RESISTANCE! Opening & Holiday Party


City Lore’s Holiday Party

Celebrate with us the end of a tremendous year!


Postcard designed by Tine Kindermann


Yiddish New York, an annual celebration of Yiddish music, language and culture, is proud to collaborate with City Lore to present this year’s art exhibition. The exhibition is curated by Deborah Ugoretz and Tine Kindermann.

This year’s theme is RESISTANCE!

The Jewish holiday of Chanukah reminds us that it is a struggle to maintain the values that bring meaning to our lives. It tells us that the resistance of a few against a mighty force can bring about change if the effort is consistent and passionate. With that in mind, the curators have asked artists to contemplate the meaning of RESISTANCE !

Resistance… a word with urgent relevance to events past and present.

What defines resistance?

As the dictionary defines it:
1) the refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument.
2) the ability not to be affected by something, especially adversely.

The curators ask: Is resistance always in reaction to events or ideas? Is it always in opposition? What are expressions of resistance in daily life or under extreme circumstances? How do artists transform this concept into concrete form?

The curators of RESISTANCE ! hope that the work in the exhibition will inspire viewers to think about what they might do to motivate themselves to RESIST something negative that has worked its way into their hearts and minds.


December 14th, 2017 – February 25th, 2018
Opening reception (and City Lore Holiday Party):  Thursday, December 14th, 2017,  6pm-10pm
Closing reception and program: February 25th

Badenya Baro! Pre-Kwanzaa Party

A Celebration of West African Culture, Music, Dance Poetry, and Food!



If you weren’t able to experience Badenya Baro last year, we invite you to this year’s pre-Kwanzaa celebration!

“Baro” is a an occasion for music and conversation (stories, poetry, songs) in the Mandeng community. What are the main components for a successful Baro?


Meet with and talk to the talented artists joining us and enjoy West African food at this unforgettable event. In addition to food, music, poetry, and dancing, host Kewulay Kamara will be showing a newly-created multi-media performance.

Participating Artists
Pupa Bajah – rapp
Ibrahim “ Kolipe” Camara -djimbe drum
Abdoulaye Diabate – voice & guitar
Aminata Diabate – food
Exile Dynamic – hip hop
Kevin Nathaniel Hylton – mbira
Rashida Ibrahim -poetry
Ebrima Jassey – bala(fon)
Kewulay Kamara – story
Kotchegna Mask Dance
Yelka Kamara – food
Rene McLean – horns
Sahr Nguajah -voice
Lil Phillips – voice
Sunkari Suso  — food
Salieu Suso – kora
Sponsored by
NYSCA, NEH, and The Melissa and Ritchie Post Foundation

POSTPONED!!! City Lore Storytelling Cafe: Migration Stories with the Muslim Writers Collective



City Lore, in collaboration with the Muslim Writers Collective, presents the City Lore Storytelling Cafe: Migration Stories with the Muslim Writers Collective.


So much of the national conversation around immigration is driven by academics and policy analysts and is far removed from actual immigrants. Migration Stories aims to change the discourse around policy affecting refugee and immigrants by actually centering their stories, experiences, and expertise. Five featured Muslim storytellers will share their experiences of migration with a diverse audience made of up members from the Muslim Writers Collective NYC chapter, policymakers, immigration service organizations, academics, and general audiences. It will be followed by a conversation with the storytellers, moderated by Omar Jadwat, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.

The event marks the inaugural event in City Lore’s series City Lore Storytelling Café, where stories are told over a curated menu by City Lore friend and local chef Shash Blount. The program is created in partnership with the Muslim Writers Collective, a national grassroots storytelling movement. The Collective has eight chapters across the country and hosts regular open mics that feature hundreds of first time performers, including poets, journalists, comedians, and musicians.

Puerto Rico Benefit: screening of “We Like It Like That”


City Lore is delighted to present a screening of director Mathew Ramirez Warren’s film, We Like It Like That, in an effort to raise funds for Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief through the Jazz Foundation of America.
We Like it Like That tells the story of Latin boogaloo, a colorful expression of 1960s Latino Soul, straight from the streets of New York City.

Join us afterwards for a reception including:
Q&A with musicians Benny Bonilla, Joe Quijano, and others
Light refreshments and drinks
Music from DJ Turmix

$40 – Screening and reception
$25 – Reception only

For Tickets: CLICK HERE

All proceeds go to Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief!!!


Botnik versus the Romantics

The Poetry of Everyday Life Blog Post #7


By Bob Holman and Steve Zeitlin

John Keats might have called the computer “a thing of beauty.” Or perhaps “an unravish’d bride of quietness.” Coleridge’s question “Is very life by consciousness unbounded?” could just as aptly apply to the computer.

What Byron, Shelley, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Keats did with pen and paper is still accessible 200 years later. But can our new computers help us write in the style of the Romantics? Can the zeros and ones of digital technologies collaborate with us to write poetry? Bob Mankoff, cartoon editor of Esquire, says Yes.

Along with Jamie Brew of the Onion’s satirical website the ClickHole, he founded the app company Botnik, which is “very semi-seriously” looking into this question. Its new app Predictive Writer can harness the vocabularies of Seinfeld episodes, recipes, Bob Dylan, country music, and more to create playful word games that enable you to write in different styles. When you go to the Predictive Writer app, you can select from a number of idiom-specific “keyboards” that the Botnik community has uploaded: Seinfeld season 3, cooking recipes, Savage Love (a syndicated sex-advice column), and the Romantic poets that we ourselves suggested to them. Say you want to write a poem in the style of Keats. You choose the Keats option, enter a word or two into the app, click on the eighteen choices they offer for the next word à la Keats, and on it goes. Try it at But why, pray tell, would anyone want to do this?


Bob Mankoff: Former New Yorker Cartoon Editor, Present Cartoon and Humor Editor of Esquire. Rejected Chairman of The Federal Reserve



Why do some people surf? Certainly not just to get from the water to the beach. Why fall down ten times in the process? Because you want to ride the wave! It’s fun to see if you can surf this chaos of information that is coming at us from all directions, all the time.





Bob Holman, poet, founder of of Bowery Poetry Club, frenetic Romantic (image from the New York Times’s “Poetry Pantheon”)



Predictive Writer may be great for writing a meta-Seinfeld, but now Zeitlin wants to challenge the app to a poetry writing episode—a Romantic poem, to be specific—and wants me to be the first poet in history to take a plunge into the ice-cold computer waters and generate a poem with this app. I mean, after all, Seinfeld is famous for being about Nothing, right? Predictive Writer is right there, pure vocabulary. Or you can spice it up by adding some octopus-pancake-recipe language from a different part of the app.




Steve Zeitlin, folklorist, Poetry of Everyday Life blogger, Ping-pong player (image of Zeitlin’s avatar, painted by Brazilian street artist Deçio Fereira)


We can’t begin to surmise what the Romantics might have made of computers, let alone Botnik’s app. According to Mankoff, it would be akin to asking a fourteenth-century monk what he thinks of Monty Python. (Wait a minute, wasn’t there a fourteenth-century monk in Monty Python?)







I’ve never been one to shy away from inspiration. Poems make imagination real (don’t forget that).

Some topics of my earliest poems include George Washington following Indian trails (my first poem, age nine), the big natural bump on my foot (first poem for Kenneth Koch, my teacher at Columbia, age nineteen), and Life itself as a Poem (Life Poem, a book-length poem, written when I was twenty-one, will be published by the Operating System in 2018). As I’ve aged, I’ve found inspiration in other poets, Baraka and O’Hara and Stein et al. If I were stuck, I’d just open Kyger and there’d be the word, waiting.

Then came the computer. The “word processor,” as we first called it, taking a Cuisinart to the dictionary. Tzara and Burroughs used scissors for their cut-ups; we just highlight, hit control+C (Ted Berrigan’s zine?), go to exact point in the poem where we want the text, and hit control+V (Pynchon?) and drop it, you know, wherever.

Which brings us to Botnik and the wonders/horrors of its Predictive Writer software. It’s like the suggestions your smartphone makes, except instead of being drawn from domain of general English, they come from the lyrics of Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, or Romantic poetry. One is expected to just “feel” or randomly strike a letter or two, no thought needed, and then select a word from a grid of up to eighteen choices, insert, and keep going.


Hey, other Bob (to whom I’m the other Bob): you don’t have it quite right. The process of creating sentences from a specific source with Predictive Writer—whether the source is a poem or anything else—is anything but random. They are the most likely next words from that vocabulary, given the ones you selected. We’re still in the process of developing the app to make it more intelligent in terms of knowing which parts of speech are permitted, as well as layering on more rules of syntax. But the more intelligent it becomes, the more intelligence it will require from humans to turn linguistic anarchy into poetry.


Screenshot of Botnik’s Predictive Writer app


But, other-other Bob, to come up with anything resembling a Romantic poem, I would need to write not just according to syntax, but also rhyme and meter. So when I found myself stymied by Predictive Writer’s limitations, I resorted to old faithful print rhyming dictionaries (though I could have used one of the many rhyming sites on the Net).

Once I got over my pique, I settled in, using all the tools available—digital, print, or muse—following the predictives to lines on love for Keats and Shelley, using forms and meters familiar to each, with some shadows of larger issues floating like a cloud. (I went with “azure-lidded” regardless. Couldn’t resist.)


I shared this essay with the writer Caitlin Van Dusen for her comments, and when she got back to me and I started to reply on my iPhone, the predictive writer on the phone suggested that I write “Thanks for the feedback” or “Awesome, thanks!” How long before the phones can predict our questions as well as our responses?

Botnik’s Predictive Writer is playful, only “semi-serious”—I know that—but it raises some provocative questions about where all this is going. Beyond the storage of information, search engines such as Google and the other ubiquitous apps of our times are so integral to our lives that it is fair to consider them extensions of our brains, expanding our access to knowledge beyond that of any genius who ever lived. But where does the computer end and “I” begin? And think how much more difficult it would be to tell the two apart if a computer chip were installed in each person’s brain—something that anyone with half a brain can see coming.

A computer can take you (virtually) anywhere you want to go, tell you anything you want to know, or, as in the case of this app, access vast databases of language—but a poem you write yourself illuminates who you are. Do we forego our limitations, the way our minds mold and hold memory, when we express ourselves through poems that are wholly or partially computer-generated? Are we the last generation to experience a distinctive, genuine personhood as future generations increasingly integrate their brains with computer programs? Are we the last generation that believes creativity springs eternally from the human breast?


My writing was well under way—I was creating Romantic poems with the vocabulary of Shelley and Keats—when Steve lay a content demand on me: your Romantic poem, he opined, wants to mirror the consciousness shift you are using and talking about. From pen and paper to the digital world? Whaaaaa?!!

That would have to be Coleridge. But this time, I dictated the poem using Predictive Writer the way I used to use the books of Ashbery—as in: now I need an Ashbery word, now a Hopkins word (“dapple-dawn-drawn”). So when I wanted predictive, I took it; otherwise, folks, the vocabulary is that of the Coleridge I know, not the limited choices available on the current early iteration of the app.

I ended up with twelve lines. I figured if I was this close to a sonnet, why not just close it off with a couplet? But for the final two lines, I’d let Predictive Writer pick the words.


Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 –1834)



So Bob did “Bobnik” the poem—and whether the results sound more like Coleridge than Holman, you decide.

But perhaps it’s a bit futile to ask the vocabulary of the Romantics to comment on a digital world they couldn’t possibly conceive of, because, for starters, they simply didn’t have the words for it.

In the movement to revitalize the Hawaiian language in the early twentieth century, a Hawaiian word was needed for “computer.” There were three schools of thought on how to find one: first, go to the elders, who have lived the language; second, go to the linguists, who knew the history of the Hawaiian language; and third, go to the street, where the approach is to take an English word and make it sound Hawaiian.

The issue was ingeniously resolved. The Hawaiians had electricity—and they had the word “brain.” So the elders coined a marvelous term for “computer”: the “electric brain.” What are we to make of poetry composed in part or in full by an electric brain? Certainly it’s better than the electric chair, but is it limiting or furthering our humanity?


And what better place to round off the Romantics’ sonnet than with Seinfeld, season 3, “Kramer”?

Go n sweeper george fruit greatest jerry stub
Forever lid bother elaine’s martinizing club


Lord Byron: All farewells should be sudden.  Force quit.



“By showing us that poetry lives everywhere,” writes Bob Holman in the preface to Zeitlin’s new book, The Poetry of Everyday Life: Storytelling and the Art of Awareness, “Steve seems to make the whole world into a poem, with all of us collaborating daily in the writing of it.” If you like the blog, you’ll love the book. Click here to purchase.

Please email your thoughts, stories and responses about the poetic side of life to This monthly post continues to tap into the poetic side of what we often take for granted: the stories we tell, the people we love, the metaphors used by scientists, even our sex lives. I chronicle the poetic moments in life and also look at how we all use poetry in our daily lives. I am a folklorist, and I want to hear from you—because that’s where all the best material comes from. For more information about The Poetry of Everyday Life published by Cornell click here.


Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity

in association with City Lore


Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity

Written by Ping Chong and Sara Zatz, with Ryan Conarro
Directed by Ping Chong

in collaboration with the performers: Tiffany Yasmin Abdelghani, Ferdous Dehqan, Kadin Herring, Amir Khafagy, Maha Syed

Stage Manager, Kristina Varshavskaya

Executive Director, Ping Chong + Company, Bruce Allardice

Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity is an interview-based theatre production by Ping Chong + Company exploring the diverse experiences of young Muslim New Yorkers. The five participants in Beyond Sacred vary in many ways, but share the common experience of coming of age in a post-9/11 New York City, at a time of increasing Islamophobia. Participants come from a range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds and include men and women that reflect a wide range of Muslim identities, including those who have converted to Islam, those who were raised Muslim, but have since left the faith, those who identify as “secular” or “culturally” Muslim, and those who are observant on a daily basis. The goal of Beyond Sacred is to illuminate daily experiences of Muslim New Yorkers, and work towards greater communication and understanding among Muslim and non-Muslim communities in NYC. The performance will be followed by a conversation and Q&A with the cast members and artistic team.

Tickets are $15 each. Please reserve your seat HERE.

Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity is part of an ongoing series of community-specific oral history theater works known as the Undesirable Elements series. Begun in 1992 by Ping Chong + Company, each production is made in a specific community, with local participants testifying to their real lives and experiences. The script is based on interviews with the participants who then share their own true stories in the final production. Since 1992, over 50 productions have been made across the United States and abroad. Recent productions have explored themes as far ranging as the disability experience, Native American identity, the experiences of refugees in the U.S., and the experiences of survivors of sexual abuse. Ping Chong + Company has created documentaries, toolkits, training workshops, and arts education programs for communities who wish to use the arts to address social justice issues in their own work.

Beyond Sacred was commissioned by LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, where it premiered in April 2015. The premiere production was made possible by a grant from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters Building Bridges: Campus Community Engagement Grants Program, which is funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.



[ G A T E S ]: A Poetry Chapbook Launch Party & Reading

Poet Sahar Muradi launches [ G A T E S ], her new chapbook out from Black Lawrence Press, with a reading and celebration.
Sahar will be joined by friends: musician Yusuf Misdaq and writers Svetlano Kitto and Maria Gregorio. There will be Afghan snacks and poetry projections!


These charged, elliptical poems make space for the unknown and unknowable, even as they vividly summon the tangible body of the world. Shot through with sudden glimpses of violence and beauty, Sahar Muradi’s poems refuse us comfort or closure. They offer only what is—yet, paradoxically, haunt us with the sense that we’re standing on holy ground.

—Joan Larkin, author of MY BODY: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS


Sahar Muradi is a writer, performer, and educator born in Afghanistan and raised in the U.S. / is author of the forthcoming chapbook [ G A T E S ] / is co-editor, with Zohra Saed, of One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature / is co-founder of the Afghan American Artists and Writers Association / has published most recently in Brooklyn Rail and Dusie / is the recipient of the 2016 Stacy Doris Memorial Prize and twice recipient of the Himan Brown Creative Writing Award in Poetry / is a Kundiman Poetry Fellow and an AAWW Open City Fellow / has an MFA in poetry from Brooklyn College, an MPA in international development from NYU, and a BA in creative writing from Hampshire College / directs the poetry programs at City Lore / and dearly believes in the bottom of the rice pot.


Dancing and Drumming Arabic Poetry: A Family Workshop

A hands-on family workshop exploring the rhythms and music of al-muwashah, a form of classical Arab-Andalusian poetry. Musician and scholar Taoufik Ben Amor, accompanied by master dancer and percussionist Ramzi El-Edlibi and multi-instrumentalist Zafer Tawil will introduce al-muwashah and show participants how to identify, vocalize, drum, and dance to the poetic meter and rhythms. The artists will  provide historical and cultural context, as well as technical information throughout. Everyone will have a chance to perform! Free and open to all ages. No experience with Arabic necessary.

Please RSVP here.

This program was made in partnership with independent folklorist Nicole Macotsis, who produces Tarab Together, family programming featuring Arab dance, music, and cultural traditions in Arabic.



 Taoufik Ben-Amor is Gordon Gray Jr. Senior Lecturer in Arabic Studies at Columbia University. He specializes in Arabic language and linguistics, language and identity, Arab music, and music in Sufism. His research combines his interests in music, language and identity in the Arab world through the study of lyrics. He has published extensively, including a textbook on Tunisian Arabic. Ben-Amor is also a vocalist, percussionist, and oud player.



Ramzi Edlibi (dancer, choreographer, musician) began his study of Arab dance and ballet at an early age in Lebanon with Wadia Jarrar and Abdel Halim Caracalla, historic figures in the development of Lebanese dance for the stage. He went on to perform dance with the leading vocalists and dance companies of the Arab world such as Fairuz, Sabah, Wadi Al-Safi, and Caracalla Dance Theatre. Ramzi then traveled abroad to perform and teach, learning other dance traditions along the way with 20th century dance masters, including Vladimir Duckodovsky of the Ballet Russe De Monte Carlo. Ramzi is currently Artistic Director of Dance Around the World, an Arts-in-Education program that brings dance and music to public schools.


Zafer Tawil is a renowned Palestinian musician who has mastered oud, violin, and qanun, among others instruments and the full range of Arab percussion.  A virtuouso in the field, Zafer has performed with Arab music greats such as Simone Shaheen, Chab Mami and Bassam Saba, as well as with Sting, and avant-garde composer/performer Elliot Sharpe among others.  He has composed music for a number of films including the Oscar-nominated film Rachel Getting Married, and has worked on many collaborative concerts involving classical Indian and Persian music, and Arabic/jazz fusion.  In addition to performing, Zafer is an experienced arts educator, giving lecture demonstrations in universities and music conservatories, as well as interactive programming for school-age children.


Nicole Macotsis is an independent public folklorist in Brooklyn, specializing in dance and Arab traditions; she is also a dancer. In partnership with Arab American New Yorkers, she has developed programs such as A Dabkeh Tour of Bay RidgeSo You Think You Can Dabkeh and Tarab Together: Sing and Dance bil ‘Arabi, prioritizing Arab American participants’ voices and promoting the  sustainability of Arab music and dance traditions. Her social media-based project, Tradition In Motion: DABKEH! (, features ethnographic interviews with dabkeh performers in NYC and Palestine, highlighting the cultural significance of this traditional Levantine dance. Nicole has a MA in Cultural Sustainability from Goucher College.

Oh Hallowed Knish

Just in time for Halloween, world’s leading knish expert Laura Silver reveals lesser-known specters of the succulent potato pie in New York City and beyond. She offers up Lower East Side history, Polish legends, and a real-life connection between knishes and All Saints’ Day. The New York Times called her book, Knish in Search of the Jewish Soul Food, “mouthwatering, whimsical and edifying.” Come revel in local lore and nosh on knishes and other dishes that pay homage to ancestors of all flavors.

More about Laura Silver:

Poetic Voices: Re-Opening & Poets’ Tour

Poetic Voices of the Muslim World explores an art form central to the lives of Muslims around the world. The exhibition highlights poetic traditions from four major language areas—Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu—and introduces poetry from Asia, Africa, and diaspora communities in the U.S. The exhibition also includes multi-media works by the late Samina Quraeshi, who was dedicated to creating greater cultural understanding of her native Pakistan, as well as artwork created by students of teachers who participated in our summer institute on understanding Muslim cultures through the arts.

For the reopening of the Poetic Voices of the Muslim World exhibit, City Lore’s Director of Poetry Programs Sahar Muradi will lead audiences on a unique tour of the exhibit, where the displayed poems come to life in dramatic performances by poets Sara Goudarzi, Suneela Mubayi, and Adeeba Talukder reading in the original Persian, Arabic, and Urdu.

This program is co-sponsored by Kundiman, a national organization dedicated to the creation and cultivation of Asian American creative writing.


The Poets

Sara Goudarzi is a Brooklyn writer and editor. Her writing has appeared in National Geographic News, The Christian Science Monitor, Taos Journal of Poetry and Art, The Adirondack Review and Drunken Boat and featured in an upcoming poetry anthology. Sara is the author of several titles from Scholastic and recently completed her first novel.


Suneela Mubayi is a graduate student in Arabic Literature at NYU where she is completing a Phd in the area of the intersection of classical and modern Arabic poetry. She has translated poems and short stories between Arabic, English and Urdu which have been published in BanipalBeirut39, Jadaliyya and elsewhere. She wishes to try to re-establish the position of Arabic as a vehicular language of the global South, the role it played for many centuries. She also hopes one day to be able to call herself a poet.​​


Adeeba Shahid Talukder is a Pakistani American poet and translator. She translates Urdu and Persian poetry, and cannot help but bring elements from these worlds to her own work in English. Her chapbook, ‘What Is Not Beautiful,’ is forthcoming through Glass Poetry Press and her book “Shahr-e-jaanaan: The City of the Beloved” is a winner of the Kundiman Prize and is forthcoming through Tupelo Press. A Best of the Net finalist and a Pushcart nominee, Adeeba‘s work has appeared in Glass, Anomaly, Solstice, Washington Square Review, and PBS Frontline among other publications. Adeeba holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan and is a Poets House 2017 Emerging Poets Fellow.  [Photo by Aldo Rafael Altamirano]


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