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

ParachutePerformanceFEst

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. ”

Photos by Amanda Deutch

“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!”

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Want to help?

Amanda’s been working to create a more functional cataloging and lending system for the growing collection of poetry books.  If you’re a NY-area librarian with experience or ideas about how to catalog small, special collections in a non-library setting, you can help!  Get in touch with Amanda here:

Amanda Deutch, Artistic Director
Parachute: the Coney Island Performance Festival
Parachutefestival@gmail.com

If you are an author and would like to send a copy of your  book(s), please send them to:
Rachel Carson High School
YWCA Room 346
521 West Ave
Brooklyn NY 11224

 

Poet, Amanda Deutch with bounty from the poetry book drive.Amanda Deutch‘s poetry has appeared in Esque, Denver Quarterly, Delirious Hem, Boog City, 6×6, Watchword Press, Upstairs at Duroc and elsewhere.  She is the author of four chapbooks:  Gena Rowlands (Sounds Nice) (forthcoming), Box of Sky: Skeleton Poems (Dusie Kollektiv 4), Motel Drift, and The Subway Series. As a poet, she has collaborated with musicians, video artists, installation artists, sculptors, and theatre companies, and her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Deutch is the recipient of a 2007 Footpaths to Creativity Fellowship to write in the Azores Archipelago. In 2009, she founded Parachute: the Coney Island Performance Festival, a literary non-profit that hosts a festival, free writing workshops, and innovative poetry happenings in Coney Island.  A native New Yorker, she lives in Brooklyn and plays skee-ball in her spare time.

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