Established in 1972, the City College Poetry Festival is the longest-running poetry celebration in New York. The festival is an all-day love affair with the spoken word, beginning at 9:15AM and concluding at 5PM. Taking place in the Marian Anderson Theater of Aaron Davis Hall, the festival is the culmination of workshops held in some of the most underserved public schools in the city, many of which have had their arts programs cut significantly due to budget cuts.
The festival and workshops are organized by Pamela Laskin, Executive Director of the Poetry Outreach Center, author, and lecturer in the City College’s English Department. “The City College Poetry Festival is the democratic voice of poetry in New York City public schools,” Mrs. Laskin says. “This would make Walt Whitman proud.” Mrs. Laskin orchestrates a team of mentors, graduate students from the College’s English Department, who hold poetry workshops in public schools around the city. During the workshops, children are introduced to poetry via works by some of the most established wordsmiths in history. They also learn to create and edit their own poems, the best of which are read aloud at the festival.
The program begins with readers in elementary school, and later, junior high school. During the portion dedicated to high school students, three are awarded cash prizes from Knopf Publishers, one of the event’s major sponsors. There is also a prize given for the best poem written in a language other than English, a salute to the abundant and unparalleled diversity on the City College campus.
The 44th Annual City College Spring Poetry Festival, taking place on Friday May 13th, is free and open to the public. We hope to see you there.