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39th Annual CCNY Poetry Festival to Take Place May 17

Cornelius Eady will be the featured guest poet at the 39th annual City College Poetry Festival, May 17. Photo: Chip Cooper, courtesy of Blue Flower Arts.

Cornelius Eady Will Be Featured Guest Poet

The 39th 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. Tuesday, May 17, in Theater B of Aaron Davis Hall on The City College of New York campus at 135th St. and Convent Avenue.

This year’s featured guest poet is Cornelius Eady.

Over its 39-year history, the festival, which has been dubbed the “Woodstock of the Spoken Word,” has attracted numerous celebrated poets.  They include 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, Elaine Equi, Barry Wallenstein, Major Jackson, Stanley Moss and, most recently, L.S. Asekoff and Kimiko Hahn.

“The poetry festival celebrates the free voices of the young people of New York City's public schools,” said Professor Emeritus Barry Wallenstein, former director of the Poetry Outreach Center at CCNY.  “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,” added 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 city-wide High School Poetry Contest will recite their award-winning poems.  They will be followed by readings by the featured guest poet, Mr. Eady.  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. 

The Knopf Publishers Prize will award cash prizes to the top three winners of the city-wide 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 over its history. 

The Poetry Outreach Center thanks the following sponsoring organizations and individuals for their support of the festival: City College Division of Humanities and the Arts, Interim Dean Geraldine Murphy; City College Department of English, Department Chair Paul Oppenheimer; City College Auxiliary Enterprise Corp., Robert Rodriguez, Chairman; City College President Lisa Staiano-Coico; Grove School of Engineering, Dean Joseph Barba; City College School of Education, Professors Andrew Ratner and Shira Epstein; Office of Government and Community Affairs, Karen Witherspoon, Vice President; City College Fund, Executive Director Elena Sturman; the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation; Knopf Publishers; the Axe-Houghton Foundation; the Puffin Foundation; the Weissman Family Foundation; Peter Russell; David and Harianne Wallenstein; the Poetry Society of America, and Poets & Writers, Inc.

About Featured Guet Poet Cornelius Eady:
Poet/playwright Cornelius Eady is the author of several poetry collections: “Kartunes: Victims of the Latest Dance Craze,” winner of the 1985 Lamont Prize; “The Gathering of My Name,” nominated for the 1992 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry; “You Don’t Miss Your Water; The Autobiography of  Jukebox;” “Brutal Imagination,” and, most recently, “Hardheaded Weather” (Putnam, 2008).  He is co-founder of Cave Canem and currently the Miller Family Endowed Chair in Writing and Literature and Professor at the University of Missouri.

His awards include fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Traveling Scholarship and the Prairie Schooner Strousse Award.  His work also appears in many journals, magazines and the anthologies, “Every Shut Eye Ain’t Asleep, In Search of Color Everywhere” and “The Vintage Anthology of African American Poetry (1750-2000).”

For more information about the 39th CCNY Spring Poetry Festival, please contact Pamela L. Laskin at (212) 650-6356, or go to: /prospective/humanities/poetry/



Ellis Simon
p: 212.650.6460