Phyllis Cohen Stevens
Deputy Director of News Services
THE SEARCH IS ON FOR THE NEXT QUEENS POET LAUREATE!
FLUSHING, NY, February 1, 2007 -- At a press conference today, Borough President Helen Marshall and Queens College President James Muyskens announced that the search for the fourth Poet Laureate of Queens had officially begun. The Queens Poet Laureate is a three-year, honorary appointment.
"We are looking for a talented and energetic individual whose writing will inspire young and old and who will help promote a greater love of poetry and admiration for its power to motivate the mind and lift the spirit," says Marshall. And, Marshall adds, "He or she must be proud to live here in Queens--the home of America's most diverse population.”
Alluding to Walt Whitman, who taught in a one-room schoolhouse on the site of what would become Queens College, President Muyskens said, “Sometimes I think Whitman also anticipated what the borough of Queens would be like in the 21st century in the lines from his poem Song of Myself:
Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then I contradict myself.
(I am large; I contain multitudes.)
“The borough of Queens is a large, contradictory, multitudinous community of great spirit and open-mindedness that Whitman would have much enjoyed, a community that needs a poet laureate. After all, a social scientist may be able to describe what it is like to live here, but a poet can tell us how it feels to be alive in Queens. And that, I am sure, is what our next poet laureate will do.”
Other speakers included two former Poet Laureates, Professor Emeritus Stephen Stepanchev, who served an extra year (1997-2001) and Hal Sirowitz (2001-2004). The current Queens Poet Laureate is Ishle Yi Park (2004-2007). Andrew Jackson, Executive Director of the Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center in Corona and a Queens Poet Laureate Coordinating Committee member, observed that February 1 is the 105th anniversary of the birth of Langston Hughes, the great poet of the Harlem Renaissance.
The idea for a Queens Poet Laureate was proposed in 1996 by the Friends of the Queens College Library, a volunteer support group, and endorsed by then-Queens Borough President Claire Schulman.
Aspiring Poet Laureates must have lived in Queens for at least the past two years and demonstrated a significant publication record in English. The judges want to know if applicants have published poetry collections; been included in recognized journals, anthologies, recorded spoken word presentations, or on-line poetry web sites; and participated in poetry readings. To qualify, would-be laureates must have written poetry inspired by or related to the borough of Queens. Bilingual poets who can read their work in translation and spoken word artists are welcome to apply. Poets must send no more than 10 single-sided pages of their best work, a cover letter, brief general bio and literary resume.
Applications, which include full information, can be obtained via the Queens Borough President's web site: http://www.queensbp.org . Submissions, which must be postmarked or emailed by March 15, will be evaluated by a panel of judges chosen by the Queens Poet Laureate Coordinating Committee. The Borough President will review the judges' recommendations and make the appointment. The fourth Queens Poet Laureate will assume the position at a ceremony this spring.