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Kew Gardens Celebrates Poem in Your Pocket Day

Clara-Sophia Daly: This Saturday is the 2nd Annual Poem in Your Pocket Day held in Kew Gardens, Queens. It’s sponsored by the Kew Gardens Council for Recreation and the Arts. At the event, this weekend poets and neighbors will step up to the mic and perform any poem of their choosing. Emily Schutz spoke with organizers to see what’s different about this year.

Emily Schutz: On a typical day Lefferts Boulevard in Kew Gardens is filled with the sound of cars going by and birds singing.

Ambi: Birds chirp.

Schutz: This Saturday, though, residents will hear a different kind of singing.

Shubhani Chaitanya: oṃ keneṣitaṃ patati preṣitaṃ mana, kena prāṇaḥ prathamaḥ praiti yuktaḥ, keneṣitāṃ vācamimāṃ vadanti, cakṣuḥ śrotraṃ ka u devo yunakti

Schutz: That was Hindu Monk, Shubhani Chaitanya, who plans to read two verses from Hindu scripture, in Sanscrit. The verse she’s chanting tells the story of a student who asks a teacher about what gives his body the power to function.

Schutz: Poem in your Pocket Day was started in New York the year after 9/11 and has now branched off to be a nationally celebrated event, but this is the second year Kew Gardens is hosting a poetry reading in honor of it. Organizer Anne Craig says this event is meant to bring the community together after a stressful few years, just as she says poem in your pocket day brought New Yorkers together then.

Anne Craig: Kew Gardens is a very diverse neighborhood, as is all of Queens. And as we have been sort of drumming up interest of getting people out into the streets here, we've been constantly telling people, you know, read a poem in your native language, you know, don't feel the need for it to have to be in English.

Schutz: Craig and the poetry performers hope to celebrate the diversity of the neighborhood through poetry. Around 3 of every 10 residents are Asian, and around 4 of every 10 are Hispanic.

Schutz: This year New York City’s poet laureate Elizabeth Shvarts will be reading an original work.

Elizabeth Shvarts: What is first-generation American if not a gamble on the promise our today's we’ll envy our tomorrows.

Schutz: Shvarts is still deciding which of her poems she’ll perform, but she does know that she wants to advocate for her community through her work.

Shvarts: I want to make that conversation happen through poetry, while also celebrating the immigrant community and specifically my experience as a first-generation American.

Schutz: Chaitanya is also focusing on unity among the diverse population in Kew Gardens with her choice of verse and describes it in a way that only a spiritual leader could.

Chaitanya: At the level of the body, we're different, because we were maybe of a different skin color or different culture we speak different languages come from different traditions. But at the level of the self, which is the supreme consciousness, we are one.

Schutz: Kew Gardens’ Poem in your Pocket Day is this Saturday at Lefferts Boulevard and 83rd Avenue. From noon to three. It is free for anyone to attend. Emily Schutz, Columbia Radio News.


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