Sunnysider named boro’s poet laureate

Paolo Javier (c.), Queens’ new poet laureate, poses with Queens College President James Muyskens and Borough President Helen Marshall following his installation at Queens Borough Hall. Photo by Howard Koplowitz
By Howard Koplowitz

A self-described “once-global nomad,” who made Queens his home 10 years ago because he had no trouble “finding the world in it,” was installed as the borough’s fifth and latest poet laureate during a ceremony last week at Queens Borough Hall.

Sunnyside resident Paolo Javier, 35, a native of the Philippines who went to junior high school in Westchester County, high school in Egypt and college in Canada, has ambitious plans for his non-salaried, three-year term, including creating greater visibility for poetry in the borough and helping foster literacy in children by teaching them poetry through new media.

Javier, a poet who has written six books and dabbled in playwrighting, filmmaking and comic books, beat out about 30 other candidates for the poet laureate position.

“It’s definitely a very joyous experience, but I’m still shocked about it,” he said.

Javier, who described himself as “a once-global nomad who decided to make Queens his homeland because he has no trouble finding the world in it,” said the installation ceremony last Thursday was “a celebration of the communities I’m proud to be a part of,” which includes poets and new immigrants.

He said he plans to create a roving poetry reading series at borough library branches and bring an international poetry festival to the Jamaica Library.

Javier, who also works with filmmakers, said he also wants to start a multimedia project that focuses on and includes the people of Queens.

The newly named laureate, who called himself “a diehard resident and fan of Queens,” said he has been inspired by the rhythms, languages, sights and sounds of the borough.

“I’ve always believed in Queens,” he said, noting that without living in the borough, “I would not be able to write the poetry that I’ve produced. I love Queens so much.”

Javier said there are many publishers and artists who make their homes in the borough.

“It’s a great time to take on this responsibility,” Javier said.

He said he did not need a salary tied to the position in order to get satisfaction out of it.

“The position of a poet is a priceless one,” he said. “The value is something that you can’t quantify.”

The idea of a Queens poet laureate came from the Friends of the Queens College Library and was endorsed by then-Borough President Claire Shulman.

“Our panel of judges appreciated [Javier’s] clear and creative vision for promoting a love of poetry throughout multi-ethnic Queens,” Borough President Helen Marshall said. “Paolo Javier understands both the honor and the responsibility attached to his new role.”

Queens College President James Muyskens said Javier’s background shows he “understands diversity.”

“I think we have a great choice” for poet laureate, Muyskens said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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