"Poets Afloat" on the MARY A. WHALEN

PortSide is pleased to have participated in the first "NYC Poets Afloat," the brainchild of poet-paddler-preservationist Brad Vogel, as part of National Poetry Month. We hosted two poets, Stefan D-W and Michelle Yasmine Valladares, aboard our tanker MARY A. WHALEN. Our Captain’s Cabin was theirs to use. A total of four historic vessels were involved in “NYC Poets Afloat,” and a reading was held on the South Street Seaport Museum vessel WAVERTREE on Sunday, May 19, 2019. More about the program in the press release.

The photo above right shows Stefan D-W studying our anchor winch which appears as a pivot point in his poem “Xmas: on the rocks” invoking tankers, fuel, oil spills, age, youth and our own mortality inspired by the MARY A. WHALEN’s famously going aground on the Rockaways in 1968. Our maritime library is a springboard for the ruminations of his second poem “Slocum & Distracted by the Library.”

Michele’s poem “Home, Again” evokes the personal inner seas of the womb and the blood circling within us, and her verse flows outward to include the huge spaces of the Atlantic and our “floating city” and evoke our oneness with the global.

Here are the poems inspired by the tanker MARY A. WHALEN:

More about Michelle and Stefan:

Michelle Yasmine Valladares is a poet and filmmaker. She is the author of Nortada, The North Wind (Global City Press). Her awards include “The Poet of the Year” by the Americas Poetry Festival of New York. Her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her new manuscript First Map of Her New World, includes poems on Vasco da Gama’s journey from India to Portugal, stowaways and cartographers. She was thrilled to be one of the resident poets included in NYC Poets Afloat on the MARY A. WHALEN. She is currently the Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at The City College of New York, CUNY in Harlem.

Stefan D-W’s poetry and songs are rarely seen or heard. He included verse in the plays he wrote for children at Touchstone Theatre in Bethlehem, PA and as Director of Education at Spokane Civic Theatre. Stefan performs his songs and poetry at Thicket in Williamsburg and at an annual fundraising event in Brooklyn. He recently completed a series of 57 poems on utopia. His essays on New York maritime history are a regular feature in Waterwire. A native of Staten Island, Stefan took the ferry to school for kindergarten and first grade. He started working in museums in his early teens, including vessel operations at the National Canal Museum. From 2011-2014 he worked at the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle where he lived aboard a sailboat with his cat. In 2019 he produced a series of boat tours and performances celebrating the Erie Canal bicentennial in New York Harbor and the Resilient River Festival of dance and science in a changing ecosystem at West Harlem Piers. He is the Seamen’s Church Institute’s Associate Archivist and also works at the Waterfront Museum.

PortSide’s next artist in residence is Donna Maria deCreeft who will use the Captain’s cabin and deck spaces during June 2019 as a studio to further her work inspired by diatoms, single cell algae. Stay tuned!

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