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April 10, 2008

CCNY’s 36th Annual Spring Poetry Festival – The Woodstock of the Spoken Word – to Take Place May 16

NEW YORK, April 10, 2008– The 36TH annual City College 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 16, 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 featured guest poet is Major Jackson, an award-winning poet and Associate Professor of English at the University of Vermont.

Over its 36-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, Alicia Ostriker, and most recently, Elaine Equi and Barry Wallenstein.

 “The Poetry Festival celebrates the free voices of the young people of New York City's public schools,” said Professor Barry Wallenstein, former Director of The Poetry Outreach Center.  “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.  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 featured guest poet, Major Jackson.  The Festival concludes with college students, 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 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, Poets & Writers, Inc. and The Starbucks Foundation.

About the Featured Guest Poet

Major Jackson is the author of two collections: Hoops(Norton:2006) and Leaving Saturn(University of Georgia:2002), winner of the 2002 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award. He has received critical attention in The Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Parnassus, Philadelphia Inquirer and on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” His poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Boulevard, Callaloo, The New Yorker, Post Road, Poetry, Triquarterly, among other literary journals and anthologies. He is a recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, and has been honored by the Pew Fellowship for the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress. Last year, he served as a creative arts fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and as the Jack Kerouac Writer-in-Residence at The University of Massachusetts-Lowell. Major Jackson is an Associate Professor of English at University of Vermont and a core faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars.

For more information about the 36th CCNY Spring Poetry Festival, please contact Pamela L. Laskin at (212) 650-6356, or go to

About The City College of New York

For more than 160 years, The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines.  Over 14,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; The School of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture (SAUDLA); The School of Education; The Grove School of Engineering, and The Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education.  For additional information, visit