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May 2, 2006

Poetry in Performance – The Woodstock of the Spoken Word CCNY’s 34th Annual Spring Poetry Festival

NEW YORK, May 2, 2006 – The 34th Annual City College Poetry Festival, an all-day, all-verse event that has become New York’s longest-running, most established and most democratic poetry celebration will be held 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 16 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 show their natural creativity in expressive language, are from every grade level, from all boroughs, and from an ever growing range of schools.” 

“We have been participating in your festival for eight years and think it is remarkable. The fact that it has been going on for all these years is nothing short of miraculous,” commented Irene Gee, a former principal at P.S. 155. “Our teachers and students feel privileged to be among like-minded individuals who share their passion for writing. Your festival strengthens our school philosophy that writing well is its own reward.”

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 city-wide High School Poetry Contest will recite their award-winning poems, to be followed by a reading by Alicia Ostriker, the featured guest. The Festival concludes with readings from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. by CCNY students, alumni, faculty members and published poets from around the country.

The Knopf Publishers Prize – in the form of cash awards – will again be presented to the top winners of the city-wide High School Poetry Contest. Prizes will be awarded for the best poems in languages other than English, as well. This year, poems have been submitted to the Festival in almost 20 different languages, reflecting the diversity of New York City and of CCNY. 

Returning this year will be internationally known musician Serge Pesce, who will provide musical interludes as well as accompaniment for several of the poets.

The featured guest, Alicia Ostriker, is an award-winning American poet and critic. Nominated twice for a National Book Award, she has authored 11 volumes of poetry, most recently No Heaven (2005). As a critic, Ostriker is the author of two path-breaking volumes on women's poetry, Writing Like a Woman and Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women's Poetry in America. 

She has also published two books on the Bible, Feminist Revision and the Bible and the controversial The Nakedness of the Fathers; Biblical Visions and Revisions, a combination of prose and poetry that re-imagines the Bible from the perspective of a contemporary Jewish woman. Her most recent prose book is Dancing at the Devil's Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics and the Erotic.

Over its 34-year history, the Festival has welcomed 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 involvement and support from the School of Education, the CUNY Office of Academic Affairs, Knopf Publishers, the New York Times Foundation, the Axe-Houghton Foundation, the William Bingham 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, the Stephen and May Cavin Leeman Foundation, and Poets & Writers, Inc.

For more information about the 34th Annual CCNY Spring Poetry Festival, please contact Professor Barry Wallenstein at (212) 650-6343, or go to