The Poetry Project

You know what’s cool? Poetry. That’s what.

When the world’s dress unravels at the important benefit dinner dance and the boss is there, poetry shows up with needle and thread. When the world loses its mind and the title to the house on an overnight bender at the reservation casino, poetry buys breakfast. Poetry celebrates our loves unconditionally and mourns our losses without sentiment. Poetry defies compartmentalization, transcends hipness.

If poetry is our patron saint of all things beautiful, then The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church is its place of worship. Founded in 1966 in a building that is way older than that, The Poetry Project has been bringing urgent conversations and commentary on the state of our personal and public lives to fans in the east village for over four decades now. A walk around the property may get you face to face with the ghosts of Allen Ginsberg and Jim Carroll. Put your ear to the wall and you may hear some experimental rumblings from Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore or Yoko Ono. There are several readings, performances and workshop-type offerings each week in a refreshingly inclusive way. Donations at the door are remarkably low and the community that gathers for these events are the real deal. This month features Canada’s fabulous Anne Carson, whose hybrid writing bends the mind and stirs the heart. There’s also Hofstra University adjunct professor Christie Ann Reynolds (a local!), whose work has charmed me on recent Google searches. “Dear Jack,” she writes in a recent poem, “your heart will break – / They’ve injected the cows again.”

When I was young and growing up in Melville, I used to scan the community calendar of the local newspaper for poetry gatherings. Inevitably, I’d end up at the Heckscher Museum or a library on the South Shore. How enchanted I was back then, the only seventeen year old in the room, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, in love with the power of imagination. And how the enchantment grew when I learned about the family of poetry, the older cousins west of LI, that sweet center of the universe on the corner of E. 10th street and 2nd Avenue, and the orbits—oh, the lovely orbits. Let your enchantment grow, people. Let your enchantment grow.

alan semerdjian

Alan Semerdjian is a writer, musician, English teacher, and occasional visual artist. Besides LI Pulse, his work has appeared in Newsday, Adbusters, Chain, The Lyric Review and numerous other print and online publications, anthologies, and chapbooks. His first full-length book of poetry is In the Architecture of Bone (Genpop Books 2009). You can visit him digitally at and find out about his music at