BY LUIS GRONDA
The new Queens poet laureate was a finalist for the position 19 years ago, losing it to a man who would eventually be her college professor. Nearly two decades later, she will now serve as the borough’s poetry ambassador.
Maria Lisella was announced as the Borough’s new poet laureate at a press conference Tuesday morning at Queens Borough Hall, she was sworn into the position by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. Lisella will serve a three-year term in the position.
Lisella, who currently lives in Astoria but whose Queens roots extend to other parts of the Borough, including South Jamaica, where she was born, Bellerose and Flushing.
At Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony, Lisella thanked her family, her neighbors and the area she lives in, all of whom serve as an inspiration for her poetry.
“The Uzbek barber, the Moroccan trainer, the Mexican florist, the southern Baptist librarian. These people feed my day and my work,” she said. “I think of Queens as a microcosm of the world. It’s taken over where New York City once was the place for all immigrants to come.”
Lisella’s résumé includes publishing three books of poetry, her most recent work was “Thieves in the Family,” which was released in 2014 and also working as a travel writer for the last 30 years, visiting 50 countries in total. Her travel writing has appeared in outlets such as Travel and Leisure, The Dallas Morning News and FOXNews.com. Lisella also graduated from Queensborough Community College and Queens College.
This is the second time Lisella applied for the position, the first being in 2009. She was a finalist but was not chosen.
When asked why she decided to apply for the poet laureate once again, Lisella said she believed she has gained a lot of experience in the years since, something she said she did not have before.
As she begins the three-year term as poet laureate, Lisella said she has three goals that she would like to tackle: Creating a book of poetry about Queens and celebrating residents lives in Queens, create a site where people’s poetry can be displayed, and translate it into that person’s foreign language as well, and start an annual, borough-wide book fair where people can celebrate literature in Queens.
Lisella said the book, in particular, would celebrate the 20th anniversary of the poet laureate title.
As her first official reading, Lisella read two poems that she wrote “No Earrings for Tina” and “Cornrows.”
The first poem was dedicated to her mother-in-law, who recently passed away.
The announcement concludes a three-month search to find the new poet laureate.
According to the Borough President’s office, they received 30 applications from poets vying for the unpaid position. The selection committee whittled it down to five applicants, whom they interviewed. From there, the top candidates were sent to Katz, who ultimately chose the new poet laureate.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.