“Because I could not stop for death,” read one sign for the New York Poetry Festival chalked into the pavement on Governor’s Island on Saturday, “I KEPT WALKING.”
If you kept walking, you’d run into the festival, sponsored by the Poetry Society of New York, as it stretched across the lawn at Colonels’ Row, fenced with white banners and food trucks. In front of each of the three small stages bearing the names “Chumley’s,” “The Algonquin” and “The White Horse,” around 20 attendees sat cross-legged or mermaid-style on blankets.
Those who were not inclined to pay the $5 entrance fee leaned against the fence as a bizarre medley of voices echoed through the space, either floating into ears of passersby or slammed their senses with the extra oomph of the amps.
“Who’s your daddy?” screamed one man repeatedly, his beard bristling as his voice magnified across the clearing. Bemused passerby, lured in by his raucous cries, paused at the edge of the field before their faces blanked in the expressive equivalent of a shrug as they strolled on.
“I bring you all, the incandescent beauty of An Incandescent Firefly!” howled an announcer before ushering a petite girl onto the stage. Her soft lyrics melded into the background as a woman on another stage read, “I painted her toes summer indigo on rhinestones. Stars, momma. You could walk on stars forever.”
The festival, which is in its second year, boasted poets from magazines, journals and other organizations such as the Poetry Brothel, Underwater New York and MadHat in its lineup for Saturday and Sunday. This year it introduced a new children’s festival where kids could play and write in a village of teepees and balloons. Every hour or so, the children could take the stage to read their own words.
But in the meantime the adults raged or waxed nostalgic, made wild gestures or slouched self-consciously, peered over their glasses at neatly written pages or held leaflets at arms length.
“Shut up!” boomed one woman into her mike, enthusiastic or slightly frustrated or both. “Do not try to shout over me while I am reading!”
Another voice, recognizing the outburst for the poetry that it was, droned on, unfazed.
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