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Hollis hip-hop artist weighs prose, cons of poetic ‘Run’

By Courtney Dentch

A Hollis hip-hop legend filed an application last week to become the next poet laureate of Queens.

Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons, one of the members of the pioneering rap group Run-DMC, officially put his name in for the ceremonial post by the Friday deadline, he said in a telephone interview with the TimesLedger Tuesday.

“People seem to think I am the poet laureate of Queens,” Simmons said. “Next thing you know everyone’s making a big issue of it. I found out what it’s all about and I got excited about it with everyone rallying around it.”

Simmons is among more than 70 people who are hoping to be named the third borough bard. The three-year position was created by former Borough President Claire Shulman after the idea was proposed at Queens College in Flushing, said Maria Terrone, spokeswoman for the CUNY school.

A three-person search committee, composed of two professors from Queens College and one from St. John’s University, was still reviewing the applications earlier this week, Terrone said. Candidates must have lived in Queens for five years and must have published poetry about the borough.

The panel will pick three top candidates as recommendations to Borough President Helen Marshall, who will make the final choice, Terrone said. The announcement to crown the next laureate was planned for April 23, she said.

Simmons became interested in the position about two weeks ago after a reporter from the New York Post called and suggested the idea, he said.

At the time there was only a handful of applicants, and the search committee extended its original April 1 deadline for submissions, Terrone said.

“I don’t think enough people knew about it,” she said. “It certainly doesn’t mean that there isn’t a wealth of poetic talent in Queens.

Terrone said the committee was flooded with applications after a New York Times story chronicled the lack of interest.

Simmons and Run-DMC brought rap into mainstream culture and many of their rhymes feature the Hollis neighborhood where they grew up. “Christmas in Hollis” was one the lead songs of the first compilation of holiday rap songs.

“Run-DMC is synonymous with Hollis, Queens,” Simmons said. “My life is inspired because of Queens and my poetry reflects that.”

The group remembered its roots after becoming famous, and the trio, including rapper Darryl McDaniels and the late Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell, founded Hollis Day, a street fair for the residents that still takes place every summer.

“I’d be honored if they choose me,” he said of the laureate committee.

Marshall has not weighed in on the idea of a rapper as borough bard, said Dan Andrews, Marshall’s spokesman.

“He’ll be considered along with everyone else who has applied,” he said.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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