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With poems at the ready, Cornell writers join New York City poetry celebration

Despite their bus breaking down on the way to Manhattan, three Cornell writers made it to the city in time for a public poetry reading April 17.

The three graduate student poets -- Jared Harel, Christopher Kempf and William Cordeiro -- were part of New York City's sixth annual Poem in Your Pocket Day, held in Bryant Park to celebrate National Poetry Month.

"It was a really gorgeous day, with so many people out in the park," said William Cordeiro, a second-year MFA student in creative writing. "It was a big audience, probably a bigger audience than I ever got to perform for. You're never quite sure how many are actually listening."

Cornell also distributed 1,000 "Poetry in Your Pocket/Art in Your Pocket" chapbooks in Bryant Park, for the city high school students and others attending. The books feature verse by Harel, Kempf, Cordeiro and four other MFA students in Kenneth McClane's graduate poetry seminar, and visual work by nine award-winning student artists in Cornell's Department of Art.

Poets who gave readings during the day included Carlyle Miller, of Weill Cornell Medical College, who read four works: "Expectations of My Language," "Time Is An Organism," "A Quiet Falling" and "February Sea."

"The reading went very well. There was a large crowd [and] the weather was cooperative," Miller said. "What I really missed was hearing the MFAs read their works."

Miller read at the beginning of the Bryant Park event, and when they arrived later, each of the Cornell students read one or two of their poems for the audience.

"Many of the groups reading that day were inner-city high schoolers or slam poets. I was impressed to see so many high school students connect to poems in that way," said Harel, who read "Ode to Ineptitude" and "Secondhand" -- "an ode to my vintage T-shirt collection."

Cordeiro, a former New York City resident, read an older piece, "Bryant Park," and a new selection from a work in progress. He spiced up the latter with different voices. "The kids seemed to really like that one because it was more performative," Cordeiro said.

"For his second poem he ditched the mic and performed his piece right in the crowd," Harel said. "Everyone seemed to have a good time and really accept us. All in all, things went much smoother after the bus broke down."

"Bryant Park" was a favorite of Paul Romero, who runs the park's carousel and events at the Bryant Park Reading Room, a free open-air lending library, Cordeiro said.

Other events citywide featured youth poetry slams, readings in city schools, spoken-word performances for adults, and guest poets from New York University, Urban Word NYC, LEAP (a non-profit arts in public education organization) and the Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center.

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