Queens welcomes its newest poet laureate

By Shanna Fuld

Maria Lisella was sworn in as the new Poet Laureate of Queens Tuesday. A resident of Queens, she plans to use the title to promote a love for poetry and literacy.

At Queens Borough Hall, a ceremony was held to honor Lisella. At the ceremony, she read a poem called Cornrows that painted an image of her childhood friend in Queens. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz opened the ceremony by commenting that the committee reviewed a lot of poetry before making their decision. Katz thanked Bridget Quinn-Carey, the Interim Director and CEO of the Queens Library for helping in the process. Quinn-Carey reminded the guests that “this is an opportunity to re-engage with poetry.”

Lisella was born and raised in Queens and is the borough’s sixth Poet Laureate. She had entered the competition before and made it to the final round, but this time, her extra years of experience gave her poetry the edge to win the contest.

In her work as a travel writer, Lisella has visited 60 countries, and she told the audience about some of her travel experiences. When it came to her experience in writing poetry, Lisella said “I’m not a professional poet. I’m a journalist. And the thing I do is use the outtakes that don’t fit into journalism and put them in my poems.” She mentioned her experiences meeting people in post-war Croatia. She was writing an article about those experiences, but ultimately found that the human-interest parts of the story fit better into poems.

As her work continues, Lisella hopes to create a book of poems written by people in Queens, a website where people can read their poetry in their native tongue via video and sound, and a book fair.

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