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March 28, 2005

New Poets with New Verses to Convene
At CCNY’s 33rd Annual Spring Poetry Festival

Poet Laureate Marilyn Nelson will share the microphone with several hundred New York City public school students, as well as college students, CCNY faculty, alumni and guest artists of every poetic stripe at City College’s 33rd Annual Spring Poetry Festival Tuesday, May 10, 2005.

The all-day, all-verse Festival, which has become New York’s longest-running, most established and democratic poetry celebration, runs from 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Theater B of CCNY’s Aaron Davis Hall, at 135th St. and Convent Avenue in Manhattan.

“The Poetry Festival celebrates the free voices of the young people of New York City's public schools,” says Barry Wallenstein, founder and director of CCNY's Poetry Outreach Center.  “These students, who have natural creativity in expressive language, are from every grade level, from all boroughs, and from a tremendous range of schools.”

The Festival will begin with readings by elementary school students, followed by poets from various junior high schools.  Then at 12 noon, the winners of the Festival's citywide High School Poetry Contest will recite their award-winning poems, to be followed by a reading by Ms. Nelson, the featured guest.  The Festival concludes with readings from 2 PM to 5 PM by college students, alumni, faculty, and published poets from around the country. 

The Knopf Publishers Prize – in the form of cash awards – is again being presented to the top winners of the citywide High School Poetry Contest.  There will also be prizes for the best poems in languages other than English.  Reflecting the diversity of the city and of CCNY, poems have been submitted to the Festival contest in 17 different languages.

New highlight this year will be musical interludes and accompaniment for some of the poets performed by Serge Pesce, an internationally known and innovative musician from the South of France.

The featured guest poet is Marilyn Nelson, a recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, two creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the 1990 Connecticut Arts Award, an A.C.L.S. Contemplative Practices Fellowship, and a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation.  She is also Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, Poet Laureate of the State of Connecticut, and the founder/director of Soul Mountain Retreat, a writers' colony.

Over its 33-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 and, most recently, Billy Collins.

The Festival is sponsored by City College's Division of Humanities and Arts and the Poetry Outreach Center, with support from the CUNY Office of Academic Affairs, Knopf Publishers, the New York Times Foundation, the Axe-Houghton Foundation, the William Bingham Foundation, the CCNY Alumni Association, the Simon H. Rifkind Center for the Humanities at CCNY, 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, the High Hopes Foundation, the Stephen and May Cavin Leeman Foundation, and Rudy Schott.

For more information about the 33rd CCNY Spring Poetry Festival, please contact Professor Barry Wallenstein at (212) 650-6343, or go to