Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Announcing the CCNY Poetry Festival

43rd Annual CCNY Poetry Festival Scheduled for May 8th

                            Featuring Tracy K. Smith

Pulitzer-Prize winning poet winning author Tracy K. Smith will be the featured guest poet for the 43rd annual City College Poetry Festival. The all-day, all-verse event runs 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, May 8th, and this year-for the first time-will be housed in the NAC building, The Aronow Theater, on the first floor. Dubbed “the Woodstock of the Spoken Word,” the festival has become New York’s longest-running poetry celebration.

"The City College Poetry Festival is the democratic voice of poetry in New York City public schools,” said Pamela Laskin, a lecturer in the City College English department and director of the CCNY Poetry Outreach Center, which produces the festival. “Its assumption is there are many poets, and they all have terrific stories to tell. This would make Walt Whitman proud."

Upwards of 150 students from as many as 50 schools are expected to recite their poems at this year’s festival. The festival is “something the children always look forward to,” said Norma Dunkley, a teacher at P.S. 368 in Brooklyn, who has been attending the festival for over 10 years.  “It’s a blessing, something that is real to them, and it’s an entire year of poetry for the children, leading up to this celebration.  The teachers and the administrators love it, too.”

Some of the children who participated in the festival’s early years are now teachers who bring their classes. “In 1975, I introduced a third grade student to the audience of 400 cheering students, teachers, friends and family: In 1996, this same individual returned to the festival at City and introduced the readers from her fourth grade class,” recalls Barry Wallenstein, CCNY professor emeritus and former festival director.

“Over the past four decades, this event has become a place of reunion and affirmation for City College alumni, returning teachers, student-poets and friends of the College. I hope it and the important activities of the Poetry Outreach Center continue long beyond 2012.”

In addition to the readings by students, each year the festival invites one or more prominent poet to read his or her work. Among those to have appeared are: Paul Simon, Allen Ginsberg, Gwendolyn Brooks, Muriel Rukeyser, Adrienne Rich, Philip Levine, Billy Collins, Major Jackson, Kimiko Hahn, Cornelius Eady, Patricia Smith, Richard Tillinghast, Tom Sleigh and most recently, Elana Bell and Aracelis Girmay. 

The event commences with readings by elementary school students, followed by poets from junior high schools. Beginning around 12 noon, the winners of the festival's citywide high school poetry contest will recite their poems, with the top three winners receiving the Knopf Publishers Prize, which awards cash prizes.

Reading by Tracy K. Smith will follow. The festival concludes with college students, alumni, faculty and published poets from around the country reading their works between 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

In addition to the Knopf Publishers Prize, the festival presents a special award for the best poem in a language other than English.  Reflecting the diversity of New York City and of CCNY, poems have been submitted to the festival in almost 20 different languages over its history.

About the Poet

Tracy K. Smith is the author of three books of poetry. Her most recent collection, Life on Mars won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize, and was selected as a NYT Notable Book. Duende won the 2006 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets and an ESSENCE Literary Award. The Body’s Question was the winner of the 2002 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Smith was the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writers Award in 2004 and a whiting Award in 2005. In 2015, her memoir Ordinary Light will be released by Knopf.

Festival Sponsors
         Axe-Houghton Foundation;
         Knopf Publishers;
         Peter Russell;
         Poetry Society of America;
         Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation;
         Poets & Writers, Inc.;
         David and Harianne Wallenstein;
         Weissman Family Foundation;
         Office of CCNY President Lisa S. Coico;
         Dean Eric Weitz and the Division of the Humanities and the Arts;
         Provost Maurizio Trevisan;
         Grove School of Engineering, Gilda Barabino, dean;
         CCNY School of Education: Andrew Ratner, Shira Epstein and Elizabeth Rorschach;
         CCNY English Department, Renata Miller, chair;
         CCNY Office of Government and Community Affairs, Karen Witherspoon, vice president;
         City College Fund, Elena Sturman, executive director;
         Alumni Association of The City College of New York, Don Jordan, executive vice president.

*South Wind Foundation, newest donor
*The Mad Rose Foundation: upcoming donor, 2015
*Ralph E. Ogden Foundation, Inc., upcoming donor, 2015

For more information about the 43rd CCNY Spring Poetry Festival, please contact Pamela L. Laskin at (212) 650-6356, or visit the Poetry Outreach Center online.  

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