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Fourth Annual People's Poetry Gathering, New York, May, 2006

Fourth Annual People's Poetry Gathering
New York, May, 2006

Friends, Join us for


Sponsored by City Lore and the Bowery Poetry Club


The Wor(l)d of New York!


Poems from the World's Endangered and Contested Languages

Read and performed in their Mother Tongues and English

including the

“Festival within a Festival”

Harpsong: Celtic Poetry and Music


The New

New York City Epic Poem

and Poems of our Fair (and sometimes Unfair) City

Read by Twenty Poets Laureate of New York

From May 3rd to 7th, 2006, the People's Poetry Gathering www.peoplespoetry.org - a poetry festival unlike any other, rooted in New York City's hybrid sounds, rhythms, and histories - bursts into life for the fourth time to invite New Yorkers to consider and celebrate the inestimable value of all languages and the artists who sculpt, sing, rant, dance and breathe the Realm of Words.Our “Poetry from Endangered and Contested Languages” program begins with a keynote by poet Robert Bly reading from his translations and poems on Wednesday, May 3rd at CUNY, cosponsored by Poets House. It continues on Friday afternoon with a free program open to the public at the United Nations with the Gathering poets joined by delegations from around the world in a tribute to poetic traditions that are increasingly threatened in our globalized society. That night the Irish band, Black 47, will rock the Bowery Poetry Club with Celtic poets and musicians as part of the "Harpsong" program. Saturday, May 6th the program continues with a day-long Poetry Bash at the CUNY Grad Center, 365 5th Ave (at 34-35th Sts) presenting Belfast performance poet Gearóid MacLochlainn, award-winning Scottish traditional band Cliar, and Wales' National Poet Gwyneth Lewis. Irish and American intermingling on this side of the Atlantic are explored in Mick Moloney's program of late 19th century Irish songsters Harrigan and Hart who helped create the American musical theater. Artists working indigenous languages from the USA, Asia, and Australia are also featured such as Alaskan Tlingit poet Nora Marks Dauenhauer.

Saturday evening the Gathering hosts a special concert in honor of poetry and music from the world’s diverse languages. “Tongue Tripping” brings together the Kumalo South African Band, put together by Bakithi Kumalo, who plays with Paul Simon (Zulu language); Michael Alpert and the Heymland (Homeland) Ensemble (Yiddish); and the Native American group Ulali (indigenous American languages). We conclude with a first-ever Tower-of-Babel jam by poets and musicians.
On Thursday, May 4, historians David Levering-Lewis and Elisa New, writers Phillip Lopate and Al Filreis, and poets Bob Holman and Carmen Boullousa lead the first of our New York City programs: “Gotham Poetry and History” at 6:30pm at the CUNY Graduate Center, cosponsored with the Gotham Center for New York City History, moderated by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Mike Wallace, and covering poets including Whitman, Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, the NYC communist poets of the 1930s, and foreign poets such as Garcia Lorca who wrote poems about New York. Sekou Sundiata, Galway Kinnell, D.L. Melhem, Suheir Hammad, Ishle Park, Marie Ponsot, Sapphire, Annie Lanzillotto and others will read their New York City poems during the Saturday Poetry Bash. Each of the poets has been commissioned to write a few verses for a "New York City epic" in which poets take on the personae of the city's geography, history, and lore. (Bob Hershon begins, "I am the accumulated memory and waistline of the dead restaurants of New York and the dishes that will never be set before us again. . . .") Participate in the creation of this multi-voiced Epic New York, contributing your own verses at the Gathering. Join us for a Sunday poetry walking tribute to Nuyorican poet Miguel Piñero with Miguel Algarín recreating the parade of poets who traced the path where Piñero's ashes were scattered in 1985 in accordance with his poem’s instructions to "scatter my ashes thru / the Lower East Side."

Enough? No way! The Gathering is also pleased to present a performance by the noted finah (oral poet), Kewulay Kamara of Sierra Leone. Kamara has recreated an epic, Voices of Kings: The Dankawali Village Epic, which begins with the creation of his village of Dankawali and its clans. The Dankawali epic was nearly lost forever during the recent political horrors. Kamara's father, one the few who knew the whole narrative by heart, worked feverishly in his last years to set down the story in the Arabic script used in his Muslim village. In 1998, this manuscript was destroyed in a fire during the war between the Revolutionary United Front and Sierra Leone's government. To save the epic, City Lore arranged for Kamara to return to the village of Dankawali and, through interviews, reconstruct the spoken poem. Performed at the Gathering for the first time. The performance features some of the finest African jail musicians in New York.

And what kind of a Gathering would it be with our own venerable poetry traditions? A midnight reading of Edgar Allen Poe will take place at the 2nd Street New York City Marble Cemetery on Friday; we feature open mics in English and Spanish, workshops on publishing, writing, and memorizing poems, as well Poetry and Prayer at the Bowery Mission on Sunday morning. The Gathering will exist virtually as well: a newly launched website will feature a world map that enables visitors to click on areas of the globe where endangered languages are spoken, with poetry in the original tongues and translations in English.

The Gathering closes with a Poetry Dinner dedicated to Basque music, poetry, hard cider, and cuisine. National Heritage Award-winning Basque bertsolari poets from San Francisco, Nevada, and Wyoming -- Johnny Curutchet, Gracian Alfaro, Jesus Goñi, and Martin Goicoechea -- perform traditional, musical, poetry duels in English and Basque, the only surviving non-Indo-European language in Western Europe. Casks of Basque-style hard cider will be served in traditional Basque and Spanish fashion, complementing a meal of paella with txistora (Basque sausage), pinxtos (tapas) of tortilla de patata brava, boquerones de Zumaia (anchovies), mejillones rellenos (stuffed codfish) and Basque cheeses. Introductions by noted author Mark Kurlansky (The Basque History of the World, Cod, Salt)

Tickets can be purchased by calling 212-529-1955.
Mastercard and Visa are accepted. Check our web site here for schedule, ticket information, and venues. The Gathering is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts with grants to both City Lore and Bowery Arts and Science, the New York Council for the Humanities, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Scottish Arts Council, the British Council, Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages, and Wales Arts International. The Gathering is sponsored by City Lore and the Bowery Poetry Club in collaboration with the office of Continuing Education & Public Programs at The Graduate Center, CUNY. Curated by Catherine Fletcher, Elena Martínez, Bob Holman, and Steve Zeitlin. The People's Poetry Gathering was co-founded by Poets House and City Lore in 1999 and co-produced in 1999, 2001, and 2003.