Daily News – Poet Laureate’s Ode to Queens

Poet laureate’s ode to Queens

BY Karen Angel

 Tuesday, May 15th 2007, 9:21 PM
Writing wasn’t an obvious career choice for Julio Marzán. 

Queens’ new poet laureate emigrated from Puerto Rico to the United States with his mother when he was 4 months old. She settled in the South Bronx and worked as a seamstress to support Julio and his toddler sister.

“I always assumed I’d write, even though writing wasn’t in my background,” Marzán said. “It was sheer ego. No one read in my house, and I can’t explain why.”

Marzán, an author and associate professor of English at Nassau Community College, was appointed Queens’ fourth poet laureate last Friday at a ceremony at Queens Borough Hall.

He was chosen over 44 applicants, and succeeds Ishle Yi Park, a Korean-American performance poet from Whitestone.

“There was a lot of imagery that really thrilled me,” said Lynn Lobell, managing director of the Queens Council on the Arts and one of the five judges. “He seemed to have a persona about him that would make people want to listen to his poetry and that’s what the Queens poet laureate is for – to go out and inspire people to enjoy poetry.”

Marzán said he is still mapping his strategy. He knows the borough well, having moved to Queens from Manhattan’s upper West Side 30years ago, after graduating from Columbia University with a master’s degree in fine arts.

He lives in Little Neck with his wife and has two daughters, one in high school and one in college. Queens appears in a number of his poems – notably, “Utopia Parkway” – which was a requirement for his new appointment.

“I see my job as being what I am, a kind of an emblem of the great aspirations, the great cultural aspirations, anyone would have, including Queens,” said Marzán, 61. “Queens has been flourishing in many ways. It’s getting overflow from Manhattan.

“A lot more poets live in Queens. There’s more poetry coming from Queens because more people are moving to Queens.

“I predict within the next decade, given the shift in population going on, a lot more poets will find venues here that had to go elsewhere in the past.”

That’s certainly the hope of Borough President Helen Marshall, who believes Marzán will play a key role in the effort. “He’ll be describing things about his homeland and his adopted homeland and his struggles here and also his joy and delight here. He touches many souls with his life story, and he’ll be an inspiration to many people.”


By Julio Marzán

Airport fumes
always transport me
to that island
no longer mapped,
and my wheels
touch that life
always dreamed
from New York,
where on clear days
when no overcast
traps fumes,
my bones remind
I am from nowhere
and from there
I write about me.

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