Promoting a Love of Poetry and Literacy in Queens

QUEENS, NY – Borough President Melinda Katz, in partnership with Queens College and Queens Library, has launched an open call for applications for the next Queens Poet Laureate, a prestigious three-year position charged with promoting a love of poetry and literacy throughout the borough.

Applicants for the unpaid position must be published poets and residents of Queens. The winning candidate will be a talented writer who can also demonstrate a vision for the role.

“Because Queens is such a diverse borough, the Queens Poet Laureate must be a compelling wordsmith who is capable of synthesizing the borough’s many cultures and languages into poetry,” Borough President MELINDA KATZ said.  “In addition to being an excellent writer, the winning applicant will also have a deep and abiding love of Queens, its people and its spirit, and will be capable of engaging with our borough’s many communities to promote a greater appreciation of poetry.”

“Stephen Stepanchev, now a Professor Emeritus in our English department, was honored to be the first Queens Poet Laureate,” Queens College President FÉLIX V. MATOS RODRÍGUEZ said. “We are delighted that Borough President Katz is continuing this position and committed to promoting poetry—literature that can touch people of all backgrounds in a profound and universal way.”

“As a primary source for culture and literature in our borough, Queens Library is delighted to partner with Borough President Melinda Katz’s office to find the next Poet Laureate,” Queens Library Interim President/CEO BRIDGET QUINN-CAREY said. “The World’s Borough is home to world-class artistic expression. We look forward to hosting the new Poet Laureate at the library.”

Applications for the Queens Poet Laureate position are available at and must be submitted by April 24, 2015 to be eligible for consideration. Applicants are expected to submit representative samples of their poetry, including poems related to Queens. This writing sample should not exceed ten pages per applicant. A panel of expert judges will review the applications and recommend three finalists to the Borough President, who will take the final decision on who will be appointed.

The past Queens Poet Laureates are as follows: Stephen Stepanchev (who served from 1997 to 2001), Hal Sirowitz (2001 – 2004), Ishle Yi Park (2004 – 2007), Julio Marzan (2007 – 2010) and Paolo Javier (2010 – 2014).

“Queens is where this Manila-born and raised future poet first experienced America, and became convinced of its inclusiveness; where I wanted to live because of Run DMC, whose rhymes inspired my very first attempt at poetry; where my wife, also an immigrant, grew up with her family; where we exchanged our wedding vows, made our daughter, and now raise her; and where my poems continue to find their center,” former Laureate PAOLO JAVIER said. “To have served these past four years as Poet Laureate of the borough where I’m living America’s Dream–believe me when I tell you today, and for old time’s sake, that the honor’s all mine.”

The process of selecting the Queens Poet Laureate is overseen by the Queens Poet Laureate Administrative Committee. “The Administrative Committee is excited that our borough will soon have its fifth Poet Laureate,” the Committee said. “We encourage everyone to spread the word, and those who meet the qualifications to apply. With the growing literary scene in Queens, we expect an especially rich group of talented applicants this year.”

Members of the Committee are Marie-Lise Gazarian, Professor of Languages and Literatures, St. John’s University; Andrew P. Jackson, Executive Director, Langston Hughes Community Library & Cultural Center; Lynn Lobell, Grants and Resource Director, Queens Council on the Arts; Nayelli Valencia, Director of Cultural Affairs and Tourism, Queens Borough President’s Office; Maria Terrone, Consultant, Queens College Communications; Jeffrey Rosenstock, Assistant Vice President for External and Governmental Relations, Queens College, and Donna Ciampa-Lauria, Director of Flushing Library.

The Queen Borough President’s Office and Queens College have been partners in the Queens Poet Laureate project since the search for the first Queens Poet Laureate began in 1996. This year Queens Library has joined the partnership for the first time and will provide meeting space for the next Queens Poet Laureate to present poetry and conduct outreach to the Queens community.

Follow Borough President Katz via @melindakatz or