About the Marathon
There are three things to consider when the New Year’s Day Poetry Marathon sweeps you into its gracefully uncouth embrace — what it is, what it was, and who you will be when it’s over. An untamed gathering of the heart’s secret, wild nobility — over 140 poets together revealing not just that a better life could exist, but that it already does, sexy and wise, rancorous and sweet, big hearted and mad as hell. An avenging engine of resistance and eager vehicle of the nascent year. The Marathon measures its success through insurrectionist reframings of the universe, an in-it-together courage that crafts a community out of the riot of lineages and traditions we all emerge from. This collective effort also helps fund as many as 85 additional events every year — not to mention The Poetry Project Newsletter, The Recluse and legendary workshops. It’s our largest fundraiser of the year, and arguably the most inspired ongoing literary event in the city.
Since Anne Waldman gathered 31 poets at the very first marathon on January 2, 1974, countless forward-facing luminaries have thrown their voices into the cauldron — among them Eric Bogosian, William S. Burroughs, Spalding Gray, Jackson Mac Low, Ed Sanders, Pedro Pietri, Helen Adam, John Cage, Joe Ceravolo, John Giorno, Ted Berrigan, Yoko Ono, Amiri Baraka, Gordon Matta Clark, Jim Carroll, Bernadette Mayer, Alice Notley, Steve Cannon, Hannah Weiner, Kathy Acker, Arthur Russell, Gerard Malanga, Suzanne Vega, Allen Ginsberg, Patti Smith, and Philip Glass. The list grows every year, as does the roster small press publishers and local restaurants who donate deliciousness in the form of astounding books, journals and food. We’re not so secretly in love with them all — and with the 100 selfless volunteers too who keep the Marathon running.
Whether you stay for a little while or for the long haul, whether you’re part of the standing room only experience at sunset or with the handful of diehards as the final poet reads her last word in the predawn sanctuary, you will be transformed for the year to come. Your presence helps launch a great flare into the otherwise impenetrable darkness of the 21st century night. And in that flash, you will become what you were always meant to be, eager practitioner of the infinite, uncommodifiable, uncategorizable, rough around the elegant edges and ready for the world to hit you with its best shot. Get lost, end times — our calendar is all opening days. Come on in, new year, we’d like to introduce you to your own gigantic possibilities.
How the New Year’s Day is Organized
The Project receives many requests to perform in the Marathon, and we feel fortunate that so many people want to help us meet our fundraising goals. We only have about 150 spots and a seemingly unlimited artistic community to draw from. Below is some basic information about our selection process.
The Marathon is the Poetry Project’s annual benefit and a curated event, i.e. not run open-reading style where people can sign-up. Invitations are issued by our Programming Committee made up of Poetry Project staff and board, plus all of our series coordinators (positions that rotate every 2 years). The final schedule consists of people who are at least one or more of the following broad categories: performers who have a longtime connection to The Poetry Project and/or the Downtown arts scene (poetry, music, film, dance, but poetry in particular); poets who are actively participating in the NYC literary arts scene by giving readings, publishing books, organizing readings, editing journals etc… ; and/or performers who have never participated in a Marathon before. Each year we have 30-50 first-timers appear, which means that many who performed in prior years aren’t going to be able to participate. If you are invited one year, it doesn’t mean that you will get invited every year. We don’t want to hurt anyone. We do want to conduct our benefit in a manner that best suits the organizational needs of each year.
Lastly, reading is just ONE way of participating in the event. There are volunteer opportunities (about 100 are needed) to help sell books, food and drink, assist in checking in readers, etc. It’s also an opportunity to meet or catch up with other writers/artists and support the Project’s mission. We deeply appreciate your support and your understanding of the effort it takes to present this feat of a fundraiser.
For photo galleries of past New Year’s Day Marathons, please visit photographer Ted Roeder’s website.