NYC Poetry Fest Draws Diverse Crowd for Passionate Readers

This weekend’s New York City Poetry Festival drew hundreds of poets and poetasters to Governors Island for a celebration of the written word. People of all ages, as well as singles, couples and families with children participated in the diverse offerings and listened to dozens of poets read from four stages. Many poets shared poems that took the form of political statements and fiery address.


The festival had a lax vibe, befitting the free-form poetry emitting from its stages. The venue felt like an outdoor coffeehouse, an intimate space for speaking and being heard. That there was a supportive community of poets was certain. One poet, looking toward an audience member, gleefully said, “I’ll read two more poems and then it’s you.” The festival fostered an atmosphere in which people were encouraged to share — an attempt to remove the separation between performer and spectator. A variety of budding poets huddled and shared their poems in a small tent dubbed the Poetry Brothel and representatives from poetry publications and DIY journals casually courted submissions.


The festival banner welcomed visitors to the stages.

One might stroll through the grassy field, listening to a poem or two here, another there, pausing just long enough to get a sense of the poet. Listening to poetry is a subjective experience and so a poet’s words cannot touch everyone. Therefore, poets of all sorts took to the stages, expressing all manner of thoughts with their own unique deliveries. If one poet’s subject matter, style of speech or general manner did not captivate someone, that person could move on and find a more simpatico poet. There was ample opportunity to make a connection.

Light rain did not stop poet fans from listening to readings.

Bonafide Rojas, a Bronx native, read at the Algonquin Stage. His words were delivered with the urgency and fiery emotion of a protest speech. He called for people to open their minds and free themselves from self-imposed limitations.


Bonafide Rojas reads at the Algonquin Stage.

At the Chumley’s Stage Alina Gregorian read, among others, “a poem about the thingness of things.” Though she was a subdued speaker, her hair-trigger shifts of tone and rhythm kept the audience on their toes. Often seeming like a stream of non sequiturs, her poems lived up to her line, “The world was a quotation mark.”


Alina Gregorian reads from Chumley's stage.

Also at the Chumley’s Stage, Michael Klein spoke in measured tones, dragging the final syllable of every line for emphasis. In his poems he might start with a ride on the Staten Island Ferry and then take a more psychological journey, acknowledging that “life won’t be a Busby Berkley fantasy.”


Michael Klein reads from Chumley's stage.

By expressing themselves, these poets become part of an inclusive community of artists. And every poet, no matter their talent or experience, faces challenges. Klein remarked, after reading a particularly impressive poem, that it had been “a fucking hard poem to read.”

Conrad Groth