Queens Poet Laureate visits LaGuardia Community College
by Lisa A. Fraser
Nov 02, 2011 | 1135 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print

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Queens Poet Laureate Paolo Javier visited LaGuardia Community College last Wednesday, October 26, to read from his new book, “The Feeling is Actual.”

The Sunnyside-based poet, who will assume the honorary title until June 2013, entertained a room full of LAGCC students and teachers with his personal, often funny works.

Including his recent book, Javier has penned three books of poetry and he is proud to have written one book in his first year as poet laureate.

The book, he says, is based mainly on his experiences translating between his Filipino heritage versus American life – from the interchange in language to mistranslated words, Javier makes it a point to instill humor into his poems and into the immigrant experience.

“This book came out of a book of poems that are performance-based,” he said. “It explores humor and interdisciplinary practices anchored by poetry.”

His book accommodates disciplines such as art, comics, film and photographs – all of which Javier uses to tell his story.

“It also accommodates bad English,” he said. “It's not to say I'm interested in making fun of folks that don't have a grasp of English, but I'm proving that bad English is a viable English to write serious poetry in. Mistakes open up a poem and they're not seen as mistakes, but a new opening.”

The immigrant experience is something that jives well with Javier being poet laureate of one of the most diverse counties.

And one of his aims as he rides out his term until June 2013 is to showcase Queens' vast diversity through visiting all of the borough's ethnic enclaves while highlighting that being a poet doesn't involve having to be only narrative. He calls himself an “experimental,” even “esoteric” poet.

At the LGCC reading, Javier employed the use of an original film, which played on a projector as he performed a poem called, “Monty Internal.” He calls it an “interruption” which goes both ways, dissecting both the poem and the film while bringing a new experience to the audience.

Photographs were also displayed as he read another poem about the mistranslations of English words in the Philippines in the form of a parody TV news story.

Since being named poet laureate, Javier, who is also a teacher at the New School for Social Research, has been busy reading his poetry throughout the borough while also discovering the borough's poetry scenes.

He currently curates an ongoing poetry series at the Queens Library, with aims to reach a younger generation. Right now, the series is focused on Western Queens and this Thursday, November 3, Javier will be at the Jackson Heights Library. It is a series that he hopes to keep doing until 2013.

Until his time is up, he will also focus on fulfilling larger goals. He wants to employ a reading series in Astoria and he wants to visit other areas with the Queens Library series such as Jamaica and Richmond Hill. He also wants to introduce himself to the Nepalese and Eastern European communities of Queens.

It's all part of a larger plan to create an international poetry festival right here in the borough. He has already seen thriving poetry scenes in areas like Woodhaven, Jamaica, Kew Gardens and Jackson Heights.

“Queens is so unique, it's so unique from Brooklyn, from Manhattan and other literary centers because it doesn't announce itself as a place where vital art is made,” he said.

He wants to make sure that as poet laureate, he gets as thorough as a sense of the various poetry scenes around Queens and reflect it in the poetry festival.

One of the ways to pull the festival together is by working with small spaces in different neighborhoods, such as Neir's Tavern in Woodhaven, where he read last year. In fact, Javier's second original film, which he will be debuting at the end of this year, was shot in Woodhaven.

He also hopes to get big organizations behind him in helping to make the international film festival dream a reality.

And while he wants to start the festival under his tenure as poet laureate, he said he hopes it would continue under many more.

In December, Javier will be curating a “Poets in the Galleries” series at the Queens Museum of Art, where a selection of poets will respond to the current artwork in the museum.

On December 5 at 7:30 p.m., he will be at a black box space which promotes underground talent in Long Island City called eGarage, to read some of his work and to debut his new film.

Queens was one of Javier's first encounters with New York when he first immigrated to the United States with his family at the age of 12. Though he moved about the country and went to university in Canada and tried his hand at various forms of writing, including screenwriting and fiction, he returned full circle to poetry and to the borough that would name him poet laureate in June 2010.

“It was a surprise,” he said. “It was a timely honor and it's my way to give back to Queens.”

Reach Paolo Javier at the blog, queenspoetlore.tumblr.com

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