Originally published in Queens Chronicle.
A number of Queens-based literary arts groups made their way to Governors Island this past weekend to participate in the 4th annual NYC Poetry Festival, a gathering of the disparate literary organizations throughout New York to celebrate poetry.
For most of the visiting Queens literary groups, this marked the first time they were showcased in the festival, a sign of the festival’s growing popularity and the developing literary communities in the borough.
“We’ve seen Queens grow from new open mics and bookshops have been coming to Queens. I mean the whole literary scene is starting to expand and it’s great to be part of it in the beginning,” said Megan DiBello, host of the Inspired Word Open Mic and representing Poetry Teachers NYC at the festival.
Along with Poetry Teachers NYC, four other groups from Queens made the ferry ride to the island to present. And while it is the largest number of Queens-based literary groups to attend the festival, it is outnumbered by the dozens of those coming from Manhattan and Brooklyn.
In fact, Safiel Vonay from Reformed Talent arts showcase went to the festival in search of young people to showcase in her upcoming open mics because she was having a hard time finding artists in Queens, specifically young ones in their late teens and early 20s.
She added that she was there to promote Reformed Talent as a way to bring more awareness of the arts in Queens that’s sometimes overshadowed by Manhattan.
“New York City is big, but I think Queens needs a little bit more attention,” she said.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Devin Doyle, an organizer for the Boundless Tales reading series, who said that being a Queens poet can feel like being the underdog sometimes.
However, he believes that the borough’s unique multiculturalism can contribute a lot to the overall literary scene.
“I think because of that [multiculturalism] we give the microphone to some important voices. And I think it’s poetry’s responsibility to encapsulate that kind of diversity,” he said.
While the Queens literary arts community has grown, so has the NYC Poetry Festival according to John Rice, a member of Oh, Bernice! writers collective. He attended the festival in its second year as a spectator.
“There were no food trucks, there was no carousel, and now there’s not only more and more people but more and more cross-interest with poetry. There’s people selling books, there’s people making wonderful organic food and then there’s a guy with a carousel with bubbles,” Rice said.
He also said that while he was there to represent the literary arts in Queens, it was also an opportunity to connect with other writers and celebrate poetry regardless of which borough they were from.
That was a sentiment shared by Richard Newman, the organizer of First Tuesday’s Open Mic.
“To see the literary community together like this and to have it actually be a community instead of my reading series here, my publishing house here, my project here, it’s a lovely thing,” Newman said.