Prize winning poet and author Nicole Cooley will be the featured guest poet for the 46th annual City College Poetry Festival on Friday, May 4th. Dubbed “the Woodstock of the Spoken Word,” the festival has become New York’s longest-running poetry celebration.
Cooley is a poet and non-fiction writer and the author of eight books including Breach, a collection of poems focusing on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath; Girl after Girl after Girl, and her newest collection Of Marriage. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Rumpus, Narrative and Drunken Boat. She is a professor of English and the director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Queens College, The City University of New York.
Over 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 former teacher at P.S. 368 in Brooklyn, who had 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.”
“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.”
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 2016.”
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 Elana Bell and Aracelis Girmay, Tracy Smith Marilyn Nelson and most recently, Jacqueline Woodson.
The event commences with readings by elementary school students, followed by poets from junior high schools. Beginning around 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 are cash prizes.
A reading by Nicole Cooley 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.
The all-day, all-verse event runs from 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. at City College’s Marian Anderson Theater in Aaron Davis Hall.
About The City College of New York
Since 1847, The City College of New York has provided a high quality and affordable education to generations of New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. Today The Chronicle of Higher Education ranks CCNY #2 among public colleges with the greatest success in ensuring the social mobility of our student body; at the same time the Center for world University Rankings places it in the top 1.2% of universities worldwide in terms of academic excellence. More than 16,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in eight professional schools and divisions, driven by significant funded research, creativity and scholarship. CCNY is as diverse, dynamic and visionary as New York City itself. View CCNY Media Kit.