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Qns. College to dust off French poetry format

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A bit of 17th century France is coming to Queens.

The Poetry Society of America and Queens College’s MFA program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation have teamed up to host “The New Salon in Queens,” two poetry readings and discussions that take after a format once popular in 17th century Paris.

“The idea behind the salon is to give audiences a chance to not only hear these nationally recognized poets read, but to get to know them and their poetry with a moderator discussion and question−and−answer period after the reading,” said Rob Casper, programs director at the Poetry Society of America. “The French salon model is a friendlier model, and it’s about democratizing access to poetry. It’s about giving the audience a reading free of charge and a chance to give them a more direct exchange with a poet.”

Poet Jericho Brown, an English professor at the University of San Diego who just published his first book, “Please,” will speak with Casper March 9 before an audience. Alice Quinn, executive director of PSA and former longtime poetry editor of The New Yorker, will interview poet and memoirist Hettie Jones May 4. Besides being the author of 23 books for adults and children, Jones leads a writers’ workshop at the New York State Correctional Facility for Women at Bedford Hills.

Both events will take place at 6:30 p.m. in Room 403 of Klapper Hall at Queens College.

This is Queens College’s MFA program’s first foray into the salon model, and English professor Nicole Cooley said it is an excellent chance for literature enthusiasts to highlight just how much Queens has to offer to the arts world.

“Some people regard Queens as the least hip borough, which I’ve never gotten,” said Cooley, a former Astoria resident who now lives in New Jersey. “There’s fascinating literary stuff going on in Queens, and we’re excited to have these salons bring poetry to people in Queens.”

Casper said he hopes the events will help prove to a world in which just 12 percent of Americans say they have read any poetry in the last year, according to a 2004 National Endowment for the Arts study, that the medium can play an important role in daily life.

“In a world where we are bombarded with more and more information, poetry offers us an opportunity to focus on something that’s concise and engaged that cuts through all of the clutter,” said Casper, the publisher of poetry magazine jubilat, which featured several of Brown’s poems. “We wake up one day and we’re fighting two wars and up to our eyeballs in financial troubles and it’s easy for Americans to say how did this happen to us? Poetry allows us a chance to slow down and think about how we do what we do.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at agustafson@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.

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