The Operating System

AWESOME CREATORS: The Poetry Society of New York Builds a Festival (and a Dream)

The poetry landscape in New York City can be confusing to navigate, especially given its ever growing diaspora of splinter cells.
Despite the density and scale of creative energy feeding this array, the experience of this fragmentation is often that of participation in one or a number of small groups, working in isolation. Sustaining these communities takes constant effort and commitment on the part of not only those who choose to plant the seed of reading series, magazine, or so on, but also from those who support and participate in these efforts — and in many cases there is a fine line between success and utter exhaustion, the point at which sustenance seems too dear a price, and in which community feels like a utopian fantasy.

Sometimes, it takes a certain kind of vision — one that steps back, out away from these stands of trees, to see the verdant, expansive forest — to help empower a return to joy and belief in our work, and in the strength of our creative community.

If you’re here, you know this is a mission near and dear to our hearts. That we exist primarily as a creators community, a network, and a platform for mutual expression, appreciation, collaboration, dialogue, interdisciplinary exploration. Our work is, ultimately, an exercise in the self-actualization of a viable cooperative for growing value. But we know we cannot do this alone, and so we are always searching for allies, comrades in the fight for viable abundance….

Enter The Poetry Society of New York.

The Poetry Society emerged in 2007 under the guise of Stephanie Berger and Nicholas Adamski’s Poetry Brothel series, then at the Living Theatre. But their intentions were grander — for they had a vision, and saw a critical need: to unite these disparate groups, for the benefit of poets and non-poets alike. To help them recognize each other, and in so doing, themselves – a vast and glorious, thriving, exciting tradition.

As they like to explain, The Poetry Society has a simple three-fold mission: to revitalize the New York poetry world by

  1. Uniting New York’s cultural, arts, and literary communities through poetry.
  2. Introducing poetry to the larger populace in unique and innovative forms.
  3. Promoting Poetic collaboration between New York artists and artists across the globe.
After trade-marking the name and establishing numerous Poetry Brothel events in cities throughout the world, the founders formed The Poetry Society of New York in August 2010. The Society has produced The Translation Project, an ongoing exchange and translation of work between The Poetry Brothel in New York and those abroad; Brothel Books, the publishing arm; Quartier Rouge, an online video literary journal; and finally, the Annual New York City Poetry Festival, which brings poets and poetry supporters to Governors Island each summer for a gathering of minds and voices.
Last summer The Poetry Society of New York dreamed up and pulled off the largest poetry festival this city has ever seen. More than thirty New York City reading series and poetry collectives collaborated to bring over one hundred and fifty poets to our festival’s three stages. Our two-day festival, staged on the hidden gem of Governors Island, was honored to present such award-winning writers as Yusef Komunyakaa, Matthea Harvey, and Matthew Rohrer, but more importantly the festival gave poets and poetry lovers from all five boroughs an opportunity to hear, appreciate, and interact with poets whom they might never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. They explain that the purpose of this festival as “to liberate poets and their work from the dark corners of bars, bookstore, and coffee shops and their halogen-lit college campuses, and to bring as many NYC poets together as possible in the bright light of day to meet, mingle, collaborate and make New York City the legitimate center of the poetry world”… all in a day’s work, you know.
This year’s festival (on July 21st and 22nd) will “stretch its wings even further by attempting to reach outside the previously instituted poetry communities in the city. Poetry does not exist in a vacuum and does itself no favors when its only subject is poetry and its only audience is other poets.” The festival has grown to include a Merchants Village, where local artists, sculptors, and artisans will work on live pieces inspired by the festival’s poetry while displaying and selling their wares, and there will be musical acts throughout the day.
Very much a project near to our hearts, in “reaching outside the established poetry communities, The Poetry Society of New York hopes to create new audiences for poetry and facilitate collaborations between poets and other artists.” (Yes!)  This year’s event will also include a Children’s Poetry Festival, which will offer guided writing exercises to children and young adults and an opportunity for young writers to perform their work for an audience. By reaching out to colleges, high schools, and grade schools, the festival hopes to “encourage, educate, and inspire fledgling writers of all ages to become a part of a diverse and dynamic New York poetry scene.”
This year, the Festival hosts over 200 Poets, including Mark Strand, Patricia Smith, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Amber Tamblyn, Valzhyna Mort, Cornelius Eady, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Joanna Furhman, Jennifer L. Knox, CAConrad, Dorothea Lasky, and Timothy Donnelly.
But perhaps it’s the list of communities coming together for this event that is most exciting and impressive:
A: Argos Books, Augury Books, B: Boundless Tales, Bowery Books, Bow Wow @ BPC, Blue Flower Arts, Brats, C: Cave Canem, Coldfront, Cornelia Street Graduate Reading Series, COUPLET, D: DDay Productions, Deadly Chaps, Drunknsailor, E: Earshot, Exit Strata (oh hey! that’s us!), Explosion Proof, F: Feminist Writer’s Organization, Fireside Follies, Futurepoem, G: Gigantic, great weather for media H: The Highwaymen NYC, I: InDigest Magazine, Italian American Writer’s Association, The Inspired Word, K: KGB Monday Night Poetry Series, Kundiman L: Local Word, louderARTS, M:Madhat, The Mom Egg, Moonshot Magazine, My Brother’s Keeper, N: New School Poets Corner, New York Quarterly, No Dear Magazine, O: La Otra Orilla, P: Patasola’s Parlor, PEN American, PeopleHerd, Ping Pong, The Poetry Brothel, Poets House, R: The Red Wheelbarrow Poets Series S: Southern Writers Reading Series, Stain of Poetry, Stonecutter, T: TOTEM, The Truth Urban Theater Group & I Am the Voice, U: Underwater New York, V: Vets and Poets, W: The White Swallows Reading Series
We will be performing on Sunday at 2:50, but we encourage all of you, poets or not, to attend this incredible gathering, to see just what the result of putting real vision, and passion, into practice looks like… to see what’s possible when we remember our scale, and gather together… pretty much everything, we like to think. And we’re excited to have the Poetry Society in our corner.
See the full line up HERE.

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