Culture in Queens
The next term runs from 2010-2013.
HISTORY OF THE POET LAUREATE IN THE BOROUGH
(prepared by Marie-Lise Gazarian, PhD, St. John’s University)
The Poet Laureate project, proposed in 1996 by the Friends
of the Queens College Library, was endorsed by then-Queens
Borough President Claire Shulman and subsequently by Queens
Borough President Helen Marshall. The Poet Laureate Administrative
Committee met for the first time in September 1996 in the
Rosenthal Library at Queens College to establish the position
of Poet Laureate for a three-year term and develop eligibility
criteria for this honor.
The Committee, which also established the Poet Laureate
Selection Committee (the Panel of Judges), benefited from
the dynamic leadership of David Cohen, its Secretary and
Director of the Friends of the Queens College Library; and
William Green, Convenor and Professor of English, Queens
College. The Administrative Committee’s role since
then has been to conduct a search every three years for new
Press releases are sent from the Borough President’s
Office and Queens College to Queens-based poetry and literary
communities and the media. Application forms are now made
available online. The judges screen the candidates and select
those who most deserve to be Poet Laureate; they also award
Honorable Mentions. On the recommendation of the judges,
the Poet Laureate is appointed by the Borough President.
Candidates must be residents of the Borough and able to
inspire an appreciation of poetry among all people, young
and old. As Borough President Marshall has stated: “The
Poet Laureate is an honorary position that requires a full-time
commitment to the Borough of Queens.”
The Queens Borough President’s Office, along with the
Administrative Committee, has planned the installation of
each of the four Poets Laureate: Stephen Stepanchev (who
served an extra year from 1997-2001), Hal Sirowitz (2001-2004),
Ishle Yi Park (2004-2007), and Julio Marzan (2007-2010).
These poets represent three generations of poetry, and their
work is diverse in form and content—only fitting for
Queens, the home of America’s most diverse population.
The first Poet Laureate Administrative Committee (1997)
was composed of the following members: David Cohen, Secretary,
Poet Laureate Administrative Committee and Director, Friends
of the Queens College Library; William Green, Convenor, Poet
Laureate Administrative Committee, Professor of English,
Queens College; Aida González-Jarrin, Director of
Cultural Affairs, Queens Borough President’s Office;
Marie-Lise Gazarian, former Coordinator and current Director
of the Graduate Program in Spanish, Department of Languages
and Literatures, and Editor of Entre Rascacielos, a literary
journal of creative writing published under her direction,
St. John’s University; Andrew P. Jackson (Sekou Molefi
Baako), Executive Director, Langston Hughes Community Library & Cultural
Center; Lee Cogan, Editor, Queens Historical Society newsletter;
Karen Kennely, Program Coordinator, Flushing Council on Culture
and the Arts; and Carol Sheffer, Director of Programs and
Services Department, Queens Borough Public Library.
The first Poet Laureate Selection Committee (1997): Marie-Lise
Gazarian; John Watusi Branch, Executive Director, the Center
for Culture, the Afrikan Poetry Theatre; Lila Wheeler Duckett,
President, Fresh Meadows Poets; Kimiko Hahn, poet and Professor
of English, Queens College; Molly Peacock, poet, former President
of the Poetry Society of America; and John Tytell, Professor
of English, Queens College.
The second Poet Laureate Administrative Committee (2001):
William Green; David Cohen; Aida González-Jarrin;
Marie-Lise Gazarian; Lee Cogan; Andrew P. Jackson (Sekou
Molefi Baako); and Susan Agin, House Manager, Flushing Council
on Culture and the Arts.
The second Poet Laureate Selection Committee (2001): Marie-Lise
Gazarian; John Watusi Branch; George Held, poet and Professor
of English, Queens College, and co-editor of the Ledge, a
literary review; Suzanne Noguere, poet and magazine editor;
and Stephen Stepanchev, First Poet Laureate of Queens.
The third Poet Laureate Administrative Committee (2004):
William Green; David Cohen; Marie-Lise Gazarian; Susan Agin;
Andrew P. Jackson (Sekou Molefi Baako); Veronique LeMelle,
Culture and Tourism Director, Queens Borough President’s
Office; Susie Tanenbaum, Community & Cultural Coordinator,
Queens Borough President’s Office; Alexander Campos,
Executive Director, Jamaica Arts Center; Tyra Emerson, Executive
Director, Cultural Collaborative Jamaica; and Sonia Thompson,
Queensborough Public Library.
The third Poet Laureate Selection Committee (2004): Marie-Lise
Gazarian; George Held; and Ali J. Ahmed, poet and professor
of Comparative Literature, Queens College.
The fourth Poet Laureate Administrative Committee (2007):
William Green; Marie-Lise Gazarian; Andrew P. Jackson (Sekou
Molefi Baako); Susie Tanenbaum; and Maria Terrone, Assistant
Vice President of Communications, Queens College.
The fourth Poet Laureate Selection Committee (2007): Marie-Lise
Gazarian (Convenor); Linda Bannerman-Martin, Curator of the
Black Heritage Reference Center, Langston Hughes Community
Library & Cultural Center; Lynn Lobell, Managing Director,
Queens Council on the Arts; Ishle Yi Park; Hal Sirowitz;
and Stephen Stepanchev.
Poets who received an Honorable Mention (2007) were Hassanal
Abdullah, Christine Hamm, Maria Lisella, David Mills, and