovers to revel in its literary atmosphere.
“I believe that poetry teaches us we aren’t alone. It’s a sharing experience that enables us to be part of a community,” said Kenny. “The Carriage House is a venue that allows poetry to do what poetry does best.”
Kenny, author of 23 poetry and nonfiction books, began writing at age four. Hundreds of her poems and other works have reached a global audience, and she is currently the poetry editor of Tirefet: A Journal of Spiritual Literature. In addition to founding the Carriage House, she has also been the director of the Fanwood Arts Council since 1999.
“I have always had a deep love for poetry,” said Kenny. “I always wanted to have my own series and make good poetry local.”
The Carriage House series has gone beyond that goal. What was once a dilapidated historical building has transformed into a fully restored palace of poetry known on a national level. The Academy of American Poets publicizes Carriage House readings on its website, according to Kenny. Noted artists such as Pulitzer-Prize-winner Stephen Dunn, bestselling author John Wareham, and internationally known voice of the poetry slam movement, Taylor Mali, have been featured in the Carriage House series.
“I think poetry is very important for this generation,” said junior Brie Manns. “It gives us a chance to express ourselves.”
For those who don’t follow or write poetry actively, Kenny says the Carriage House still has much to offer. “I think it can offer people who aren’t active in the poetry community the experience of what poetry is about. I want people to see the beauty and excitement in it, and I try to provide inspiration for those who maybe don’t know how to,” she said.
The calendar for future readings can be viewed on the Carriage House website,, and all are welcome to bring material of their own to present to the other audience members.
On Dec. 13, the poetry series will host a “Renaissance Night” in celebration of its 13th anniversary. Attendees are all encouraged to dress in Tudor/Renaissance garb for an evening of period music and poetry. `
The arts center is located at 75 N. Martine Ave, facing Watson Road, adjacent to Fanwood Borough Hall.