Featuring: Parachute Poetry Library
I was so excited to find this press release from poet and writing instructor Amanda Deutch in the inbox a few weeks ago, I simply had to share. The story of an innovative artist creating a library because there was a need for one would be an inspiration on its own, but the setting– post-Hurricane Sandy Coney Island– makes the story a triumph. Read on to learn how you can help! ~Erinn
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.
“I sent out an invitation via email for poet friends and publishers to donate their books, and in just a few weeks we’ve received books from all over the world,” said Deutch. The book drive began in late February. By National Poetry Month in April, books had arrived from poets as far away as Amman, Jordan and Madrid, Spain.
“People send notes with the books and ask how they can help,” says Deutch, a published poet and founder of the non- profit Parachute: the Coney Island Performance Festival, which holds an annual literary festival at the New York Aquarium in Coney Island. “Our workshop exposes teenagers to multicultural and innovative voices in literature. I am trying to show teenagers that not all poetry has to rhyme. The girls in the workshop really love poetry and they are very talented writers, but there were no books for them.”
“Since this book drive has been such a success, I plan to continue to have more drives for other nearby locations (like the main Coney Island library when it reopens), and I want to create a portable Parachute library which will be made available for special events and workshops.”
Even in storm damaged Coney Island, poetry is as relevant as ever to teenagers who feel it helps them express themselves and give voice to their experiences. “Every single teenager I encounter says they write poetry on their own,” said Deutch. 13 year-old poet Maya, who is a regular at the poetry workshop, has been working with Amanda on submitting her work to magazines. She likes Edgar Allen Poe, Tupac Shakur, Guillaume Apollinaire, and Frank O’Hara. When Maya read Frank O’Hara’s poem “Steps” in class, she remarked. “How did he do that? He’s got flow!”