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Q&A with class instructor Rosebud Ben-Oni

Our free classes program moves to Elmhurst for April and May in the newly renovated branch. For April, we are bringing you award-winning poet Rosebud Ben-Oni. Her class is called "Code-Switching: Writing from Multiple Selves," and you can read a full description of the class at our classes page. Below, Rosebud answers some of our questions. She'll answer more this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in Elmhurst.

What’s your connection to Queens?

I moved to Woodside nearly ten years ago. Although I'd originally come to New York City in the late nineties, I'd left for graduate school first at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and then Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Coming back to the city was one of the best decisions I'd ever made. I still remember the day I first took the 7 train out of Times Square in late 2007, and how it arose over Queens past Hunters Point. I've written quite a bit about how coming back to New York, especially to Queens, meant a second chance for me as a poet and as a person, particularly in this essay and this essay for The Kenyon Review. The 7 train often features in my work as a poet—for example, in this poem in POETRY. I now live in Sunnyside, but return to Woodside, or venture out to Jackson Heights, or Flushing-- wherever the 7 train takes me on those days I feel the need to wander and to reconnect with that first coming home, a word once strange, a world once strange to me. I'd never thought I'd have a home. But home is Queens.

What can students in your class expect?

Student can expect a series of exercises to draw out the fresh lines, whatever's hidden and stuck in their throat. The poems I've selected to read with the class by Tara Betts and Cornelius Eady are dynamic, the verse jumps off the pages.This class is for everyone because right now, we need poetry more than ever. We need poetry to save our imaginations, to move forward, to reinvent. And it will take a multitude of different voices and styles to do this, to keep poetry itself growing and evolving its tongues and speeches and must-say-nows.

What current projects are you working on?

Right now, I'm collaborating with the 9/11 Museum for their When the Towers Fell event (along with my fellow Cantomundo poet Noel Quiñones) in May, and I'm also writing poems for Poetry in Motion's The Poet is In on Friday, April 7th, in Grand Central Vanderbilt Hall. I'm doing some readings in April (quite a few in Queens) which you can find here, including Newtown Literary's Poetic Queens reading on Saturday, April 22 at 3 p.m. at the Richmond Hill branch of Queens Library.

What is your latest publication?

I recently just finished this essay on Judaism, survival and poetry for The Kenyon Review blog. I had the first and second sections of my longer poem "What Hangs on the Side of the Mouth" published in Thrush and Nightjar Review, which concerns the death of my husband's uncle in Hong Kong and the weeks his family and I wandered sleeplessly around the winding roads of that city.

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