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April 9, 2007

CCNY’s 35th Annual Spring Poetry Festival – The Woodstock of the Spoken Word – to Take Place May 18

NEW YORK, April 9, 2007– The 35TH annual City College Spring Poetry Festival, an all-day, all-verse event that has become New York’s longest-running, most established and democratic poetry celebration, will take place 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, May 18, in Theater B of Aaron Davis Hall, on the campus of The City College of New York (CCNY) at 135th St. and Convent Avenue.

This year’s guest poets will be two members of the Poetry Outreach Center faculty: Elaine Equi, who teaches in CCNY’s M.F.A. in Creative Writing program, and Barry Wallenstein, Founder and former Director of the Center, who retired in 2006.

Over its 35-year history, the Festival has attracted the participation of numerous celebrated poets.  They have included singer/songwriter Paul Simon, Allen Ginsberg, Gwendolyn Brooks, Muriel Rukeyser, Jayne Cortez, Adrienne Rich, Marie Ponsot, Marilyn Hacker, Philip Levine, Charles Simic, Colette Inez, Stanley Kunitz, Billy Collins and, most recently, Alicia Ostriker.

 “The Poetry Festival celebrates the free voices of the young people of New York City's public schools,” said Professor Wallenstein.  “These students, who show their natural creativity in expressive language, are from every grade level, from all boroughs, and from an ever-growing range of schools.”

The Festival is “something the children always look forward to,” adds 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.”

The event begins with readings by elementary school students, followed by poets from junior high schools, in the morning.  Starting around noon, the winners of the Festival's citywide High School Poetry Contest will recite their award-winning poems.  They will be followed by readings by the guest poets, Elaine Equi and Barry Wallenstein.  The Festival concludes with college students, CCNY alumni, faculty, and published poets from around the country reading their works from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.  Internationally known musician Serge Pesce, who has performed at previous festivals, will provide musical interludes and accompany some of the poets.

The Knopf Publishers Prize will award cash prizes to the top three winners of the citywide High School Poetry Contest.  In addition, the Festival will present a special award for the best poem in a language other than English.  Reflecting the diversity of the city and of CCNY, poems have been submitted to the Festival in almost 20 different languages. 

The Festival is sponsored by City College's Division of Humanities and Arts and the Poetry Outreach Center, with involvement from the CUNY Office of Academic Affairs, the A.E.C. Foundation at The City College, Knopf Publishers, the New York Times Foundation, the Axe-Houghton Foundation, the Puffin Foundation, the Rita S. and Stanley H. Kaplan Foundation, the Weissman Family Foundation, Poets & Writers Inc., the Independence Community Foundation, Helen and Murray Gruber, David and Harianne Wallenstein, the Poetry Society of America and The Starbucks Foundation.

About the Featured Guest Poets

Elaine Equi, the first featured guest reader, is the author of 12 poetry collections, including Voice-Over, which won the San Francisco State University Poetry Award; The Cloud of Knowable Things and, most recently, Ripple Effect: New & Selected Poems.   Widely published and anthologized, her work has appeared in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Postmodern American Poetry, A Norton Anthology, and numerous volumes of the Best American Poetry.   She teaches at New York University and in the M.F.A. programs at The City College of New York and The New School.

The second featured guest, Barry Wallenstein, the former director of the Poetry Outreach Center, is the author of five poetry collections, the most recent being A Measure of Conduct (Ridgeway Press, 1999).  His poetry has appeared in over 100 journals and magazines in the United States and abroad, including The Nation, Centennial Review, Ploughshares and American Poetry Review. In addition, he is poetry editor of American Book Review.   At CCNY, he was a Professor of Literature and Creative Writing in addition to Director of the Poetry Outreach Center.  Although he has retired, he maintains close connections with the College, the Festival and the Poetry Outreach Center.  Professor Wallenstein often performs poetry with jazz collaboration. He has made five recordings of poetry with jazz, the most recent being, Pandemonium in 2005, and he has performed with and without musical accompaniment in Amsterdam, Cape Town, Dublin, London, Paris and Prague.

For more information about the 35th CCNY Spring Poetry Festival, please contact Pamela L. Laskin at (212) 650-6356, or go to