Each May, for the past 40 years, City College has hosted an
Annual Spring Poetry Festival, an event that over the years
has attracted approximately 10,000 elementary school child-
ren, an equal number of high school students, and thousands
from the college and neighboring community. This Festival is
the celebratory event of City College's Poetry Outreach Center.
Festival Day runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; it engages hundreds of shy, bold and enthusiastic school children and adults, who gather
at CCNY's Aaron Davis Hall to read their poems and listen to
their contemporaries. This event is the culmination of a year
long series of activities meant to encourage the act of writing
poetry among the broadest range of people.
The day's events consist of a morning of readings by young
children, ranging from first grade through junior high. As they
and their families and friends leave, the winners of the CCNY
sponsored citywide High School Poetry Contest and their
peers file in. This is a contest that inspires literally over 3,000
poetry entries from over 60 high schools in all five boroughs.
The winners read their prize-winning poems and then receive
prizes from the featured guest poet, including signed copies
of the poet's books. The list of honored guests reads very
much like a Who's Who of American Poetry: Muriel Rukeyser,
Adrienne Rich, Gwendolyn Brooks, Jane Cortez, Donald Hall,
Allen Ginsberg, Robert Creeley, Galway Kinnell, Sonia Sanchez,
Billy Collins, and Amiri Baraka have been but a few of our past
Next, various persons read--college students, professionals and
amateurs, including visiting writers from Europe and Latin Amer-
ica. Poets currently teaching at the college participate, as do
distinguished alumni and past faculty. Many young readers from
the past have returned as adults; one teacher brings her class
of second graders and remembers when she herself was a child
reading at the Festival. The atmosphere, the many voices heard
throughout the day, is an amplification and microcosm of our
widespread outreach activities.
Six months after the Festival we publish Poetry in Performance,
a commemorative book that contains one poem by each reader.
This is distributed throughout the schools of N.Y.C. and has been
used by schools in Europe and as far off as Lagos, Nigeria. Many
teachers have communicated that the book is an effective teach-
ing tool for the various age groups within it.
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