Queens’ Poet Laureate

May 11, 2008 at 8:11 am Leave a comment

I bet few readers know that Queens has a poet laureate, but one such former laureate (and the first woman to receive the honor), Ishle Yi Park (2004-2007), is the focus of print and online attention this week because of her involvement in the Jackson Heights Poetry Festival, which kicks off this Thursday night and culminates in a full-day family event at Garden School.

The Daily News has an interview with her today that is fascinating for its who-knew? factor.


In 2004, you became the first female poet laureate of Queens. How were you chosen?

You just send in an application with poetry samples and your résumé of community work. It wasn’t based on outside appearance or other factors. When I got that position, I was happy to find out one of the judges thought I was a man.

You had some stiff competition for the gig. Reverend Run, of Run-D.M.C., made a public appeal for the position. Any bad blood between you two?

I definitely didn’t want to make it a competitive relationship. People were trying to pit us against each other, and we ended up having respect for each other.

I had worked for his brother for two years touring the country with the Def Poetry Jam. [After becoming poet laureate], we shook hands backstage after the Def Jam show.

Besides writing, what does a poet laureate do?

I gave workshops throughout Queens and performed in libraries and community centers. I spoke to kids in schools and organized readings by poets from all diferrent countries.

How does Queens inspire your work?

I’m a Korean-American homegirl from Queens. I draw from my urban and cultural roots. I write a lot about Brooklyn, Whitestone, Flushing – the areas I mostly hung out in. My friends growing up were Puerto Rican, Guatemalan. We all mixed together. We didn’t segregate ourselves.


Entry filed under: Forest Hills.

A Book with a View Y Lecture

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