Amuzing the Zillion Blog post on Poem-a-Rama


Poem-a-Rama: Go Up, It’s Poetry on the Whirling Wonder Wheel

April 22, 2015 by Tricia

“Go up, it’s Great!” is the joyful slogan of the Wonder Wheel painted on its vintage ticket booths. On the evening of May 8th, you could say “Go up, it’s Poetry!” Deno’s Wonder Wheel will be open special hours – 7pm-10pm – for Poem-a-Rama, a special event featuring an array of poets reciting poetry to guests as they go up in the cars, plus readings on the ground and book-inspired music by Soozie Hwang & the Relastics.

The first-ever literary soiree in the landmark ride’s 95-year history is a benefit forParachute Literary Arts’ poetry workshops and community poetry libraries in Coney Island. Advance tickets are $20 and include general admission to the event and a ride with a poet on the Wonder Wheel.

“Coney Island has been a source of inspiration for centuries for artists and poets including Whitman and E.E. Cummings and now contemporary poets,” says Parachute’s founder and artistic director Amanda Deutch. “At the same time I am interested in site specific work. Past events produced by Parachute have featured poets reading in front of the New York Aquarium’s jellyfish tanks and over the mic at the Eldorado Bumper car ticketbooth on Surf Avenue.

Poets reading on the ground at Poem-a-Rama include Patricia Spears Jones, Lynn Melnick and teen poets from Parachute Literary Arts’ writing workshops. Poets with whom you can ride the Wheel are Parachute Festival alum Matthea Harvey andEdwin Torres, as well as Penny Arcade, Amber Atiya, Paul Blackburn, Kurt Boone, Michael Broder, Brenda Coultas, Ian Dreiblatt, Jen Fitzgerald, Tyehimba Jess, Brenda Iijima, Lucy Ives, Amy King, Wanda Phipps and “a wandering Walt Whitman.”

Deutch’s hope for Poem-a-Rama is for poets and passengers to enjoy a truly unique experience “because of all of it–the ride, the ocean breeze, the intimate nature of such a small reading– the poetry will sink in and reverberate for days to come.”

Amanda Deutch on Her Celebrity Poem Workshop with Coney Island Teens

Celebrities flash everywhere: billboards, newspapers, computer screens, televisions. We live in a KarGaGaianBieber glowing orb of a virtual society. They suggest what we buy, how we dress, how we live, and what we consider beautiful. Unfortunately, Warhol’s prediction of fifteen minutes of celebrity fame has drawn out to become several hours of fame and in some cases, even years of it. Like it or not, we know celebrity's faces, their favorite coffee drinks, and the names of their pet monkeys.

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Poets and Writers (AD) on the Parachute Poetry Library

In late February 2013 I put out a call for poetry books to create a lending library for the YWCA after-school teen empowerment program where Parachute: the Coney Island Performance Festival leads a weekly creative writing workshop. The invitation to donate books was put on Facebook and sent out to previous Parachute Festival readers. The message soon went viral in the poetry world and was picked up by the Poetry Foundation and Best American Poetry. We have received books from authors as nearby as Coney Island and Park Slope and as far away as Madrid; Ontario; and Amman, Jordan. My intentions were truly modest. I just wanted to get some poetry books for the teenagers in the workshop that I teach and perhaps some extras to donate to the high school’s library. What we have now—a collection of diverse small press contemporary poetry from all over the country—has blown my mind (and renewed my faith in the power of poets).

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Holy Sh** I Started a Nonprofit: Amanda Deutch on Parachute: the Coney Island Performance Festival

From street signs to carnival talkers, from the Chief hawking fresh clams with a call of, “Hey! Get it! Get it!” to the influx of monarch butterflies in late August, there is poetry in the everyday language that surrounds us. I want people to stop and notice poetry in daily motions. That’s part of my job as a poet.Parachute: the Coney Island Performance Festival is the manifestation of these desires. Since I was a young poet, I’ve thought of ways to make poetry appealing, accessible and to draw attention to the poetry that is all around us.

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Astella Action News: Literary Festival Presented at NY Aquarium

Parachute: the Coney Island Performance Festival” consisted of renowned NYC poets and writers at the NY Aquarium’s Alien Stinger’s exhibit during the evenings of October 13-14, 2012. Among those who recited poetry was Brooklyn Poet Laureate Tina Chang and Charles Denson, executive director of the Coney Island History Project, who read historical Coney Island poetry. Free poetry workshops also took place for adults and children, as well as a special poetry workshop entitled “Memory Arts Café” for people liv- ing with Alzheimer’s disease and their family members. The workshop was co-produced by New York Memory Center and the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project. Amanda Deutch is the founder and artistic director of the performance festi- val and a published poet. Astella Development Corp. was a sponsor of the event. 

Featuring: Parachute Poetry Library

Brooklyn poet Amanda Deutch runs the after-school writing workshop for low-income teenage girls at the Rachel Carson School.  When she discovered that the school’s library had only one poetry book, she put out a call to local poets to donate their books. The writing workshop was soon flooded with packages of books from all over the nation, and the Parachute Poetry Library was born. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which wreaked havoc on New York in the fall, the Rachel Carson School has emerged richer: the school now has a growing poetry library of nearly 100 contemporary poetry books, many of which are signed by local and national  authors.

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Are Books Dead? Is Honey Boo Boo a Poet?

I was thrilled to discover this hot and hip poetry happening so I reached out to Amanda Deutch, Artisitc Director of the event, to pick her brain. Her enthusiasm was like honey balm on a gnarly little liteary wound.

"Poetry is everywhere. It is language; It is in signage, eavesdropped conversations on the subway. Poetry is everything from Walt Whitman to Honey Boo Boo child," she said. "I've been looking my whole career for innovative ways to coax poetry into our daily lives. Poets reading in front of jellyfish are one way. So is reading on the mic in the ticket booth for El Dorado Bumper Cars -- site specific poetry."

Utterly inspired, I'm definitely stealing some of these awesome ideas for my next reading event. My only question: Honey Boo Boo (of TLC's Here Comes Honey Boo Boo)?

"I didn't mean that Honey Boo Boo was a poet, though the language in her name is, but that even things like television can offer us poetry and be sources of inspiration," said Deutch.


— Scott Alexander Hess

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