Thursday, February 04, 2010

Meet Brooklyn’s New Poet Laureate

The New York borough, Brooklyn has announced its poet laureate. Tina Chang, the author of Half-Lit Houses, will be the fourth poetic ambassador to fill the position.

According to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, “Ms. Chang has dedicated her life to poetry and is passionate about reaching and educating diverse communities.”

Chang has been promoting poetry among the community for many years. "I see myself as an ambassador and activist on behalf of poetry," Chang said. "Over the past decade, I've given myself over to poetry completely, engaging students, teachers, writers, librarians, the young, the aging, as well as many people of diverse cultural and social economic backgrounds."

Some of the programs Chang hopes to create include, an Adopt-a-Poet Day at Brooklyn middle schools, where established poets of varied backgrounds would host writing workshops and student poetry readings. Chang also has ideas for an interactive website to connect poets to their community, a virtual space where Brooklyn poets could promote their work.

Below is the poem she read to more than a thousand guests at the ceremony, held at the Park Slope Armory.

You can visit her website here.

Tina Chang
Brooklyn Poet Laureate

All night long there was digging, and the bodies like accordions
bent into their own dying instruments, and even after this,

after the quake, there was, in news reports, still singing:
A woman's clapping was followed by another who shuffled

and dragged her own apparition through the ruined streets,
though each one knew the anthem the other was singing.

History taught them better. No one was coming.
The film crews had their sights on the large hotels,

the embassies. So they set to digging with their hands
and with the shoes of those who were no longer alive.

And with that, night fell and fell again
like an old black pot tumbling to the ground.

When a man dies, the first thing that goes is his breath,
and the last thing that goes is his memory.

I once saw this civilization passing through a great white door,
people weeping, then the weeping was followed by the sound

of tambourines rattling the heavy air, something that sounded
like celebration only livelier and more holy, voices rising,

and then a marching into the dusty road of the next century.
When shelter is gone, find your solace on the ground.

And when the ground is gone, lift yourself and walk.
And after all the great monuments of your memory

have collapsed, with the sky steady above you,
you shatter that too, with song

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