Annual NYC Poetry Festival: A Laid-Back Weekend Literary Retreat

Written by NYPress on . Posted in Arts & Film, Blog, Books, Posts, Theater, Uncategorized.


Photo Courtesy of Michael Geffner

Where could you go to find parasols, corsets, a homemade merry-go-round plus bubble machine and a kimchi taco truck this weekend? That would be the second annual NYC Poetry Festival, just a quaint ferry ride away, on Governor’s Island. The festival featured several outdoor, makeshift stages scattered throughout a fenced-off, grassy area, where poets and other artists took to amped microphones and let loose, literarily-speaking. Prosody emanated nonstop from all corners of the space all weekend, while poetry-lovers lounged on blankets and sipped icy beverages. Throw in a ferry ride and you have the makings of a whimsical weekend retreat, which unfortunately happens only once a year.

(by Alissa Fleck)

The festival—or poetry bender, if you will—sponsored by the Poetry Society of New York, featured recent MFA graduates and emerging talent alongside more established poets like Thomas Sayers Ellis, Amber Tamblyn and Jennifer L. Knox. It was a diverse showing of the, particularly local, poetry community. Numerous organizations were represented as well, promoting and selling their literary wares. And yes, there was even a homemade merry-go-round, with multiple ride speeds, its maker offering up free rides to festival-goers. (Future festival attendees take note: sun, tacos, beer and a merry-go-round at “make it faster, make it faster” speed can be a recipe for disaster.)

Stephanie Berger, co-founder of the New York Poetry Society and mastermind behind the festival, said, of similar events: “It’s really fun to conjure up that young, artistic DIY spirit.” And that was the spirit of the weekend indeed, though it was by no means limited to the young…but maybe just the young at heart.

Berger and other Poetry Society members were responsible for bringing 50 reading series on board, to curate over 200 poets in the intimate, sunny setting. The festival also featured a variety of other artists, and even a kids’ space (some poetry is not for the young, faint-hearted or modest).

The spirit of the day—artsy, very chill—was encapsulated by Knox prior to her reading at the end of Saturday: “If you’re still here, like me you’re probably tripping balls,” she said into the mic. “Come on, don’t lie,” she urged, when only a few hands shot into the air in agreement. The mood and setup encouraged a respectful and jovial dialogue between poet and audience.

When Saturday’s events were drawing to a close, spectators could be overheard lamenting the inability to camp out all night on the island in anticipation of the next day’s events, their dismay indicating, of course, the festival was a rousing success for all involved.

Photographer Michael Geffner produces the Inspired Word. 

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